Prayer is an important part of our relationship with God, and like anything in life, it’s a discipline that must be learned and practiced.
Here are some things God has taught me over the years.
1) Selfish prayers are normal, and even okay at times, because we are human. God meets us where we are, and sometimes all we have to say is selfish. He listens anyway, and doesn’t condemn – that’s what grace is all about. He gets that we have moments where emotion overrides reason. Then when we’re feeling better, He gives us that gentle nudge to pray according to His will and not ours.
2) Speaking the names of God and His attributes gets our focus off ourselves and back onto Him. So often our prayers are about what we want or think we deserve. We’re merely seeking our own personal happiness. But God didn’t call us to a life of comfort. When we tell Him how great He is, and we do it often, our fleshly desires fade into the background.
3) There’s something about praying Scriptures over people and situations that gives our words more impact in the spiritual realm. Saying the truth of God out loud brings the Holy Spirit rushing in – I’ve experienced it many times, and I don’t quite know how to explain it. There is power in declaring the Word of God and laying claim to God’s promises.
4) There is no need to hide emotions or pretend with God – tell Him how you really feel. At some point every child gets mad at their parents. I’ve lost count of how many times I told God “I don’t like this!” Stories like Job and Elijah, who told God how upset they were, are good Biblical examples. Even Jesus voiced His opinion when He said “Let this cup pass from me.”
5) Sometimes He answers quickly. And sometimes He waits. The Bible says some things cannot be overcome without much prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). He wants us to persevere, to trust Him when He is silent, to believe He’s working behind the scenes. We’ll always get an answer. It just may not be the one we want. Life is not all about me; there are other areas that God needs to bring into alignment in order to give His answer. We need to be patient and trust him.
6) His answer may sometimes be “no” because He is sovereign. We can’t see the big picture, and sometimes we never know the reasons why He denies our requests. We have to believe that He knows what He’s doing. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), so if He doesn’t give us something we want, then we know it’s because He has something better in mind.
7) We must be specific when we talk to God. I heard a pastor say once that Satan uses generalities, but God deals in specifics. The Bible says that God will give us exactly what we ask for (Matthew 7) then we have to tell Him exactly what we want. For example, we can’t just pray for help financially, we must tell Him the exact amount we need. Instead of asking for a help at work, tell God the specific area of struggle, such as your bad attitude, your excessive workload, the lousy equipment, or the way a coworker mistreats you.