Prayer is a primary way we communicate with God, and it’s a primary way God communicates with us.
If you go to church often, you have been reminded over and over again about the importance of prayer.
You’ve been told, “You should have a quiet time every day;” “You should start and end each day in prayer and Bible study;” or “Believe in the power of prayer.”
The problem for a lot of us isn’t that we don’t want to pray, but that we don’t know what to pray for, and we’re not sure what to say.
Does God respond better if we use words like “thee,” “thou” and “beseech?” If we kneel at our beds and fold our hands, do our prayers get through to God faster?
In the “Lord’s Prayer” (see Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4) Jesus provides us with a model prayer that reminds us of four important things:
- We should honor God – in our lives and in our prayers.
- We are completely dependent on God’s providence for our survival.
- We are people who need to both forgive and be forgiven.
- We need help in guarding ourselves against the dangers of temptation.
A well-lived life honors God, relies on God’s providence, understands the need to both forgive and be forgiven, and guards itself against temptation.
But what happens when we move beyond the basics of prayer and start to ask questions that seek to integrate the more general purposes of prayer into the specific settings of our own lives?
What happens when our prayer life grows stale? How should we pray for God to intervene specifically in our lives? How can we breathe new energy into our regular time of prayer?
Here are three suggestions, and they all boil down to one thing: Pray more boldly.
1. When you pray, pray with big expectations.
Most of us could stand to spend more time in prayer. Paul reminds us that our lives should be walking, talking prayers – that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
But what if the problem is that we’re asking too little when we do pray?
Maybe it’s time to stop dancing around what we’re really searching for in prayer. Maybe it’s time to pray with the faith that God can do great things.
So whatever it is that’s most disturbing, distracting or daunting you, address it directly in prayer. Boldness and honesty in prayer translate into boldness and honesty in life.
Christ demonstrated boldness by bringing love, grace, peace, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness to a world where those things were in short supply. Those things are in short supply today, too.
A change to your prayer life can help you build a foundation for Christ-like boldness.
2. Stop praying about people and start praying for people.
We often have a tendency to pray for our friends and about our enemies. Instead of praying about people who disagree with you, pray for people who oppose you. Pray for people who have a different perspective than you. Pray for people who follow a different faith than you.
Don’t pray that they’ll get what’s coming to them. Don’t pray that they’ll see the error of their ways. Don’t pray that you’ll be proven right and they’ll be proven wrong.
Pray for God’s presence in their lives – for God’s guidance, wisdom and strength. Pray for God to bless them and their families with health, happiness and prosperity. Pray for God’s mercy to be new in them every morning.
Pray for God’s grace to overflow in them. And pray for God to forgive you if you have somehow been less than Christian in your thoughts or actions toward them.
Remember, God loves our enemies as much as God loves us. More important, remember that we are called to love them, too (Matthew 5:43-48).
3. Instead of praying for God to remove challenges, start praying for God to help you overcome them.
We pray for easier lives, a perfect family, more money and fewer problems. We ask God to spare us tough decisions. We pray for less risk and more security.
But successfully overcoming challenges, rather than avoiding them, leads to growth and a much-needed spirit of boldness.
So instead of praying for God to spare you the tough decision, pray that God will give you wisdom to make the right decision.
And instead of praying for more security and less risk, pray for the courage to make the leap even when the stakes are high.
We need not be hesitant or timid in prayer. Bold prayers – and an ear to hear God’s bold responses – lead to the wisdom, strength and courage to live with the boldness to which God calls each of us.
Matt Sapp is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia. A longer version of this article first appeared on Heritage’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp.