Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Max Lucado’s new book Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (Thomas Nelson, 2014).
Do you feel guilty that you’re not praying as often as you should, or that your prayers aren’t deep or articulate enough? When it seems like God is not answering your prayers, do you wonder whether or not it’s even worthwhile to pray?
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God doesn’t intend for you to struggle with prayer. He wants you to enjoy the process of communicating with him – and to know that whenever you do, he will respond to your prayers. During his time on Earth, Jesus modeled what prayer should be like. Emulating the ways Jesus prayed can enliven your own prayers with fresh power. Here’s how:
Approach God as a child relates to a loving daddy. Jesus taught that God wants people to feel free to pray to him in intimate ways. You don’t need to worry about formality when approaching God; he invites you to come to him however you can – anytime and anywhere – like the beloved child of his that you are. Rather than trying to impress God with pious prayers, simply enjoy heartfelt conversations with God throughout each day as a child would with a loving parent. Keep in mind that God doesn’t grade your prayers according to their style; he joyfully accepts all of your prayers. Just as a child can’t hug a parent in the wrong way, you – one of God’s children – can’t pray in the wrong way. God is always delighted when you communicate with him in prayer. So don’t either take pride in well-crafted prayers or apologize for incoherent prayers. Instead, simply talk with your daddy as often as you can.
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Praise God for his goodness. God’s name is holy, Jesus said, because God is completely good. Every day, before you face all that’s bad in this fallen world, face the goodness of God by spending time with him in prayer soon after you wake up. Your perspective will be changed in the process, so you can focus on what’s eternal – God’s unchanging character and love for you – rather than the temporary challenges of living in this sinful world. As you praise God for his goodness, he will give you the peace that comes only from him, which will empower you to face any challenge well.
Ask God to help you. Jesus urged people to pray that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Since God is constantly at work redeeming this fallen world, you can count on his help to heal the brokenness in your life and to forgive you for the sins you confess and repent of in prayer with him. Whenever you need help, go to God first, trusting him in faith to intervene in the situation rather than wasting your time and energy trying to handle it without God’s help. Take all of your problems to God rather than worrying about them; imagine leaving them at the foot of the Cross and resist the urge to reclaim it once you’ve surrendered it. Expect God to keep his promise to respond to all of your prayers according to what’s best, in his timing.
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Ask God to heal you. One aspect of God helping you is by providing healing for you. Keep in mind that God’s ultimate goal for you is wholeness: complete restoration of your spirit, soul, and body. Although you will still sometimes struggle with sin and sickness in this fallen world, when you pray about your struggles, sin can become a showcase of God’s grace and sickness can become a demonstration of God’s ability to heal. Whenever you pray for healing, God will respond by healing you in some way – either instantly on Earth, gradually on Earth, or ultimately when you arrive in heaven. If God chooses not to heal you on Earth, he will still bring good purposes out of your sickness, such as changing you into a stronger person and inspiring others who see your faithfulness in the midst of suffering.
Ask God to forgive you. Another aspect of God’s help for you involves his forgiveness for your sins. When you make mistakes, don’t let guilt or shame overwhelm you. Instead, confess those mistakes to God in prayer. Repent by turning away from the sinful attitudes and actions that caused your mistakes and turning toward God to seek a closer relationship with him. Let your sins remind you of the discrepancies between what your life is like now and what God desires for you, motivating you to grow spiritually. Expose your sins by confessing them specifically and inviting God to extract them from your life, replacing them with grace and growth. Embrace God’s forgiveness so you can move forward in freedom and confidence, which will help you overcome future temptations to sin.
Pray for other people who need help. Jesus often prayed for others, and you’re never more like him than when you’re praying for people who need his help. Make a habit of praying regularly for everyone you know – both those you love and those you don’t – and also for people you don’t know personally but have learned about through news reports of their struggles. Before attempting to help people in need yourself, first present their needs to Jesus in prayer, and then you’ll gain the wisdom and power you need to help them however God intends.
Thank God for how he is at work in your life. Express your gratitude to God in prayer for every blessing you notice that he is pouring into your life. The more you practice prayers of thanks, the more blessings you’ll notice, and the less self-pity you’ll experience. Thank God for each of his gifts to you as you become aware of them, moment by moment.
Use the authority of Jesus’ name. Historically, many Christians have ended their prayers with the phrase “in Jesus’ name” because speaking the name of Jesus ushers unique spiritual authority into a situation. Remember that Jesus is ultimately in control of whatever you’re praying about, and trust him to do what’s best.
Adapted fromBefore Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer, copyright 2014 by Max Lucado. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
More than 120 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy. Learn more here
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced a site about angels and miracles for About.com. Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.