When Prayer Comes Alive
Prayer can be a fun, energising and intimate encounter – but often it’s not. This session focuses on practical ideas for praying well: the ways you can talk to and listen to God, and some ideas for the words you can use if you feel stuck.
‘As a teen I had a daily prayer time because I was told to. It was mostly boring.’
Is that your experience?
Joining in with the intimate, loving conversation at the heart of the Trinity should be anything but boring! And yet prayer so often feels more like something we just ought to do.
One of the biggest reasons for that I think is that the image we have of who we are praying to is a bit messed up. I hope the first four sessions in this series have helped you re-draw that image a bit.
The guy whose quote begins this article went on to say this:
‘after a while I learned that prayer is all about intimacy with God, about enjoying him because he enjoys me. God wants to hang out with me! He is both the most caring Father and most loving Bridegroom. Prayer eventually became enjoyable for me as I understood this; it was no longer boring, an act of delight not discipline.’
Wouldn’t it be awesome if prayer became a fun, energising and intimate encounter? This session will focus on some practical ideas on the kinds of places you can pray, the ways you can talk to and listen to God, and some ideas for the words you can use if you feel stuck. We asked some of the WordSpace writers to share with us how they enjoy praying – so you’ll find some of their ideas here too.
What to say Lord?
For me the knowledge that God delights in me, God hears me, and God loves to talk to me allows me to be intimate and vulnerable with God when I talk to him. I remember a wise and deeply spiritual pastor saying to me: ‘tell God everything – everything!’ There’s nothing we can’t say to God.
‘I like to use ‘breath prayers’ – short one-liners to God throughout the day, as you go about your business. Like, Please help me now. Or, I need wisdom, God. That sort of thing. Almost like keeping up a running commentary with God all day long – I include him in my thoughts and plans…’ (#deereyburn)
The Psalms is an ancient prayer book that has been used for thousands of years to give people the words to express how they are feeling. You know the story about Jonah who gets swallowed alive by a monster fish? Just like most of us would probably do when we’re about to be digested by some gigantic cod, Jonah prays – hard! The whole of Jonah chapter 2 records what he said.
And here’s the thing: what Jonah prays is a mishmash of quotes from the Psalms. When Jonah really needed to talk to God in a tight situation he didn’t have to think about what to say – his words came from the Psalms he’d memorised when things were a bit less … fishy.
‘Some things I do to pray: I find my favourite truths in the Bible and I sing them out aloud with absolutely no-one around, agreeing with what He says about me or us or the world I live in.’
If you want more of a structure to shape your words then the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 5 is a great guide. In that prayer there are six things that we should be praying regularly. The first three focus on God – asking God to make himself known; that his kingdom will be more present; and that his will is carried out on in our lives. The last three are about our own needs – our physical needs, relational and spiritual needs. Start by praying for more of God in our lives, then pray for what you need. It’s a great way to pray.
Whatever words you use, the ones that come up from within you, or words that have been prayed for millennia – you can tell God everything.
Where and when to pray
Of course we can pray anywhere and everywhere. David knew that:
‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ (Psalm 139v9-10.)
Some people find a regular spot to pray more helpful. It kind of gets them in the zone and becomes a sacred space. Others are different:
‘I’d say: “Go outside. Talk to the Creator in creation. Modern life is full of activity, noise, and demands. But even the Son of God made time to withdraw to solitary places. For me, that’s running in the forests and mountains around Cape Town. Man-made churches can be beautiful, but nothing beats visiting the places God built“’ (#timsmith)
Pray in the times and places you feel most alive – wherever and whenever that is for you.
‘I love praying with my eyes wide open. I try and let God speak to me through what I’m seeing. I talk to God about the things I see as I walk through or past a place.’ (#andrewv)
The God we pray to is with us. The Trinity is an intimate, joyful relationship that eagerly invites us to join the party. Our words are carried by the Spirit right into the center of that mysterious conversation. God hears us – no matter what joyful or angry, guilty or depressed things we have to say.
Could that begin to shift the way you talk to God?
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
If you pray to God what have your last, say, 5 prayers been about? Have they been the ‘help me, I’m in trouble!’ kind, or asking for things? Maybe a prayer of worship?
How honest do you feel you can be with God? Do you feel like you have to be at least some level of holy before you can speak, or when you speak?
Who have been your role models in learning how to pray?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to re-read one or more of the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them on the third tab on this page.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Are there any posts that you disagree with or are not sure about?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Here’s Brad Fish attempting to explain how to help prayer come alive … Link here
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o Was there anything in this session that surprised you or stood out for you?
o Are there any parts that seem like really good news? Anything that’s hard to believe?
o Imagine if you were able to pray completely honestly and with confidence that the Spirit was praying your words for you into the center of God. How would that change the way you pray?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
While Jesus was on earth he depended on the Spirit to connect with his Father too – see Luke 3v21-22, Luke 4v1-2 and 4v18-19 and Luke 10v21.
How does seeing how dependant Jesus was on the Spirit for guidance, power and comfort shape the way you understand what Jesus is like? How well might he understand your limitations and weaknesses too?
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?
Have you encountered something today about the way you pray, or don’t pray that makes you want to say to God:
‘wow, I’ve totally got that wrong in my life, sorry! Guide me into a better way of talking to you from now on’ ?
Some questions to help you remix your story …
o What one thing do you need to remember about how the Spirit helps you to pray?
o What are some new ways to pray, and new things to pray for that you can begin to include in your prayers this week?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
‘God doesn’t drive an ambulance,’ someone said to me the other day.
I love that. God has never panicked. He is never late.
You may well be facing a real emergency, or you may feel that God should have shown up with the goods ages ago. But God sees things that you don’t see.
If he hasn’t answered your prayers the way you hoped (yet?), there’s a perfect reason. His wisdom, timing and provision are spot on.
‘For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55v9)
How can that shape your prayers today?
If you struggle to pray, something I find helpful sometimes is using the acronym ACTS. That stands for: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication [Requests].
While those do not cover all aspects of prayer, it is helpful to move us away from the kind of prayer that gets stuck in us just asking God for things.
Start of by adoring God simply for who He is, not what He does for us. Then confess whatever sin you have struggled with of late and accept His forgiveness. Take some time to give God thanks. End of by presenting prayer requests and needs you might have.
Or choose just one or two of those and see where the conversation goes …
Do you like coffee or tea or hot chocolate? Then you might like this prayer by Richard Foster too…
‘Somehow Jesus, I like praying with a cup of coffee (tea or hot choc) in my hands
I guess the warmth of the cup settles me and speaks of the warmth of your love.
I hold the cup against my cheek and listen, hushed and still
I blow on the coffee and drink. O Spirit of God, blow across my life and let me drink in your great life.’
How beautiful is this prayer? Using a hot drink to help us connect with God. Wow!
What else could you use to help draw you into a conversation with God?
It’s #trysomethingnew Friday! No, that doesn’t mean heading off to the mall to find something new to wear this weekend…
Here’s the challenge: try something new in the way you pray.
A new position? Pray on your knees? Or in your garden? Or lying on your back in the shade during break?
Use a verse from the Bible? Open your Bible to the book of Psalms and try praying a few verses from one of them (or try Psalm 100 here…).
Pray for something else? Are most of your prayers for yourself? Pray for a friend, or a family member, or a situation at school or in the country? Or try praying for an enemy!
Go for it …