By Nick Brzozowski
Sweating bullets and visibly shaking, I was waiting for my turn. “Dear God, I pray for Mike’s test…” I kept rehearsing what I was going to say in my head over and over again. When the time came, I stuttered out these pathetic words, my face turning a bright red. Luckily for me, everyone’s eyes were shut.
This was my first time praying out loud. In the youth group, they had us take turns saying a prayer in front of everyone. Do you know what I discovered that day?
Prayer can be terrifying.
You might prefer to bathe with a thousand centipedes than to pray out loud in a group, but do you know why? Of course, there is the normal stage fright. But, there is another reason prayer scares us.
Praying out loud for the first time is a lot like learning to drive. With prayer, you are engaging something powerful — access to the presence of God. But, since you don’t know what you are doing, you’re scared you might run someone over.
Strangely enough, prayer can also be boring. And not just DMV-boring - it can be mind-numbingly boring. And just like the fear of prayer, it can get boring when we don’t know what we are doing. It’s sort of like setting out to paint a masterpiece, but you don’t feel much like an artist.
Prayer, like anything else, is a skill to be developed. And as you get stronger as a pray-er, you will see God move in powerful ways in your life.
Through prayer, I’ve witnessed backs healed, blind people regain sight, and healing brought to the most broken of hearts. Through prayer, God has provided for my needs time and time again — even when it felt impossible. Through prayer, God has filled me with strength and hope when I needed it.
Even though it may start off shaky, learning to pray can change your life too.
And if you are hesitant about this, I’ve got good news for you. God gave prayer as a gift to us because he wants to know us and communicate with us. He wouldn’t give you a cell phone if he never wanted you to text him!
My favorite tool for learning to pray comes from Dare2Share which adapts the Lord’s Prayer. In this blog, I will build on their acronym.
When Jesus was asked how to pray, he gave us a template:
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).
Now let’s break this into four parts.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…
The first prayer is thanksgiving or praise. We are telling God how great he is and what thanking him for what he has done for us.
In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul describes being filled with God’s Spirit by singing and giving thanks for everything we can.
Why do we give thanks?
First, because God is worth it. All that we have is from him. Without him, we wouldn’t have anything. In love, he made us. And in love, he sent Jesus to die so that we can be forgiven. He is our Heavenly Father who would do anything for us. He is our Creator and our right response is to praise him!
Psalm 95:6-7 says, Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Second, praise is really, really good for us! According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Three Ways to Praise
Read a Psalm and thank God for something about him.
Use a prompt to help you be more grateful. Who is a person you are thankful for? What is a memory you are grateful for? What is an object you are thankful for? What is something you would have a hard time losing (like your sight or your ability to taste food)?
Sing a worship song.
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread…
Jesus teaches us to pray two kinds of prayers. First, we pray bold prayers — that his kingdom would come and will be done. Pray for bold things like people to be healed, relationships to be restored, miracles to happen, justice and equity to come, racism to cease, and salvation for people.
As we pray bold prayers, we get a closer look at God’s intentions for the world. We also become bolder, ourselves.
After being released from prison for preaching about Jesus, Peter and John pray: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
Second, we pray bread prayers. Take time to consider what you need (emotionally, physically, spiritually) today. God loves you and wants to show you that he can be trusted every single day.
Jesus’ mention of “daily bread” was an allusion to the manna that God supplied the Hebrews when they were alone in the wilderness. Every day, God miraculously supplied bread from heaven. He met their daily needs and he will meet yours as well.
Three Ways to Request
Keep a daily journal of your prayer requests, turning to them daily to see how God might be providing for you.
Ask yourself what you are anxious or worried or stressed about today. Then, let God know.
Text someone asking how you could pray for them.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…
Confession is one of the most overlooked tools in the church today. By admitting our sins, we become more humble and selfless, closer to God and others, and much bolder to do good.
Brené Brown said this about vulnerability: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.” Admitting our sin is being vulnerable.
I think churches have a lot to learn from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Through confession and vulnerability, relational bonds are forged, shame is destroyed and addictions are conquered.
Over the last several years, I have come to see admitting as a much broader exercise. To me, it is more than the stereotypical confessional where we list all our sins. Instead, it is reflecting on any weaknesses, hurts, pains struggles that we are working on.
The process of forgiving is baked into admitting. Now, by forgiving, I do not mean that you automatically trust people who broke your trust. I don’t mean that you even necessarily will be able to restore the relationship. But, you are working to keep that person from continuing to cause more pain and anger in you. Forgiveness tends to be a process of handing over your negative emotions and clearing the debt they have incurred.
Three Ways to Admit
Reflect on any of these questions: Who have I hurt? What am I putting before God in my life? What am I working on? Where do I feel ashamed?
Receive Jesus’ forgiveness by reminding yourself of the work he did on the cross. Ask for the grace to change. Come up with a plan to change. Tell someone about that plan.
Write a letter to someone who hurt you. Describe how they hurt you. Tell them that you forgive them. And anything that you are not ready to forgive them for, let them know that Jesus’ death on the cross covers that too. Then, don't send it.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
When we yield on the road, we are giving priority to the other driver. In prayer, we take a moment to give God the floor, the lead.
Mike Pilavachi says, just like it’s rude when one person does all the talking, the same is in prayer.
Yielding requires we slow down and embrace the quiet. In this time, we receive the life-giving nourishment from Jesus who said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Three Ways to Yield
Go for a walk and ask God to speak to you.
Sit in silence and imagine Jesus were physically there with you.
Listen to a Christian meditation. Like this one.
As you develop your skill in praying, you will gain better and better access to the overwhelming, gentle, and mystical presence of God.
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)
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. (Hebrews 4:16)