As believers, we all know that prayer should be a regular part of our lives. However, there have been times in my own life where I have felt woefully incompetent and ill-equipped to pray as I thought I ought to. During one of these periods, a spiritual mentor shared with me a simple, yet thoroughly gospel-saturated, way to grow my prayer life. I have used this model ever since, and my relationship with God has been all the better for it.
This simple method can be remembered with the acronym P.R.A.Y., which I’ve adapted from Steve Pettit’s helpful book, How To Pray 30 Minutes A Day.
Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” Giving praise to God is the most commonly given commandment in the Bible. It is not a suggestion! We are to praise God, the Creator and sustainer of all things, for his good gifts we receive every day. Praise is also an effective prayer opener.
- Praise focuses our minds on Christ – We, by our very nature, are self-centered beings and praise causes our minds to focus on the glory of God instead of on ourselves.
- Praise affects our feelings – Emotions can often keep us from pursuing intimacy with God in prayer. Praising God for his good gifts can have the effect of causing deep affection for God for his provision.
- Praise is preferable to despair – In my experience, people tend to be much quicker to focus on the negatives in their lives than the positives. Praise pulls us away from the negatives to celebrate the grace in our lives!
As a counseling pastor, I have spent the last ten years walking alongside others as they journey away from sin and towards Jesus. During that time, I have become very aware of people’s failure to deal thoroughly with sin. I am not saying in condemnation—I am in the same boat—but rather as a commentary on many Christian’s lack of understanding. Many don’t know how repentance should look according to the Bible.
Revival is always preceded by repentance. David said in Psalm 51:9-10, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Confession of sin and acknowledgment of the need for God to work in one’s life is present here. Prayer is the place to begin this repentance process.
- Be specific about your sins in confession -True confession is to say the same thing about your sin that God says about it. Use biblical language when confessing.
- Ask for and give forgiveness – Matthew 6:12, in the Lord’s Prayer, tells us to ask for forgiveness of sins and to make sure you aren’t holding anything against another, that you’re forgiving others as you’ve been forgiven.
- Clear your conscience -The Bible tells us that we need to make things right with others if there is something between us (Acts 24:16, Matt. 5:23-24). If you have sinned against another, go to them, confess in biblical terms, ask for forgiveness, and make things right.
This tends to be the step people are the most familiar with. When most people think about praying, they immediately think of asking God for things they need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this. It just shouldn’t be the entirety of what prayer is for you.
In John 14:13-14, John tells us that God invites us to ask him for things, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Asking God for the things we need is wise and necessary.
- Pray in faith – In Romans 10:17 and John 14 we read that God wants to give us what we ask for. However, that isn’t exactly a blank check. We are to pray for things God has promised to provide for us. His good gifts are better than what we would ask for ourselves anyway. We are also to make these requests in faith believing that God will grant them because he has already promised he will!
- Pray with patience – Matthew 21:22 says, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Notice the word “will” here. That is a promise, but it doesn’t have a deadline attached to it. The implication here is that it will happen in the future, but we aren’t told exactly when.
The Lord’s Prayer is clear about who is in charge and who is not. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). When entering into prayer, even if there are things we’re asking for, we should do so with a posture of yielding to whatever it is that God wants to do in, for, and through us to grow his kingdom.
- Yield when you are unsure – At times when you’re not sure what to do in life, yield to whatever God has for you and pray. Ask him to reveal his will regardless of what it may look like.
- Yield when you don’t want to – Sometimes we know what we should be doing but really just don’t want to do it. At that point, that whole posture of yielding is necessary. Yield to his will—it is better for you than what you want anyway.
P.R.A.Y is a helpful structure for prayer and also forces some deeper dives into God’s Word and his will for your life. Life is hard, especially during a global pandemic and when the world around us seems to be exploding. In those moments, remember to P.R.A.Y.