Like many who grew up in the church, I have always prayed the model prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. I would mainly use it when I was not quite sure what to say or even what to ask of God. So when it came time to go through a recent season of pruning and purifying, I quickly realized how ill-prepared I was to fight against the spiritual attacks that started coming my way. So I asked God to reveal to me a prayer strategy, or if He could teach me something, I could use to block or defend myself from the adversary. I mean I felt like a boxer who was just taking blow after blow to the body, head, and chest.
As I began to grow weary to the point where I was ready to give up the fight because of all the disappointments I had been experiencing, I heard him say to me, "Don't be anxious!" As I sat silently pondering what he meant by those words, I began to research them. That was when I was lead to Philippians 4:6 KJV which says "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." It was within this verse that I realized these three tips about prayer.
Be Not Anxious
The word "careful" in the Bible verse above means to be anxious about or take thought of according to Strong's Concordance. When we come to prayer with this state of mind, it means that we are greatly worried about an issue or situation to the point that we are consumed with the "what if's" of life. The Bible addresses this in Matthew 6:31-32 KJV where it says "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." God does not want us to be drained or weighed down by our thoughts that we aren't able to hear or enjoy spending time with him when we pray. To be able to do this, we must be willing to release any and all anxiety by casting our cares upon him as it says in 1 Peter 5:7.
Enter With Gratitude
In my previous blog, Peace Be Still, I learned how God wanted me to approach the time I spent with him. He did not want me to come with a cluttered heart and mind but one filled with gratitude. The book of Psalm confirms this by the many different Bible verses within it either beginning with or containing the words "give thanks." For example, Psalm 105:1 says "O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people." When we enter our prayer time with thanksgiving to God, we are in fact worshiping and praising him! The beautiful thing about this is it allows us to take our minds off of ourselves and our situations so we can be fully present at the feet of our Heavenly Father.
Make Your Request Specific
Have you ever seen a boxer stumbling around just throwing wild punches? Well, that's what it was like for me when I was enduring spiritual warfare because my prayers were always so generic. I would pray things like "Please help me" or "Please forgive me" but would never fill in the blanks when petitioning God. Now I have learned that I can pray with purpose by sharing what I need help with or what I want him to forgive! I have even started to use the Bible to pray. For example, if I need protection from a known or unknown enemy, then one of the things I do is pray Psalm 91 over myself while asking for God to please reveal the name of my enemy.
These tips from Philippians 4:6 and the prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 have genuinely transformed my quiet time with God. Putting these things into action allows us to create a more intentional relationship with our Heavenly Father and helps us to build a foundation to become not just a hearer of the Word but a doer. I have discovered that I can be open about my thoughts, needs, and desires with God as I have gone through making these changes to the way I commune with him. So I want to encourage you to reexamine your prayer life and see if any of these three areas can be improved upon because God desires for us to draw near to him so he can be near to us! (James 4:8)