Echoing the words of Jesus’ disciples, I am sure many of us struggle with knowing how to pray, let alone having a regular prayer life.
And the Lord graciously taught them (and us) how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer has become our model, and like some of us, I have prayed this so many times, such that I can recite it without even thinking. It helps me to slow down and reflect on each phrase, and even add my own application.
But aside from this, the Bible includes many passages that focus specifically on prayers, some short, some long, reflecting many different circumstances and moods. Together, they provide an excellent guide for anyone seeking to learn to pray.
Take the book of Psalms – it offers a practicum on how to pray. Fear, praise, anxiety, anger, love, sorrow, despair, gratitude, grief, doubt, suffering, joy, vengeance, repentance – every human emotion and experience surges to the surface in these prayer-poems. They broaden my notion of prayer by taking more risks, demanding more of the relationship, expressing more passion. In short, they expose the shallowness of my own prayers and challenge me to engage with God at a deeper level.
Then go through the prayers of Paul. For the Thessalonians to love each other more and more, developing mature behaviour by the Corinthians, for strength and obedience and unity in his readers even as they learn to resist evil. For the Philippians “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. For practical matters; sick friends, travel plans, for boldness and safety. God is never far from his thoughts, and thanksgiving and praise come to mind so naturally. Like the Psalms, Paul’s prayers give me a template for my own – I can insert the name of a friend or loved one struggling with doubts into the sequence of prayers for the Ephesians. Or check myself when he issued stern prayers of warning for wayward believers. Am I comforting those in trouble as he prayed for the Corinthians? Are my own prayers tending to revolve around physical and financial well-being?
There will be many many more prayer models in other Bible passages which I hope to indulge in in the coming weeks and months and even years to make prayer be a way of living my life. But above all, I will pray.
I am glad that my SG has adopted a new meeting format for this year: we have one prayer session and one study session each month. Next to participating in the Prayer Service, praying amongst familiar faces is a comfortable way to start our prayer journey for most of us. Let the Holy Spirit spur us on.
Deacon Henry Leong