What does it mean to pray?

It’s Monday Grace!

If you were the devil, wouldn’t you want to try to stop people from talking with the Lord? And, if you couldn’t outright stop them from praying, wouldn’t you want to make prayer into a duty or a chore? This is just what I think the devil has done for many people, even many sincere believers.

When we were connected with the legalist teachers, prayer was taught as a formula and a duty. We could look down on Catholics with their rosaries, but never understand that we did the same thing with our repetitions and shallow cliches. In fact, many prayers uttered in groups or families were ways to make the speaker look more spiritual. Either that or opportunities for mini-sermons.

Basically, prayer became something to endure rather than enjoy. I remember as a boy when our home pastor would pray. We were supposed to stand. He loved to pray! He was a good man who knew the Lord, but I think he sometimes forgot about the rest of us. We stood and, unless we held onto the pew in front of us, would begin to waver back and forth until it felt like we might fall down. It was a relief when it finally ended.

Is that what prayer is? An endurance test? Or a duty? Or a way to show off? I don’t think so.

We were told something many readers may have heard. The word ACTS is a way to remember how to pray: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Then we were told to have equal amounts of each and keep our prayers in that order. Only after we had satisfied the requirements of the others would we bring our supplications, our requests, to the Lord. So, if we came in our worry or shame or need and circumvented the “right” process, our prayer was sinful. Anyone remember that?

I think the devil liked that one. It was so spiritual, yet made real prayer so distant. It was superior to the way anyone prayed, even the folks in the Bible. But, hold on, if it is different from the way the people of the Bible prayed, why is it taught? In fact, who says this is a better way? Hmmm.

Now, I am not against these four kinds of prayer. There are times when I just stop to give my Lord the adoration I feel in my heart. There are times when I come to Him with confession. These are good things. If this was a list of the kinds of prayer, I would be happy with it. But that was not the way it was presented.

When you consider the way people prayed in the Scripture and the way believers have prayed over the centuries, a formula like this misses the mark. Many of the Psalms, for example, are prayers. How many of them use this formula?

This is not the forum to teach in depth on prayer. I may write more on it someday. But here’s my suggestion. If you look at the prayers of the Bible, you will see that most of them have two simple parts, the same parts you would naturally bring to the Lord. Ready?

Ask Him and thank Him.

That’s it. I confess that I have not done an exhaustive study on all the prayers of the Bible to come to this. You are welcome to do that and correct me, if you think I am wrong. As I see the natural flow of prayer represented in the lives of those people who interacted with the Lord as a real Person, I see them asking and thanking. Yes, there are other kinds of prayer, but the people came to the Lord in their need and asked for His help. Then they thanked Him.

Sometimes they thanked Him and then asked. Sometimes they just asked.

When you are in need, the Lord wants you to call out to Him. He asks you to pray. He doesn’t expect you to go through seven steps to reach His heart, or even four. He expects you to bring your need. Bringing your need to Him, trusting Him with the cry of your heart, is real prayer. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it is what He expects.

Don’t let the evil one take prayer from your life. Don’t let him make it into something you dread. Instead, allow your heart to connect with the Lord who loves you. Share with Him the concerns of your heart. Thank Him for the assurance of His love.

Prayer is a lifeline to the Lord. Through it, the burdens of our hearts are shared with the One who truly cares and can do something. And, yes, be prepared to listen for or watch for His response. He loves you.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NKJV)

14 Comments

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14 responses to “What does it mean to pray?

  1. Mark

    The dangerous implication, and I believe it was intentional, of ACTS was that our needs came last. I think the acronym and the sentiment was in line with worm theology and legalism. We can only ask God to help us after we’ve presented the laundry list of our failings?

    I think also that the public prayers were a form of posturing. The “best” among us had little to confess and little to ask. Like male elders confessing the sin of abortion.

    • “Worm theology,” oh my! I never heard it called out before, but that’s how I was raised and it took me forever to let the Lord teach me otherwise. Thanks for sharing the term!

  2. Christine Clements

    I snickered reading this, thinking about all the prayer “rules” I was
    taught when my mom was trying on religions like clothes. Catholic,
    Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, and who knows what else. They all shared one
    dogma, that believers must pray the “right” way. Even as a kid, this
    made no sense to me. I wondered how could people ask Him for help if
    they only used formulas for prayer? I prayed anyway.

    Until the Brookline church, I believed that my unprofessional, constant
    swearing style of prayer was wrong, that my cries would go unheard. This
    post really speaks to me. Man, if I used a highlighter for reading Grace
    for my Heart , it would be page after page of pure yellow. 😁

  3. This is a very timely post for me. I just spent most of this day praying and praying and praying and praying. You see, today, January 17, is my husband’s 73rd birthday. And, he had surgery today. The procedure is typically 1-2 hours. He was in surgery for over 3 hours. Oh how I prayed!

    Thank God, when it was finally over, the surgeon said it went well. Now begins the long road to recovery. More praying!

    I really appreciate this message, Pastor Dave. I was concerned that my prayers were too much or wrong somehow. I thank God that He hears and answers, according to His perfect will, even my imperfect prayers.

  4. Batya Ahul

    As I have said previously I feel guilty for asking for prayer requests, but I need all of you reading this right now to pray. My family have been under a spiritual attack of the magnitude that I cannot describe.
    I have emailed Pastor Dave about this previously & I will update him as it is a very sensitive matter. I need you all to pray that harm will not come to our family. That Gods light will shine upon us and our strength, resilience and fortitude in Him will prevail.

    My son read Philippians v4-6 at his grandmothers funeral a few months ago which was in the middle of this horrendous experience that I’m asking you to pray about. God is good all the time even in the darkness.
    I just need you to pray for God’s goodness. Thank you to all who read this😊.

    • Batya Ahul

      Just a quick addition to above, please if you are reading this, to pray over the above situation that God will reveal the truth.
      Thank you all who read this and pray, He is good always 😎

      • Batya Ahul

        Hello lovely people, thank you for those who have prayed for us as a family.
        We are going on a family holiday tomorrow, I’m extremely anxious Probably due to the difficult here year that we have had.
        Please those who are reading this if, they could pray for me to have some peace,
        for my family to be safe and have a time of restoration. Thank you so much to those who pray.
        It is such a wonderful thing to have an anonymous place to request prayer.
        I continue to pray for all of you and I’m so thankful for Pastor Dave‘s continuing wisdom and prayerful support through this wonderful site.😎

  5. Batya Ahul

    Thank you for all prayed at my last request. We had the most wonderful holiday and a time of restoration for our family. Despite Covid, the journey was easy and I felt Him with us. We really needed this time after a difficult year So I am so grateful for your prayers.
    If I can ask for continued prayers for the truth to be revealed in the current situation I’ve outlined in above comments. There is a party that is not being open and transparent in a process that is currently occurring. Please pray for God’s light to shine and reveal the truth in this situation.
    Exodus 14 v 14 has been a great comfort.

    I hope you all had the most wonderful Easter😊Hallelujah for He has risen!

    • Batya Ahul

      Here I am again asking for prayer once more😩 I have an interview tomorrow afternoon. Please pray for me to have His peace & a positive outcome.

      The situation in previous posts that I’ve asked you all to pray for is unfortunately dragging on for at least another three months. It is draining for me and my family, but His will is in there as He is in charge of everyone & everything.

      Thank you so much for those who prayed for us to have a peaceful family holiday. Those of you in the UK May know that weekend before Easter we had terrible travel disruptions in the UK and we simply weren’t affected at all. It was an absolute miracle and really shows us the power of prayer.

      Thank you to all that pray, I am so grateful for this wonderful community and I pray for you all too😎

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