I remember writing in my prayer journal a few years ago, “Lord may I grow in intimacy with you! May I truly know that Your love is better than life!” I desperately wanted to not just know about God in my head, but to “taste and see that the Lord is good."
In the past two years, God has answered that prayer. I am so humbled by His tender love and care over my life. I am in awe at how He is working all around me.
Today I want to share with you two things I have learned about prayer that have changed my life and relationship with my Father. I hope these things encourage you to seek Him with all your heart. At the end of this post, I also list some of my favorite prayers from Scripture that I love praying over people. What a gift from God these verses are!
1. I learned to pray without ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What does it mean to pray without ceasing? Is it really possible?
I love what my pastor, John MacArthur says in his book, Alone With God:
“To 'pray without ceasing' refers to recurring prayer, not nonstop talking. Prayer is to be a way of life-- you're to be continually in an attitude of prayer. It is living in continual God-consciousness, where everything you see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to Him. It should be instant and intimate communication-not unlike that which we enjoy with our best friend.
To 'pray without ceasing' means when you are tempted, you hold the temptation before God and ask for His help. When you experience something good and beautiful, you immediately thank the Lord for it. When you see evil around you, you ask God to make it right and to use you toward that end, if that is His will. When you meet someone who does not know Christ, you pray for God to draw that person to Himself and to use you to be a faithful witness. When you encounter trouble, you turn to God as your Deliverer.”
How amazing it is when we start living life this way in constant communication with our Father! Our joys are amplified, our worries made peaceful, and we find rest in the knowledge that we are not alone.
Our best example of living life in constant prayer is our Savior, Jesus. He walked in this continual state of prayer, completely dependent on the Father. (John 5:19, 8:28, 12:49).
Along with being in communion with His Father throughout the day, Jesus also made time to be alone with His Father in prayer (Matt. 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18). If Jesus needed time alone with His Father, then we certainly do too! Prayer throughout the day, and specific time with the Father are both critical for the growing Christian.
What has really helped me practically in growing in prayer is to start with begging God to give me a desire for Himself. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2) If you desire to grow in prayer, cry out to God like the psalmist. Beg Him to change your heart and give you an earnest desire for Himself. Ask Him to rein in your ever wandering heart. And then make a “date” with your Abba each day alone talking to Him. It’s amazing how when you start the day off like this, you’ll more likely find yourself in communion with Him throughout the rest of the day in your tasks as well.
2. I learned to bring the real me to God
In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller says, “If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life”.
May that not be true of God’s children! And yet we so often live like that. We live dependent on ourselves instead of God.
Two years ago I was convicted of this. I knew prayer was important, but wrongly thought that since God was sovereign anyways, I didn’t need to bring everything to Him. I also struggled because when I sat down to pray I felt like I didn’t know how to begin.
In A Praying Life, Miller talks about the importance of bringing the real you to God. Learning this made such a difference in my prayer life because it took away the pressure that I had to “get prayer right”.
We can bring our real selves to God, including all the messy bits. We don’t have to start off a certain way, or clean ourselves up first. If we have given our lives to Jesus than we are already made clean and have direct access to God.
Hebrews 4:14-16 says, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
We can confidently and boldly approach God’s throne, not because of our own merit – but because of Jesus!! How amazing is that!
So don’t be afraid to start off prayer with whatever is on your mind. Bring it all to Him. If I start off with a list of things I am praying for, I feel fake. But when I begin prayer by bringing Him whatever is on my mind, like a friend, and leaving my burdens with Him, it frees up my mind to search my heart, confess sin, worship God, pray through a list of specific needs, for my church, the nations, and other things we are called to pray for as believers. There are times when a “prayer model” can be a helpful tool as well. I really like the “ACTS” model, which simply stands for Acknowledge, Confess, Thanksgiving, Supplication – this can help when praying in a group, or when you’re first saved and want to learn the different aspects of prayer.
It’s amazing what peace floods your heart when you daily cast your anxieties on the Lord. What a privilege that we get to talk with the God of the universe as a friend, about whatever is on our hearts!
So I want to urge you, friend, to come to God as you truly are, messy, needy, and hopelessly dependent on Him. Come like a little child. Your Abba Father, Papa God, wants you to know Him intimately and He invites you into His presence.
John Piper says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." My prayer for you too, dear friend, is what I prayed for myself two years ago. That you would “taste and see that the Lord is good” – and therefore give Him greater praise and worship.
These beautiful prayers penned by Paul to believers in different churches are some of my favorites to pray for people. You can learn so much from what he prays for these people that He loves so dearly.
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe...” – Ephesians 1:16-19 (NIV)
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-10
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” – Colossians 1:9-12