How to Pray
“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (v. 16). - James 5:16
After explaining justification by faith alone (Rom. 1–4), Paul lists the benefits of being counted righteous in God’s sight. The second blessing he describes is that we have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (5:2). As members of the new covenant, we are privileged to be able to enter into the most holy place and commune with the Lord because of Jesus (Heb. 6:19–20).
Prayer has been given to us so that we may enter into this holy place to commune with our Father in heaven. As the bride of Christ, we know that He wants us to approach Him with our needs and with our petitions for the sake of the kingdom. After all, if a good marriage on earth depends on communication with one’s spouse, how much more does a blessed relationship with our Lord depend on speaking with Him on a regular basis?
Unfortunately, many of us do not often take advantage of the awesome privilege of prayer. True, we mean well. We establish certain times of the day to approach God, but we find that our minds wander or that all we do is read off a laundry list of our own needs. God is, of course, concerned about these needs (Matt. 6:30), but we sense that we are too self-centered in our prayer lives when all we do is tell God what we need or what we want.
Not knowing how to pray is probably the main reason why we encounter these problems. Thankfully, we have a model in Scripture from our Savior Himself on the things we should pray for. The Lord’s Prayer is not simply something that we should recite in church and at home; it is a guide Jesus gives us for structuring our communication with God (Luke 11:1–13). Fundamentally, this prayer tells us to ask that God’s name be hallowed so that His kingdom may come and His will be done.
In A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther suggests that Christians pray through the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, using each line as a springboard for adoring God, confessing sin, expressing gratitude and pouring forth supplications. Using such tools helps keep our minds focused on those things our Father is most concerned about.
As an illustration of Luther’s advice, take some time today to pray through the Ten Commandments. Take each stipulation and confess how you have violated that particular law. Worship Him for the perfection of His character revealed in each commandment. Thank Him for enabling you by the Spirit to be faithful to His Law and ask for His kingdom to come so that all may love and obey Him. Make it your aim to pray to our heavenly Father without ceasing.
Passages for Further Study
- Psalm 54
- Proverbs 15:8
- Acts 16:25–34
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17