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The beginner’s guide to prayer

Ross McCall // May 20, 2019, 10:12 pm

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

Think about somebody praying. What are you picturing?

Perhaps you imagine someone kneeling beside their bed, listing concerns and needs to God.

Maybe you see someone sitting silently. You might even imagine a group of people all talking at the same time, making a holy ruckus as they pour out their hearts to a higher power.

Whatever your picture looks like, the crucial question is, do you picture prayer as a monologue or a dialogue?

The majority of books on healthy relationships describe communication as the cornerstone. Most of them also say the hardest part of communication isn’t talking, it’s listening.

Most of us never hear from God audibly. And yet many people claim God speaks to them.

So how does that work?

If you’re looking for a formula to get God to talk when you need it most – you might be disappointed. Think of the people in your life. You don’t have only one kind of conversation with all of them. So why would God choose to do that with us?

Here are four ways to pray so you can try something different when you feel stuck.

If in doubt, copy the expert

Jesus’ closest friends, the men he focused most of his attention on, faced the same problem we do. So they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.

The book of Psalms in the Bible offers a helpful blueprint for connecting with God during times of pain or difficulty.

The result was the best-known prayer in human history — what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-15).

Reading Jesus’ prayer slowly, and considering each idea, is a great way to listen to God.

The book of Psalms is full of prayers that read like conversations.

A psalmist, frequently King David, pours out his heart to God, and then speaks back to himself a truth he believes God is reminding him of.

The Psalms offer a helpful blueprint for connecting with God during times of pain or difficulty.

Praying with a pen still counts

“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through lips and fingertips.”

Dawson Trotman’s words beautifully capture why journalling is a vital part of so many people’s spiritual journey.

Show God that you’re willing to listen and He’ll show you that He’s able to speak.

Show God that you’re willing to listen and He’ll show you that He’s able to speak.

Some of us are verbal processors and praying out loud enables us to clearly communicate with God. Others need to take the time to write out our prayers, so our thoughts become clearer.

You could begin with a Bible verse that stands out to you, even if you don’t know why it stands out to you.

Try writing out your feelings, thoughts or questions. Then pause to allow God to speak to you however He chooses. It might be clarifying the meaning of the verse, or He might bring a memory to mind that offers you fresh insight.

The key is believing God wants to speak and He’s not limited by how good a listener you are.

Show God that you’re willing to listen and He’ll show you that He’s able to speak.

God is a walker and a talker

Jesus’ closest relationships on earth were built upon by walking together day after day. Men in particular often develop deep friendships doing things side by side rather than face to face.

So why not schedule some time to connect with God the way you would with anyone else you really valued?

Praying with others helps you pray alone

Listening to someone else talk to God can help us focus on Him.

Think of someone you know who talks about God’s tangible presence in their life. Ask if you can pray together.

While time alone with God is vital to our spiritual growth, God Himself tells us that when two or more of us gather to focus on Him, something special happens (Matthew 18:20).

When you pray with others, remember you’re talking to God, not to them.

Faith is the essential ingredient, if you want your prayer life never to lose its flavour.

That means believe that God is ready and willing to listen, because He knows you and wants to be known by you.

So where do you start?

This article was written for Cru Singapore and is republished with permission.

About the author

Ross McCall

Ross writes for Cru Singapore, a caring community passionate about connecting others to Jesus. A parachurch organisation, Cru supports local churches in missions, discipleship and evangelism.