Some people may tell you that prayer is a waste of time, that there is no one listening and it will only break your heart. It certainly can be tempting to listen to those around us, and while there is nothing wrong with considering others opinions, sometimes it is necessary to go find out on our own what the truth of the matter is. We are told in the gospel of Matthew, “seek and ye shall find”. This reveals to us that in order to find there is an action that we must take first. So, how do we seek? We can seek the truths of the Gospel by studying the Bible, attending church and/or Bible study groups etc. but there is only one way to develop a personal relationship with our Lord and that is through prayer. So, what does it mean to pray? How can we test what the Bible promises?
Prayer is the personal connection with our Lord that gives us access to an all knowing and all loving God that can attend to our needs based on a righteous judgment and infallible discernment. Many factors can deter us from praying and most of them are rooted in fear. It is scary to open up our hearts and risk being let down, or maybe it is even more terrifying to find out that God is real and there may be aspects of our lifestyle and how we treat people or ourselves that need to change. These fears are totally natural and are just part of the process and we can overcome them with help. We are given these encouraging words in Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. A great place to start in prayer, is asking God for courage to pray regularly and sincerely and for a heart of faith to seek the truth.
Though everyone prays in their own way, in Psalms Ch. 25 there is a great example of all the elements that make up a complete and heartfelt prayer. Through these words we can feel a longing and humble heart crying out, asking for mercy, forgiveness, repenting of wrongdoing, giving praise and thanksgiving and requesting a blessing. Notice the prayer does not read as though it has been rehearsed but the words pour out of the psalmist as though he speaks to a best friend and bares his soul in honesty. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking”
Verse 6. “Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old” This call for mercy and compassion speaks to the nature of a God that has always been just and quick to forgive. The author of these words believes that God has these qualities of mercy and love and boldly proclaims to call them into remembrance to preface the rest of the prayer.
Verse 7. “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.” The admittance of guilt immediately strengthens the bonds of prayer and our relationship with God because it is openly honest and lifts the shame of past transgressions. If we are to trust someone we have to be honest with him or her and also desire that they be honest with us. It works the same way in prayer. In a society full of gossip and slander it is difficult to trust anyone. Our hearts long to share in honesty but our physical nature fights this longing in order to limit the risk of getting hurt. Come as you are to God and leave your burdens at the feet of Jesus Christ, who can redeem anything, even the sins of our past. Your trust will grow by faith as your relationship with God becomes more personal and honest.
Verse 8-10. “Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” These three verses are a personal testimony from David, the author, and serve as prayers of praise and thanksgiving. In order for the author to depict God as a “teacher” and “guide” he would have had to experience these mentoring qualities from God and know them to be true. When we request anything of anyone it is often because we feel they are inclined to fulfill our request based on past experience or the nature of that person. Maybe we do not openly express to them why we have chosen to ask them for their help but it certainly would not hurt our cause to put forth honest praise. To sincerely compliment someone in thanksgiving is much different from flattering a person in order to manipulate him or her by appealing to his or her ego. Honest praise is the expression of how we truly feel about someone and it helps us to express the gratitude we have for their presence in our lives. We often overlook all the blessings in our lives and neglect to give thanks for them. Do not be afraid to reflect on these things during prayer and to give praise and thanksgiving.
Verse 11. “For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.” This explicit statement of repentance is as powerful as it is candid. The Lord already knows the sins of our nature, the sins we have committed and the sins we will commit again. We might try to hide our iniquities from the Lord because we are having trouble facing them ourselves (Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed, John 3:20). This inherent truth then follows: If we are to be examples of Christ’s love for us, then we must also learn to forgive as he has forgiven us (Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God through Christ has forgiven you, Ephesians 4:32).
When we repent to someone we have wronged and ask for their forgiveness, it is not necessarily only for their benefit but it frees us from the guilt and shame of our actions. Once we are ready to take responsibility for our own decisions and repentance has taken place, then we can begin to heal and move forward. The author of these Psalms, King David, appeals to the grace of our Lord by boldly stating, “For the sake of your name”. David openly admits that his sins are great. This tells us that he is living with a heavy burden of shame and he desperately wants to return to a holy and good-standing relationship with the Lord. If he is to heal from the damage that his sins have caused and once again be a true and just representative of the holy nature of the Lord, then he must be forgiven. In essence, David is saying, “Lord I am sorry, I admit to the things I have done wrong and I ask for your forgiveness.” We can imagine the burden of guilt and shame being lifted from David’s shoulders and hope returning to his humbled heart.
Verse 16-21 “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” Finally, after seeking mercy, admitting guilt, giving praise and thanksgiving and asking for forgiveness, David makes a direct request for internal comfort, peace of mind, physical protection and spiritual deliverance. Paul tells us in Hebrews “…come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” This is not to say to come before God in arrogance, but come with confidence that your request will be heard and attended to, according to the righteousness of our God. How flattering it is to know that we all have the right to an intercessor, a high priest who can help in our most desperate time. “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD, Hallelujah!” We have a bold and mighty savior worthy of our praise.
Give specifics in prayer of what or whom you are praying for. Though the Lord knows all, it is good to exercise our minds to find specifics and develop empathy as we consider others who are in need of prayers.
Lastly, one of the utter most essential elements of prayer is patience. There are entire books written on patience but we can find solace in one simple Psalm that says it all. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalms 27:14
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”
― Bruce Lee
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
― Mother Teresa
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Gift of Giving Form