In recent years, I repeatedly hear a common confession expressed in our conservative churches. Sometimes it is acknowledged in a council meeting, revival meeting, a public testimony, or in personal interviews. In a few occasions, having been involved in small accountability groups, I have also heard this common confession. I have needed to acknowledge this common need in my life as well. This common confession is often declared, “I need to grow in my prayer life.” Why is it that our prayer life often needs improvement? Isn’t prayer one of our basic needs and one of our greatest privileges?
It is not my intention to explore the many reasons that may prompt these confessions. Neither do I intend to give a list of pointers for improving our prayer life. Rather I simply want to focus on two common misconceptions about praying that may contribute to these common confessions.
First, we may feel like our prayers need to be a constant flow of well articulated thoughts and words, which proceed from our hearts in an affluent manner. While it is right to cultivate these kinds of traits in our prayers, there are other aspects of prayer, which are of equal or greater importance. Spending time on our knees in quiet meditation, reflection, and pausing in our prayer to think about what we said or should say is an appropriate and acceptable way to pray.
The second misconception is when our prayers consist almost entirely of praying for specific prayer requests and needs. These specific prayer requests are shared in our prayer meetings, phone lines, or on a personal level. We have other requests that represent our own burdens and needs that we observe. Spending time praying for these special needs and requests is right and important to do. However, one of the desires of our hearts is to have relationship and fellowship with God. Our heart will not be satisfied with the level of fellowship we have had with God if our prayer ends after we have gone over our list of specific prayer requests.
Two basic elements of prayer; meditation and fellowship need emphasized. The following are a few prayer phrases suggestions to illustrate these points. Notice how each one calls for us to pause and think and how each one opens the door to share our heart with our Father. These prayer phrases could be many but here are a few of them. “Father, I live in this present evil world…”. “Father, my hearts desire for our congregation…”. “Father, I want to pray about the challenges I am presently facing…”. “Father, help me to bring glory to your name today…”. “Father, I want to evaluate what’s important to me and what brings joy to me life…”.
The prayer phrases from the Lord’s Prayer are also examples of thoughts that should stimulate quiet reflection and meaningful fellowship with God. When we read the scriptures, we should look for thoughts that can stimulate these kinds of prayer phrases. Our fellowship with God in our prayer time is crucial to the success of our spiritual journey. Truly, “men ought always to pray and not to faint… Nevertheless, when the son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:1,8).