Some faiths have written prayers available to recite for specific occasions, while others pray off of the top of their heads. Some whisper prayers during a quiet moment of frustration while others scream them in times of desperation or hardship. Some use scriptures as guidance for prayer while still others use every avenue available. There are many ways to pray and not necessarily a “right way” to pray. The important thing to remember is that prayer is simply a method of communicating with God.
Concern about whether we’re praying “right” comes most in times of frustration, when we’ve prayed for something specifically and have not received what we prayed for. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Ask and you shall receive,” after all? How can you pray and not get the results you want?
While there are many “right” ways to pray, there are some clearly wrong ways to do it, and one of them is pointed out in the book of James: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” When the motivating factor in your prayers is self-interest, you may find yourself more and more frustrated and disappointed by the results. Instead, here are some tips to utilize in your prayer life that can bring you closer to the ultimate goal of praying, which is pure communion with God.
Acknowledge God. Sometimes we treat prayer as a bargained-for exchange: if you spend a few seconds asking God for stuff, He’ll grant your wishes. What a way to reduce the God of this universe. He is our almighty creator, the all-wise, all-knowing God, without whom nothing could exist. Acknowledge how awesome God is, how magnificent He is, how unfathomable it is to be allowed to enter into His presence. Understand the significance of being able to commune and communicate with the most amazing force to ever exist! It’s a privilege and an honor that we can take for granted. In prayer, spend time thanking God and acknowledging God simply for who He is.
Pray without ceasing. We’ve already established that praying is just communing and conversing with God. So when the Bible commands that we “pray without ceasing,” what we’re really being instructed to do is to be continually in the presence of God. Whether that means listening to worship music or sitting in complete silence in a private place, the atmosphere around you should always be one that will usher you into the presence of God—and keep you there. When you exist in this holy space, constantly communing with God, you are much more able to conduct yourself in a manner that is pleasing to God when other people and situations arise that try to interrupt our communion with God. We are better equipped to handle them in such a way that not only continues our own communion with God, but invites others to carve out their own space to spend time with God continually.
Expect Results. What are you praying for? Think about the motivation behind why you pray. Is it an empty routine you do on your way to bed or before a meal? Or is it your designated time to be one with God? When you acknowledge who God is and surround yourself in His presence continually, you get a glimpse of the awesomeness of God. You cannot help but be awesome by proxy when you spend that much time in His presence. It makes you start to believe that you can actually do and bear all things with Christ who gives you the strength. It makes you understand that such a powerful and wise God could not possibly make mistakes and therefore, your life could not possibly be a mistake. Expect to discover your God-given purpose when you spend time in His presence. Expect to be filled with an unbelievable amount of peace despite whatever situation is railing around you. Expect to experience an unexplainable joy in the midst of external hardships and internal doubts. Come before God with expectancy in your heart and watch Him satisfy your ever need. But be open to the God of the universe satisfying your needs in ways that exceed your expectations or desires. He knows best.
Brooke Obie is the Editor-at-Large for EBONY.com and writes the column, “The Spiritual Life”.