What gets in the way of consistent, daily prayer in your life? Have you found that whenever you try to pray, something else comes up?
Prayer is difficult. For someone who has been praying consistently for fifty years, five months, or five days, prayer can be hard, discouraging, and confusing. But prayer is a wonderful gift from God—and we want to encourage you by giving you a list of how to pray.
This is the first of two articles we’ve written to encourage you in your prayer life. As we share these five adverbs with you, we want God to work in your heart, such that his Word sparks a desire for prayer.
With that in mind, here are five characteristics of a healthy, vibrant prayer life.
The best way to pray is with an open Bible. We find God’s will and desire for our lives in the Bible. By opening our Bibles, we will understand more and more what sorts of prayers please God, and what kinds of prayers he delights to answer.
Prayer is one part of a conversation we have with God. He speaks in the Bible, and then we speak back to him in prayer.
Sinners—you and me—should have no confidence to come before God, the Holy One, in prayer.
Imagine there’s a powerful and successful nation with an authoritative and just King. All this King’s decisions are fair—he punishes wrongdoers and rewards the just.
Now imagine you’re an undercover terrorist in this King’s nation, trying to assassinate the King. One day, the CIA knocks on your door, busts into your basement, and finds all your plans. They arrest you and bring you before the King.
Knowing you’re about to be rightly executed for treason, you ask: “Lord, can you share with me all the riches of your Kingdom?” How much confidence would you have that he would lovingly approve your request?
He should not say yes to a rebel and enemy. He should kill you on the spot! How much less should we be confident that we will receive good things from God?
Do we understand who we talk to when we pray? Do we grasp that we’re entering the presence of the one who’s called a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29)? Our going to God in prayer is like chaff trying to “safely” enter a fire. We come with sin all over us, and we should be consumed (Romans 3:10; Romans 6:23)!
Going back to our earlier story, what if the King comes off of his throne, disrobes, drapes his royal robes around your shoulders, and says, “This man is a son of the King. He will not be harmed.” Only then can you have the confidence to request all the riches and delights of this King and his kingdom.
But how do you acquire such a gift?
We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (ESV).
When Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross, a “great exchange” happened. Jesus took our sins upon himself, and he was consumed as a rebel by the fire of God’s judgment. At the same time, he gave us his full perfect righteousness—his perfect record before God—in exchange for our sin. By faith, we receive this righteousness (Romans 3:21-22).
If we’ve trusted in Jesus for this great exchange, we can enter the King of heaven’s throne room safely and ask for whatever we need (Hebrews 4:16).
This is why whenever we pray we must pray in Jesus’ name. We go to God the Father only through Jesus (John 14:6). It is a very fearful thing to go in any other way. But if we go in Jesus’ name, we can have full assurance that whatever we ask for his glory, he will give (John 14:13). We can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
We must be people who believe that what we ask from God we will receive.
Let’s consider the following verses:
- “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14, ESV).
- “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8, ESV).
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24, ESV).
There are three qualifiers to Jesus’ promise to give “whatever you ask”:
- If you’re going to receive whatever you ask from God, you must come in Jesus’ name.
- If you’re going to receive whatever you ask from God, you must ask for things that honor him. Specifically, being as happy as possible in God and helping others do the same.
- If you’re going to receive whatever you ask from God, you must ask persistently.
In Luke 11:9-10 Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (ESV).
What Jesus is talking about here isn’t a quick knock. No, he wants us to think about Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:1-8 and the persistent widow. God delights in our persistence.
Believing in Jesus’ words, “it will be given to you,” is what will encourage us to ask, ask, ask, and ask again.
Jesus isn’t telling us to beg God for a new house or car. Ultimately, Jesus is referring to asking for God’s Spirit (Luke 11:13) who can make us infinitely happy in Jesus.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we read God’s command to “pray without ceasing.”
Have you ever struggled with what this looks like in your life? It simply means to stay connected to God and his power and joy through prayer. Maybe for you, this means:
- Taking a walk at lunchtime for five minutes and asking God to fill you with his Spirit, as you read a Psalm.
- Zoning out in math class for a minute and asking Jesus to be near you when you’re troubled.
- Breathing up a prayer to God for help when having a difficult conversation.
In tough times, I’ve found it helpful to just take literally five seconds to ask, “Lord please help me here.” Your Father loves to answer those pleadings.
Transforming Your Prayer Life
God is not stingy with his grace. He desires to bless you through prayer. And prayer is a blessing! It’s a reminder that God has placed you in Christ, given you his Spirit, and declared you to be a son or daughter.
Pray biblically, confidently, expectantly, persistently, and continually—and watch your love for God grow.