How to Pray

What is prayerI believe that prayer is the measure of the man. Spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face – J.I. Packer

DA Carson on Prayer

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs—and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what He is like, what He expects of us, what He seeks in us. We are not captured by His lowliness and His love; His thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.

In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him…. Just as God’s Word must reform our theology, our ethics, and our practices, so also must it reform our praying.  – A Call to Spiritual Reformation

Carson’s suggestions for how to improve our prayer life:

  • Keep the goal of prayer in mind as outline by Paul’s prayer: “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him” (II Thessalonians 1:12a)
  • Plan to pray using set times for consistency at times when you’re most alert and least distracted
  • Avoid mental drift by journaling prayers, praying out loud, pacing and/or praying through Scriptures by praying about what you read during the day or using biblical prayers as models to pray for others
  • Pray and learn from prayers of others (e.g., Puritans in Valley of Vision, pastors)
  • Create prayer lists with specific requests and answers
    • Permanent list: family, close friends and church/work place on the topics of spiritual state, character, friends, health, protection, current problems
    • Changing list: Short term for current situations including world events, Christian leaders, pastors, government leaders, colleagues, neighbors
  • Follow a structure such as ACTS
    • Adoration: Praise God for who He is and what He’s done
    • Confession: Confess your sins of commission and omission
    • Thanksgiving: Thank God for His provision in your life.  What we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most value
    • Supplication: Tie requests to Scripture passages to align them with the will of God.  We must ask our heavenly Father for things because He has determined that many blessings will come to us only through prayer. Prayer is his ordained means of conveying his blessings to his people. That means we must pray according to his will, in line with his values in conformity with his own character and purposes, claiming his own promises
  • Pray until you come to delight in God’s presence, rest in His love and cherish His will

Private Prayer (Thomas Brooks)

But when you pray, go into your room (Matthew 6:6).  These words of our Savior are plain, and to be taken literally.  We have a commanded for every Christian to pray alone.  The prayer closet declares sincerity.  The more sincerity, the more the sould will be faithful in the closet.  When we pray in public, there are many things that provke a carnal heart – pride, applause or a great name.  In private prayer, there is no such influence.

God will reward His people outwardly for thier faithfulness in secret because he is a rewarded of those who seek Him diligently.  They that sow in tears secretly shall reap in joy openly.  God in the great day will recompense His people before all the world, for every secret prayer, tear, sigh and groan from His people. and reward them accordingly.  If we really believed this, how we would be in prayer more frequently and more abundantly.

See also How to Pray for Your Children and Jesus Teaching about Prayer

Source: Thomas Brooks in Voices from the Past p 35, A Call to Spiritual Reformation by DA Carson

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