Recently a young woman at church pulled me aside and quietly asked "Can you pray for me? I don't know how."
In all my years of leading church small groups, seminars, and workshops, one of the most common practices people have questions about is prayer. This should come as no surprise, as even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
During this season of increased anxiety and uncertainty, people are even more interested in developing their relationship with God through prayer. Asking Jesus to teach us to pray is still our best strategy. While inviting God to direct your prayers, here are a few practices you may want to explore:
- Welcome the Spirit's leading. In every transition of your day welcome the Spirit to lead you, to speak with you, to direct your prayer. While you are waking, rising, eating, working, resting, playing, cooking, going to bed - at each transition, let the Spirit direct your thoughts. If nothing comes to mind, don't over-complicate things. A wonderful prayer throughout your day can be as simple as “Come, Holy Spirit, Come.”
- As you pray, listen for God's first word. My friend and mentor, Stephen Swift, teaches that waiting upon the Lord to speak the first word in prayer is a discipline that helps us re-frame prayer from being treated as a grocery list of requests, to instead being a place of relationship building with our Creator. Trust that he will speak and then wait for the Lord's first word to prompt your prayers. You may spend a lot of time in silence, but I promise you that you will not waste any time is silence.
- Listen for and Pray the Truth. Speak truth into every situation. Draw upon the things that scripture has revealed to you as being true, and then give voice again to it. Praying truth can be as simple as saying “God thank you that you are my shepherd. Remind me again of the truth that you will provide for my needs.” Praying truth is a powerful practice. It moves you from focusing on your concern, and instead lets you focus on Jesus and the promises of God.
- As you pray listen to and affirm the Lordship of Jesus. Say yes to the Spirit. Welcome the leadership of Jesus in your life. For me, the most common way I practice this prayer is to simply say “I declare in this moment that Jesus is Lord. I welcome Your Kingdom ways. Lead me Spirit, my answer is already yes.”
Teach us to pray, God! We want to be grown in the rhythm of our prayers to keep ever in step with God's leading. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring, we are more aware of that now than perhaps ever before. But the Spirit knows our days – the days behind us, upon us, and before us – so let us keep in step with the Spirit. As we keep pace with our Good Shepherd, we will be guided toward a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self- control. What a great reward!
This teaching comes as an excerpt from a message given by Pastor Kyla Ward. You can hear the full sermon here.