This topic is adapted from PursueGod Video YouTube channel. This is lesson 3 of 10 in the Basic Practices for Growing Christians series.
Prayer is a basic practice (also called “spiritual disciplines”) that help us grow closer to God as we live the Christian life. Fundamentally, prayer is communication with God.
God Desires Relationship with Us
God desires to be in relationship with us. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says:
Revelation 3:20 Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
This is not a casual relationship you might have with a co-worker at the water cooler. Jesus desires to “share a meal together as friends” with the church at Laodicea, and he desires to have that closeness with all Christians.
Commitment + Time + Energy = Relationship
We need time and energy to build into any relationship, and it’s no different in our relationship with God. We must discipline ourselves to be to engage in spiritual practices like prayer, fasting, worship, and Bible study. There are no shortcuts to this. Only heartfelt commitment, time, and energy will do.
How to Pray – The Lord’s Prayer
How do we pray? Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:9-13. He said to his disciples:
Matthew 6:9-13 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
This is not merely a prayer to be repeated over and over, but it gives us guidelines for praying.
In prayer, we should praise God. We begin our communication with God on a positive note, expressing gratitude. Pastor Tom’s life changed when he began starting his prayers with praise to God. It taught him the value of joy.
We should then yield to God. We pray first not for what we want and need, but for what God calls us to do. God’s will is good, perfect, and pleasing. We must pray for God’s will to become reality. Sometimes God’s will is not to give us everything we want or even need at this exact moment. Perhaps God’s will is for us to intercede in prayer on behalf of someone else? Only through approaching God properly can we begin to discern his leading in these ways.
#3 Asking for Needs with the Right Perspective
By praising God first and asking for his will second, our needs are put into proper perspective. For some people, prayer is nothing but asking God for what we need or crying out to him in times of desperation. While we should always seek God during hard times and good times, this should not be the sum total of our prayers or the defining aspect of our prayers. We should ask God for our needs to be fulfilled, but we must remember the proper place of asking for those things.
#4 Asking Forgiveness
At this time, we should now thank God for his forgiveness in Christ. For those who believe in Jesus, sin is forgiven, but that doesn’t mean sins and sin patterns we struggle with in our Christian lives won’t cause us to dwell and act upon the wrong things. As Pastor Tom says, it is not a “positional” forgiveness we seek (meaning, for Christians, committing a sin doesn’t make us unsaved) but instead a “relational restoration” (meaning, by violating God’s will we are not walking in his will for our lives and we must be set back on the right path toward his best for us). Sometimes things come between us and God and we must ask him to remove those things.
#5 Forgiving Others
We must forgive as we have been forgiven. Is there bitterness in our hearts toward people? Do we need to seek restoration? Do we need to make a phone call, even? God desires us to do a daily inventory of how we are thinking about other people. God is deeply interested in how we feel about and treat others. It is his will for us to love and forgive others.
#6 Asking for God’s Protection and Deliverance
In our prayers, we must ask for God’s protection around us. The biggest change in Pastor Tom’s marriage and family life came about when he began praying this part of Jesus’s prayer. By asking for God’s protection, Tom and his family recognized that there are spiritual forces of the enemy who want to pull apart God’s people. We are not to fear the devil, but stand against him. And we can stand against him most firmly when we call upon God to be with us daily.
These steps for communicating with God are not complicated, but they can be tough to implement if you are not disciplined! Heartfelt commitment, time, and energy are all key factors of the spiritual discipline of prayer. But as you commit yourself to communicating with God, he will be faithful to communicate with you, and he will grow you in your faith as you live a life that pursues him.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Why is it important to not merely know, but to truly believe, that God desires relationship with us? How would things be different if we knew God didn’t want to be in relationship with us?
- “Commitment + Time + Energy = Relationship.” What would your most important relationships look like if you subtracted “commitment” from this equation? What about “time?” What about “energy?”
- What does your relationship with God look like when you subtract commitment, time, or energy from the equation?
- What does your prayer life look like right now? What are some ways it has improved? What are some ways it could improve more?
- Pastor Tom talked about the difference between “positional” forgiveness and “relational” forgiveness. Explain the difference between these two types of forgiveness and why they are important for the Christian life.
- Which of the six “steps” of the pattern from the Lord’s Prayer are most important to you? Which steps do you struggle with? Why?
- Take a quick inventory of you spend your time, energy, and material resources. Does this inventory reflect a true desire to grow closer to God? Why or why not? What can or should you do differently to better pursue your relationship with God?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.