I hope this won’t seem pretentious, but it’s been on my heart that someone out there is wondering how to pray. I don’t pretend to be the expert on the matter, and I don’t think there’s a particular formula that needs to be followed, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned along the way…
1) The Lord’s Prayer
During his ministry Jesus taught the disciples to pray. His example is recorded in the book of Matthew in the New Testament.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 6:9-13, New Inspired Version
From this I gather that Jesus recommended we do a few basic things we when pray. We should acknowledge God as our awesome creator, the one who loves us & the one who knows what’s best. We should ask that His will be done in our lives. We should pray for sustenance, both physical and spiritual. We should pray for forgiveness, the determination to forgive, and ask for God’s divine guidance in all the things we do.
2) The Mormon’s Prayer
When I was a missionary for the LDS church we taught a very simple, very effective outline for prayers that I still use almost every day. The Mormon-style starts “we thank Thee.” (Mormon’s use formal language in their prayers as a way to show reverence and humility before God. I have traded Thee for you, but you go with whatever feels right.) You can be thankful for a whole host of things. Thank God for waking you up, for the sunshine or rain. Thank Him for your job and your car and the traffic that means folks in your town are mostly all employed. Thank Him for your family, for your sense of humor. Thank Him for making you awesome and for forgiving you daily. I thank Him for McDonalds and the $.99 sweet tea they give me that keeps me awake and reminds me of home.
When you are done thanking, you move to prayer phase 2: “we ask Thee.” Most of us pretty much live in this phase, so I won’t bore you with the details. Ask Him for WHATEVER. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed or shy. God made you and He loves you and He already knows.
This prayer, and almost all prayers, is concluded with the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Jesus is our Savior and our intercessor with God. It is only with His help that we can become holy enough to approach our Father in Heaven. Closing in Jesus’s name seals the deal in a sense, and reminds God that through Christ we are worthy of whatever blessing we have asked.
3) My Missionary Prayer
Mormon or no, my mission was and will always be the place where I found sure footing with God. It’s where I learned to pray, to really pray, and where I learned that God will and does move in our lives. Our Mission President (the man in charge of the three and some odd hundred missionaries that were serving with me in Italy back in the day) taught us a deeper truth about prayer that I have found never fails. This is a tactic best used when making decisions and it works on things as simple as “should I buy a Toyota or a Honda” all the way up to “is this hottie African stranger really THE ONE for me?”
The trick is to first make the very best decision you can all by yourself. Research options. Ask friends. Listen to your gut, then decide “yes, I think taking this new job is the best option for my family” or “no, I don’t think the big house with the hot tub is the one for us.” Then go to God and ask for a confirmation.
I usually start with a lot of thanking and then, in just the way I’d discuss options with my husband or co-worker I’ll say something like “I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to school and I’ve decided that this fall I’m going to quit my job so I can do it. Lord, above all things I pray for your will to be done in my life, so please confirm this decision for me and let me know I have your blessing.” And then you wait. If you wait, and you believe, you’ll get a confirmation one way or another. It’s pretty radical to think that God 1) cares given everything else that’s going on and 2) that He communicates with us, but I’m living proof that He does.
4) The No-Fail, this Feeling is Bigger than I am Prayer
Here’s the one I cling to in times of desperation.
“Please. Please. Please.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
This one’s my favorite. I suspect it’s His too.