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Practicing Prayer: Lord, Teach Us How to Pray (Part 1 of 4)


By Charissa Toeller

 

 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:1-4)

 

This summer, the Student Bible Study is using The Practice of Prayer by John Mark Comer to learn more about prayer. For the next four weeks, I'd like to invite you to study prayer along with us! I'll be writing a summary of each of the four types of prayer we'll be practicing, and sharing some practical ways to practice each type of prayer. The first type is talking to God through pre-made prayer.

 

Practicing Pre-Made Prayer

If you grew up in an evangelical church like I did, the idea of praying liturgical or pre-made prayers may be unfamiliar to you. Or, if you're like my parents, who grew up in liturgical churches--but later attended churches more like Friedens--maybe you've found freedom and a deeper connection with God in forming your own prayers after years of praying primarily memorized prayers. In any case, most of us have clear impressions and opinions about pre-written prayers.

 

So why study pre-written prayer if you've chosen to be part of a church that uses them infrequently? See if any of these reasons resonate with you:

 

Forming our own prayers can feel insufficient when…

  • We find our prayers becoming (or remaining) shallow.

  • Our prayers focus exclusively on us and what we want from God.

  • We get in ruts in our prayer life and neglect to develop different ways of communicating with God.

  • We don't feel confident praying out loud or in groups because either we don't know what to say, we don't have enough to say, or we think that we don't pray well enough.

 

Pre-written prayers may help us…

  • Build a stronger habit of praying.

  • Focus a distracted mind on prayer.

  • Explore other styles of prayer.

  • Learn to form our own prayers following the format of liturgical prayers.

  • Communicate with God anyway, even when we feel too sick, too exhausted, too stressed, or too distant from God to find the words.

  • Pray theologically rich prayers we may not naturally think to pray.

 

Even if these lists don't resonate with you, I'd still encourage you to try some pre-written prayers to strengthen your "prayer muscles." Is it easy to spout off one of these prayers and pay very little attention to what you're saying? Of course it is. But that's a challenge with any type of prayer. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "People look at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart." Anytime you begin praying, take a moment and focus on who you are praying to before you begin. We want to build a habit, not only of communicating with God, but of connecting with God.

 

Your Turn!

If you're not sure what pre-written prayers to start with, here are some suggestions:

  • Luke 11 is where you'll find the famous "Lord's Prayer."

  • All of Psalms can be used as prayers--try Psalm 103.

  • There are prayers in the Old Testament, like Daniel 9. 

  • There are many prayers in the pastoral letters of the New Testament--try Ephesians 3:14-21.

  • There are prayers throughout Revelation; look for indented sections, especially towards the end of chapters 4 and 5.

  • You can also pray through prayers published by Christians who came before us or pray through the lyrics of a worship song or hymn from any generation.

 

I'd love to hear from you if you give this "Practice of Prayer" a try. Especially if it's new for you! (The contact form at the bottom of our website is a great way to reach me. Just add "for Charissa" and it will find its way to me.) Enjoy connecting with God through prayer, and look for an article on another form of prayer next week!

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