Learning to Pray
As I address the issue of “Learning to Pray”, there are several questions that need to be considered first.
- Do you know the purpose of prayer?
- Have you routinely prayed in the past?
- If so, do you routinely set aside time each day to pray?
- Do you have a special place where you routinely pray?
- Will I hear God’s Voice if I pray?
- Will I get well if I pray?
- Should I pray aloud or silently when alone?
- and finally, Is prayer really important?
First off and for the record, I have always been a fan of prayer. I would pray whenever the spirit moved me; whether it be while driving in my car, while sun-bathing on the beach, or when I was in Church on Sunday mornings. Until just a few years ago, my total focus in praying was for others that I felt needed prayers and seldom if ever did I pray for myself. I believed I was strong and able to deal with whatever the Good Lord through my way, and it would be more beneficial and productive if the Good Lord focused His Time listening to my prayers for those I considered needy for His Help. I was not only totally wrong thinking I was being magnanimous; I was making judgments as to who was a sinner, and only the Good Lord can make that judgment. I also lacked the spiritual development and understanding of the true meaning of prayer.
Now having confessed to you my shortcomings in my prayer focus in the past, I shall now speak to the issue of Prayer, What it is, How to pray and where, Frequency of Prayer, Will God answer my prayers, and Liturgical Prayer vs. Personal Prayer and the importance of each.
What is prayer
Prayer is the loving communication with and having a direct route to talk directly with God! Some have said, “Prayer is the pipeline to God’s Power.” If the words do not flow easily in prayer, one need only to speak from the heart and He will listen. Through prayer we find a special strength of spirit, wisdom, and continuous inner peace never before experienced. Prayer must come from the heart, be a true communication with God, and be honest and sincere; for the Good Lord knows our hearts and anything less is truly a vain attempt at deception.
How to Pray & Where
Prayer is a very personal experience, and it should be. Should one be on his/her knees? Should one be standing reverently? Should one have a candle lit nearby and in the presence of an Icon? None of the aforementioned are a necessity for one to pray; yet all of them are appropriate for your experience with prayer. There is no set pattern of what is required or not required in order to pray; other than one’s motives need be pure as must be one’s heart.
Where to pray is less important than when to pray. Jesus spent a great deal of time praying. Scripture tells us Christ often went to a solitary place and prayed for hours on end, asking His Father for continued strength in difficult times in His Ministry. We should be no different. A true Christian of faith will set aside time each day at the same time (if possible) to pray. Setting time aside each day regardless of where or when is essential for a true relationship with Christ. Prayer is a discipline we all must adopt in our spiritual life.
What Do I Pray For
This is probably the most challenging aspect of prayer for each of us. Human nature being what it is, we often tend to pray for that which we cannot quite put our own hands around – be it success, power, things, money, health etc. Allow me to propose a few suggestions from my experience and my research for your consideration when you pray; assuming your heart and personal motives for prayer are honorable.
- Thanksgiving for the many blessings we have received in our lives
- Our deep faith and trust in our commitment to God now and always
- Confession of our sins (being specific and in detail), seeking genuine forgiveness
- Commitment to serve God and love our neighbors as ourselves
- Personal requests for our needs (not wants) and the true needs of others
What I have presented is a general compilation of aspects of prayer as referenced by theologians and is presented as a guide only for your consideration in your spiritual prayer journey. You and you alone will adapt your prayer schedule and content to your specific will.
Will God answer my Prayers
This question is one that most folks have a difficult time with – for it is our desire and expectation “we want, need, and expect instant gratification.” For those who have read scripture and are familiar with Matthew, 7:7-8, and for those of you who are not familiar with this passage of scripture, allow me to share this with you.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him that knocks, the door will be opened.”
God will answer our prayers and give us everything we need and much more. The Good Lord answers our prayer requests in His Own Way and in His Own Time. Seldom is our time and His Time on the same schedule. So often we want (and demand) a quick response; an answer that is already in front of our eyes. Prayer will oftentimes illuminate the issue and the answer becomes apparent through of our persistent prayers. I suspect most of us will never hear the voice of God. But what we are promised is the Holy Spirit will work within us as our hearts and motives are purified through prayer.
In Scripture, we see verses that state, “God does not listen to sinners, but listens to the one who worships Him and obeys His Will.” The Eastern Orthodox Church acknowledges that we are all sinners, and that Jesus Christ is the only perfect person free of sin. As such, it is the belief within the Eastern Orthodox Church and within most jurisdictions that “God will accept the prayers of everyone who prays genuinely from their heart for forgiveness.”
Liturgical Prayers vs. Personal Prayers
This topic I have found to be an easy entrée for some as they begin their spiritual journey through prayer; and yet for others it is a most difficult challenge as to when to personally pray and when to turn to so-called “standard scripted prayers.”
As children in the Eastern Orthodox Church, we routinely listened to “standard prayers” and over time the prayers were committed to our memory, i.e, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd psalm, the Nicene Creed, Trisagion Prayer, and so on. This was our 1st introduction into prayer. Hence as youths, our initial exposure to prayer was through standard prayers, also referred to as “public prayers.” As time passed, we were exposed to traditional morning prayers; special occasion prayers, i.e. prayers for the recently departed; and evening prayers. The standard prayers were an excellent foundation for our prayer path to come and an excellent segway into “personal prayer.”
Personal Prayer is just that – personal!
It is a relationship of sharing between you and God. It is coming into spiritual communion between you and God that no other person has or will have. Personal prayer is a powerful moment; a sense of release of fear and guilt; a comfort level that you are not alone in your struggles in a fallen world; and that together with the Good Lord you will have balance and an equilibrium you never suspected was possible.
The prayer process begins with the desire to communicate with God on a very high spiritual level. One must be willing to open one’s heart, be sincere, be genuine, have pure motives only, and have faith and trust in God. With that as a prerequisite, the prayer process can begin in earnest. Talking to God WILL improve your life in so many ways. This special relationship with God through prayer will enhance your understanding of life’s challenges; will enhance your ability to deal with these concerns; and will let you know and understand “you are never alone for the Good Lord is there for you now and always – you need only to “Ask, Seek, and/or knock!”
Blessings on your prayerful journey!