As we embark on 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting together as a church family, our hope is that each of our members will tap into the joy of prayer. However, we know spending an extended time in prayer may be a new idea for many. This guide is designed to help you take the next step on your journey in enjoying prayer (and therefore, God) more deeply by answering why and how we should pray.
Why Should We Pray?
The goal of the Christian life is to become as much like Jesus as possible. Therefore, we pray because Jesus prayed. The Gospels show us that Jesus prayed before, during, and after anything significant happened in his life. Jesus prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22), after tiring ministry days (Luke 5:15-16), before making big decisions (Luke 6:12-13), after feeding 5,000 people (Luke 9:16-19), before teaching about prayer (Luke 11:1), before his arrest (Luke 22:40-44), and before taking his last breath (Luke 23:46). It was part of Jesus’ natural rhythms.
Prayer is also how we grow closer to God. Would you like to experience more of God’s presence, love, grace, power, revelation, and goodness (Psalm 16:11)? Prayer is how we connect with a Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:7-11). The goal of prayer isn’t to be seen by or as impressive to others, it is to be seen and rewarded by God (Matthew 6:5-6). But our earthy distractions can pose problems. God wants to give us more of Himself, but he will often wait until he doesn’t have to compete for our attention.
How Should We Pray?
Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
If we are going to be like Jesus, we, too, must learn how to pray. There isn’t one right or best way to pray. Any kind of praying is better than no praying at all, so try different things. The following seven prayer practices are common ways Christians connect with God.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer
Simply pray through the Lord’s Prayer, modeled by Jesus in the Gospels.
Our Father in heaven. God thank you that you are my father which makes me your child. Thank you Jesus that you died for my sins and rose from the dead to bring me into the family of God. And you are my Father in heaven meaning you are a perfect father. Hallowed by your name. God, you are holy, holy, holy. There is no one like you. Your kingdom come, your will be done. God would you rule and reign in my life today. You are in charge. Your way is the best way. You lead and I will follow. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Use the A.C.T.S. Acronym (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)
This model for prayer includes the following:
- Adoration: Praise God for who He is
- Confession: Acknowledge before God the ways you have resisted His ways
- Thanksgiving: Thank God for every single thing God has done
- Supplication: Ask God to move
You can do this with any passage you read. Simply read Scripture and turn it into a prayer. The Psalms are a great place to start.
Lectio Divina (Read, meditate, pray, contemplate)
Translated as “Divine Reading,” this practice is a way to draw near to God by meditating on His words. Here’s how:
- Sit quietly
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you
- Pick a verse, write down your thoughts about the verse
- Listen to what God is telling you
One of my favorite verses to do this with is Proverbs 3:5-6. I read it slowly and meditate on each stanza.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The Examen Prayer
This is a prayer of reflection on your day’s events. Here’s how:
- Sit quietly in God’s presence
- Walk through your day and express gratitude to God for what He did
- Ask God to reveal to you key moments of your day
- Ask Jesus if he ever dealt with this or what he wants you to learn from this
This is the simple practice of asking God questions and listening for His response. See if God brings a thought or something specific to mind, or leaves some impression on your heart.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who do you want me to pray for right now?
- What are you trying to show me right now?
- What attitude do you want me to have right now?
- How do you want me to respond in this situation?
- Is there anything I need to confess right now?
This is a practice of stillness. I encourage people to start by sitting silently for 15 minutes for 30 days. The goal is to cultivate intimacy with God by listening to and enjoying Him.
If any of these practices intimidate or seem unfamiliar, give yourself the freedom to experiment. Try praying while driving, taking prayer walks, praying on your knees, praying out loud, journaling prayers, praying for different things on specific days, getting a prayer bulletin board, setting alarms to remind you to pray, or designating a full or half day for prayer. If you want to maximize your experience with prayer and increase spiritual satisfaction, then pair prayer with fasting.
Our hope during Watermark’s 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting is that you take one simple step toward enjoying prayer as a means of deeper intimacy with God.