Pray in Private
The New Testament regularly invites us to pray. Jesus expects his people to pray and even gives them a template for prayer (Matt. 6:5–13). Paul encourages Christians to pray “at all times” (Eph. 6:18) and even commands that we pray “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Obviously, Paul’s not suggesting Christians engage in an endless personal devotion. Rather, the posture of every Christian’s heart should be one of prayer. Our reflex to life ought to be praying to God. As one pastor said, for the Christian, prayer ought to be like breathing.1
But praying regularly is hard work. So how do we develop the discipline of a healthy prayer life?
First, pray regularly in private. Along with your Bible reading, spend some time in prayer. How do you choose what to pray about each day? Naturally, we’ll gravitate toward what’s important to us: our families, our health, or difficult circumstances. But that still leaves us wondering, How should we pray for our children? How should we pray for our spouse? How should we pray for our circumstances? The best way to pray is to let the Bible inform your prayer life. As you read Scripture, respond to the truth of God’s word with prayer. For example:
- As you read passages about God’s character, praise God for who he is. Ask that others would also praise God for these same reasons.
- As you read about God’s acts, thank God for his physical and spiritual provision. Ask that others would recognize God’s provision in their lives and respond with thankfulness.
- As you read about Christ, praise God for the many blessings of salvation he has provided for you. Ask him to help you trust more fully in the gospel. Pray the same for other believers. Pray that the lost people in your life would be saved, and that God would give you opportunities to share the gospel with them.
- As you read about God’s promises, ask God to help you believe those promises and walk in light of them. Pray the same for others.
- As you read God’s laws and commands, confess the ways you’ve failed and ask for help to keep them in the future.
- Finally, apply these truths to your circumstances and make specific requests of God in light of them.
Pray with Others
Second, pray with other believers in your local church. At this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the local church plays a central role in helping us develop a healthy prayer life.
Scripture regularly highlights prayer as a central aspect of local church life. In Acts 2:42, the early church devotes itself to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Throughout Acts we find local churches, church leaders, or church members praying together (Acts 4:23–31; Acts 6:1–6; Acts 8:14–15; Acts 12:1–5; Acts 13:1–3; Acts 20:36). Think of the local church as a teaching hospital for prayer. When we gather with God’s people, we both pray and learn the discipline of prayer.
When we gather with God’s people, we both pray and learn the discipline of prayer.
As you invest in the life of your local church, find ways to participate in corporate prayer and to pray with others. Here are just a few ways the local church gives shape to our prayer life:
- Consider carefully the corporate prayers on Sunday morning and let them influence your prayers throughout the week. The prayers of your whole congregation should reflect the content of your own prayers as well.
- Learn from corporate prayer how to confess sin, praise God, offer thanks, and make requests.
- If your church has a membership directory, pray through it systematically. Pick a few people every day and pray for them. Even if you don’t know them, you can pray that God would keep them from sin and strengthen their faith in the gospel.
- If your church has a weekly prayer meeting, regularly attend it. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch God visibly answer the public prayers of his people.
- Pay attention to the items your pastor regularly prays for or asks others to pray for. For instance, if your pastor regularly asks for people to pray for faithful preaching in the church, more consistent hospitality, or faithfulness and fruitfulness in evangelism, then make those same concerns a part of your prayer life.
- Make it a habit to pray with other members, even if only for a few minutes over coffee.
What should you do now that you’re a Christian? Spend time in prayer by yourself, with your church, and with other believers.
- John Onwuchekwa, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 17..
This article is adapted from What Should I Do Now That I’m a Christian? by Sam Emadi.
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