February 29, 2024

How to Pray: According to Jesus

Why does prayer often feel awkward and uncomfortable? In this episode, Whit and Casey talk about their personal experiences with prayer, our misconceptions about God, and what Jesus had to say about prayer.

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The Sermon on the Mount is written as a chiasm, which is a literary device that puts the most important idea in the middle with symmetrical language on either side of it. Imagine an “x” structure. At the center of the “x” is the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus is giving us a blueprint for how to pray. Yet, despite its simplicity, many of us find prayer to be a daunting task. We grapple with feelings of inadequacy, striving for the perfect words while missing the essence of authentic connection.

Prayer is not about Performance.

Why are we often so self-conscious about praying? In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller puts it this way: “Many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God.”

It’s easy to slip into performance. We feel a desire to do this the right way. we hear how other We feel obligated to have to do spiritual things the way other people do. But the basis of prayer is not performance, it’s relationship.

When we truly understand this, it takes the pressure off of finding the perfect “spiritual” words or requesting things exactly right so that God will respond.

It can be helpful to shift our mindset from “I need to pray,” to “I need to talk to God about this.”

Just like any relationship, time in each other’s presence brings depth and comfort. Prayer could be as simple as sitting in God’s presence and saying, I’m open to receiving your love today.

How Do You View God?

The most important thing about you is the way you see God. Our perception of God profoundly influences our prayer life. When we view God through a distorted lens, we struggle to approach God authentically.

Maybe you view God as unapproachable, uninterested, impersonal, or disapproving, like He’s marking down the inadequacies of your life.

But God is none of those things –– He is a loving Father.

The way we view God is often connected to our primary earthly relationships. Maybe you need to ask, “Lord, help me get a view of what a good father is.”

Even amidst our misconceptions, God extends an unwavering invitation to encounter His true nature.

The Imagination of Scripture and Prayer

Our prayer life will increase as our relationship with scripture increases. Praying in response to Scripture aligns our hearts with divine truth.

Scripture provides us with a language to articulate our deepest longings and petitions, offering us words when ours fail.

Having a biblical imagination is a leaping off point for prayer. The words of scripture come back to you when you need them.

Even a short, one-line prayer can help you reorient yourself and become aware of God’s presence throughout the day. We call these breath prayers. This simple practice focuses on saying a short, quiet prayer – usually said in a single breath.

A great example of this could be praying Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Through biblical meditation and reflection, we find the things we really need to be praying about.

What did Jesus say about prayer?

In Matthew 6, Jesus warns against viewing prayer as a performative practice like the hypocrites and using empty words like the Gentiles.

The hypocrites and the gentiles weren’t bringing their true selves in prayer. Jesus urges us to show up authentically and vulnerably in communion with God.

He gives us an example of how we should pray.

 Hallowing God’s Name

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

The first part of the prayer is focused on God. It begins with an acknowledgment of God’s holiness and majesty. It calls us to recognize and honor the sacredness of His name.

It urges us to live lives that honor God, allowing His character to shine through our actions and attitudes so that He can ultimately receive the glory.

A Future-Orientation

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Where is your hope?  Here, we encounter a forward-looking orientation, a longing for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. It’s a reminder that our ultimate hope lies not in the affairs of this world but in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This perspective shapes our prayers and priorities, anchoring us in the anticipation of a future kingdom where righteousness and justice will prevail.

Daily Dependence

Give us this day our daily bread

When hearing this, the Israelites would be reminded of their time in the wilderness where they had to daily depend on God to supply their immediate needs. That’s meant to be our posture.

Our hope is oriented in the future, but we’re meant to live our lives in the present. We often try to do God’s job for him by worrying about the future and regretting the past.

Come to the Lord for what you need today.

Forgiveness and Grace

Invite God to give correction: Lord, If you see anything in me that’s leading me down the wrong path, stop me.

We are reminded of our own need for forgiveness and called to extend that same grace to others. Failure to forgive not only hinders our relationship with others but also disrupts our communion with God, because it reflects a failure to grasp the depth of His grace towards us.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we find an emphasis on both our vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationship with those around us.

It’s a prayer that acknowledges our relationship with God as our Father while also emphasizing our interconnectedness with one another as members of His family.

We all need a space where we can show up authentically before God – whatever that looks like.

Next time you feel unsure of how to pray, take a minute to take a deep breath, slow yourself down, and remind yourself you’re talking to God–your loving Father. Let go of the pressure to say the “perfect” prayer and lean into His presence. He is constantly moving toward us in an invitation to communion.


Show Notes:

Watch the Message: How to Pray

In this episode, Whit mentions the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas


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