Prayer is not a pasteboard bridge from one part of a program to the next; prayer is a direct line to heaven. Or it can be. Sabbath School, a place where members grow together and learn how to connect with God, is an excellent setting for learning how to pray. Let’s look at some basic considerations.
Recognize that prayer matters. We have a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God, according to Psalms 65:2; 66:19, 20. He encourages us to pray and promises that prayers offered in faith, love, and surrender to Him will make a difference. (Read John 15:7; James 5:16.)
Prayer is not a mere formality practiced to assure ourselves and others of our piety. In harmony with God’s will, prayer is a potent force through which God works.
Don’t write that down! You may wish to write reminders to include in your prayers, but if you read or memorize what you pray, you are on the road to creating instant boredom. Prayer is a reverent conversation with God. How much interest would you have in listening to someone who attempted to converse with you by reading every remark from a script?
Avoid rehearsing the words. Prayer is not a practiced speech. It is a pouring out of the heart to God that will carry listeners with you -- not just on a journey through your thoughts. Prayer goes to the very throne of grace. Hearts are stirred and spiritual perceptions are vivified.
Think of the apostle Paul’s prayers and of the Psalms. These inspired utterances, though ancient, breathe immediate life, without a trace of tedium or staleness. Note the content, tone, and elements of great prayers in the Bible. Become a life-long student of prayer.
Pray real prayers. It’s helpful to begin by looking at two matters: the components and the qualities of effective prayer. First, the five components: confession, adoration (or praise), thanksgiving, petition, intercession. If you try to pack each one of these elements into every public prayer you give, your prayers will soon sound mechanical and forced. They will also be too long.
Be conscious of these five elements, however, and learn to vary the content of your prayers. Sometimes you will emphasize praise, sometimes petition and intercession, and at other times confession and thanksgiving. As often as possible incorporate several of these five basic elements in your public prayers. But let all the prayer come from the heart. When you pray, it’s far better to have a prepared soul than a prepared script.
The qualities of real prayer:
- Faith. You must first believe that God exists and is in the business of answering prayer. Without this basic faith, all prayer is hypocritical and hollow.
- Freshness. When you are conscious of communing with God in prayer, you sense His immediate presence. His Spirit will irrigate your mind with new life.
- Focus. Really think about what you’re praying, and mean what you pray.
- Fervor. Energy builds when you love God and know that He will answer far above and beyond your expectations and present experience. Ephesians 3:14-20 emphasizes this.
- Freedom. By praying in the Spirit and opening your heart to God’s grace, He will make your tongue the pen of a fluent writer.
Prayer that connects with God has a piquancy that arouses the congregation rather than a dullness that stupefies it. Good praying kindles enthusiasm and opens the way for the Lord to bless all that follows in the group study and worship.
You can keep your prayer life fresh and dynamic by reading a good book on the subject each year.
But the best help of all is to be much in private prayer and to let the study of Scripture be an extension of the prayer life. For example, read the Psalms not merely as inspired utterances of holy men of old, but as the very prayers of your own heart.
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists