4 Must-Knows for Christians on How to Pray
By Yang Yang, China
Brothers and sisters, we all know that praying to God is the most direct way for Christians to communicate with God. This is why, aside from morning and evening prayers, we pray at many other times such as when reading, when in gatherings, observing the Sabbath, or when we encounter difficulties. But are our prayers in line with the Lord’s will and will He lend us an ear? This is something that is important for every brother and sister to understand; otherwise, no matter how many times we pray or for how long, these prayers will not gain God’s approval. In fact, the Lord gave us these answers long ago. Let’s seek together on this aspect of !
1. Know Our Place as a Created Being in
In Luke 18:9–14, it recorded, “And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” It’s easy to see from the’ parable that the Lord approved of the publican’s prayer and was disgusted by the Pharisee’s prayer. That’s because the latter was about showing off and making a display of himself, numbering his deeds for God. He placed himself in a very high position, even at the same level as God. He bargained with God and wanted credit for his work; he lacked even the slightest piety before God. He completely lacked a heart of reverence for God, and this aroused God’s disgust and hatred. But the publican was entirely different—he knew that he was a lowly sinner, so in his prayer he had a heart of reverence for God and laid himself bare, acknowledging his own corruption and sincerely pleading for God’s forgiveness. In the end, he received God’s mercy. God had different attitudes toward each of them because of their different attitudes toward God. Compare this to our own prayers. We frequently take the wrong stance, for example: Sometimes when we encounter an issue, we know that what we’re doing isn’t in line with the Lord’s words, but we are still determined to do it, and in our prayers we even want God to do things according to our own will. When we accomplish something in our duty, or we don’t betray the Lord when we’ve been arrested, we feel that we’re someone who is very devoted to the Lord, who really loves Him. When we pray, we sing our own praises and pat ourselves on the back, and if God doesn’t bless us, we bicker with Him. When we fall ill or something terrible happens at home, in our prayers we blame God for not protecting us, and we even try to reason with God and settle accounts with Him. The list goes on and on. All of these prayers are placing demands on God and trying to force His hand; this is exploiting and blaming Him, and even standing in opposition to Him to confront Him. These kinds of prayers are completely lacking in conscience and reason; they are all in opposition to God. To have God hear us, we Christians should pray as the publican did. We should know our own place as created beings, have an attitude of piety before Him, and pray to God with the precondition of obedience. We shouldn’t try to force our own desires onto God or demand that He act according to our own will. We should only ask that God carries things out according to His own will. This is the only way God will hear our prayers, and enlighten and guide us.
2. Pray to God With Sincerity and Honesty
The Lord Jesus once told His disciples: “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6). We can see from what is written in the Bible that when the Pharisees prayed they often liked to choose a place crowded with people. They enjoyed standing in the synagogues or at intersections to pray, where they’d frequently recite the scriptures and for a show make lengthy prayers. It was all for others to see, for people to see them as those who were most devout, most pious, and through that gain others’ admiration, have them look up to them. That kind of prayer is nothing more than holding themselves aloft and showing off; it is trying to deceive God. That’s why the Lord Jesus said that they were hypocrites and that their prayers were hypocritical—they were disgusting to the Lord. Upon reflection, many times when we pray we also harbor incorrect motives. For example, when praying in gatherings, we don’t speak to God about our true difficulties or corruption, speak to Him from the heart, and ask Him to lead and guide us. Instead, we say flowery words and give empty praises, otherwise we recite chapters from the Bible or go on and on about scriptures. We believe that whoever has memorized more scriptures and can speak more eloquently prays better. We also think that the more often we do our morning watch and evening prayers, plus pray before meals and thank God’s grace after eating and the longer we spend on these things, the more spiritual and the more devout we’ll become. We think that praying this way is most in line with the Lord’s will. In fact, praying that way isn’t sharing our hearts with the Lord and it isn’t truly worshiping Him. Instead, it is holding on to our own motives and goals and it is for the sake of showing others how great our seeking is, using this to show off. Praying that way is just doing it by rote, going through the motions, and it’s just praying as a religious rite. It’s just being perfunctory with God and trying to fool Him; this disgusts Him. The Lord Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God is the Lord of creation, so when created beings pray before the Creator, we should have a heart of reverence and worship Him with sincerity, accept His examination, and tell God what is in our heart, what is real. Only this kind of prayer brings God joy.
3. Pray to God to Do His Will
In Matthew 6:9–10, 13 the Lord Jesus said: “After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. … And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Ever since mankind was corrupted by Satan God has been working to save humanity so that we may escape from evil, escape from the strictures and the harm of Satan, and ultimately be gained by God. So, God hopes for people to be able to come before Him and accept His salvation; He also hopes that people may live according to His words, revere Him as great, have God’s will be done on earth, achieving Christ’s kingdom on earth. That’s why in our prayers, we can’t just make appeals for ourselves, but we must also be considerate of God’s will, carry a burden for the sake of having God’s will be done on earth, and having Christ’s kingdom appear on earth. We must pray for God’sto spread to every corner of the world. This is another path of practice for Christian’s prayers to achieve accordance with God’s will. For example, when we encounter various difficulties, mockery, and hardships while spreading the gospel and we feel weak and negative, we should earnestly pray to God and ask Him to give us faith and strength, allowing us to forsake the flesh and overcome all difficulties, and not be subject to the strictures of enemy forces. When working and preaching, we should pray to God with a burden, asking Him to enlighten and guide us to understand His words so that we can share His will in fellowship during gatherings. Then we can lead brothers and sisters to practice and experience God’s words, bringing them before God and allowing His will to be done. When we see unscrupulous, evil things done in , we should pray to God and ask Him for faith and courage, and we should also understand the truth to see through Satan’s tricks and uphold the interests of God’s house. If we frequently pray for God’s kingdom to come and for His will to be done, and we are able to offer up our own bit of strength for the spread of His gospel, then God will approve of our prayers and they will be in line with His will. In fact, there are some prayers in the Bible that gained God’s approval, such as when King David built a temple for Jehovah God so that the people could worship God within the temple. He often prayed to God for that and he put it into practice, as well; those entreaties gained God’s approval, and in the end he became someone in line with God’s will. After Solomon became king and God appeared to him in a dream, asking what he would ask for, Solomon didn’t ask for riches or a long life, but just asked that God bestow wisdom upon him so that he could better rule God’s people, and then His people could better worship God. God approved of his prayers, and not only bestowed wisdom upon him, but also the riches and long life he hadn’t even asked for. It’s clear that praying to do God’s will is a prayer that is entirely in accord with His will.
4. Pray to the Lord With Stamina and Resolve—Do Not Lose Heart
It says in Luke 18:1–8, “And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” This parable shows that when we pray to the Lord to seek God’s will or ask for something, we cannot be in a hurry for its resolution. There are principles to what prayers are fulfilled by God, and we must learn to wait, seek, and obey. God is almighty as well as practical. He does not do supernatural things, but His work of guiding and giving sustenance to mankind is all based on people’s actual stature, and is all done based on what people can actually attain. As long as our entreaties are in line with His will, He will certainly fulfill our prayers. We must have faith in God. We’ve all been through these kinds of things: Sometimes when we encounter a difficulty and we don’t know what to do, we reach out to God in prayer, and through reading God’s words and having fellowship with brothers and sisters, God very quickly enlightens and leads us, giving us a path of practice. Or sometimes, we’ve been praying about something for a long time and haven’t received a response from God, and at those times we need to quiet our hearts and wait for God’s will to be revealed to us. At other times, God is testing our faith to see if we are able to truly lean on Him. Sometimes God aims to expose the adulteration within us and cleanse our corruption. At times God wants to actually mobilize, arrange for some people, things, or events to fulfill our prayers, and this requires time and a certain process. There are also times when God sees that our current stature is small and we can’t take something on, we can’t reach it, so He waits until our stature has grown a bit, and then He will carry it out for us…. Overall, regardless of whether our prayers to God have been fulfilled, we must have faith in God and believe that everything He does in us is good, that it is all beneficial for our growth in our lives, and that God’s good will exists within everything. So whether the difficulties we face are in our daily lives or in our service to God, we cannot lose heart or become discouraged, but we must be like the widows seeking redress and have a constant heart and genuine faith in God, frequently come before Him in prayer and seeking, waiting for His will to be revealed to us. We must believe that when God’s time comes, we will gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination, and we will see God’s almightiness, wisdom, and His wondrous deeds.
The four elements of prayer above are a path of practice for Christian prayer, and if we can attempt this and put it into practice every day, we’ll be able to establish a proper relationship with God and understand the truth within the Lord’s words. Our spiritual condition will become better and better, and we will have more and more confidence in our faith and our following of God. Our prayers will also gain God’s approval!
Editor’s Note: How to pray to gain God’s approval is a truth we urgently need to enter into. This essay points out a path for how Christians can pray so that the Lord will hear. We can honestly pray to God from our souls, tell God what’s on our hearts, know our place as created beings, and often offer up prayers for God’s will to be done. I believe that if we put these four principles into practice, our prayers will be heard by God. Further, I’d like to recommend “Principles of Prayer to God.” May we enter into this aspect of the truth together.