Our prayer tips don't come from years of meditating on a snowy mountain peak or monotonous chanting in a monastery.
They come from the trenches of disappointment and hurt. If you're single, you know how hard it can be to pray, especially when you don't get what you ask for and time drags on and on. We have to force ourselves to keep praying for it.
But when you think about the privilege of communicating directly with God, however, the idea is truly overwhelming, even when you feel frustrated at times.
To look at the night sky, the trees, mountains, oceans, and other people on this planet then to realize that the Being who created everything wants to talk with you, personally, intimately, is almost too much to grasp.
How are your conversations with God going, as a single? Do you talk with him as much as you should? Have your career, busyness, and worries crowded these conversations out of your life? Have you felt the same frustration I have, because it seems as if God never answers? Check our prayer tips then think about your own life.
Being a fairly methodical person, several years ago I decided to get to the bottom of prayer. I set out to learn as much as I could, and I gave myself five years to do it.
I read every book I could find on the subject. I read magazine articles, newspaper articles, talked with people, and of course, plumbed the Bible. I studied books by men and women who were recognized experts on prayer, but I also went through new books that contained radical theories.
At times my research became hopelessly confusing. Much of the material was contradictory. Some of it bordered on downright weird.
When my five-year study was done, I boiled all my prayer tips down to one unassailable conclusion:
Prayer is simply talking with God.
In addition, I gained some insight into what our job is not when we pray:
Through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our position is adopted sons and daughters of God. That means God is our caring, loving Father.
Our job, then, as sons and daughters, is to request from our Father God in a spirit of respect and humility.
Maybe you're disappointed in these prayer tips. At first, I was disappointed with what I discovered too. But the more I thought about my finding, the more I liked it. It made good sense. It was perfectly in keeping with what Jesus taught in the Bible. And best of all, it took much of the mystery and fear out of prayer.
God isn't playing games. He's too loving and holy for that. He doesn't lay down a complicated set of criteria before he'll listen to us. He doesn't listen more intently to religious celebrities than he does to you and me. And he doesn't reserve prayer for huge, crisis situations.
The concept that prayer is talking with God makes some Christians nervous. They like to believe that you have to be spotless from sin, completely holy and clean before God will listen to you.
That's not what Jesus said. In his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple (Luke 18:10-14), he said that the Pharisee bragged about how he was better than sinners, how he followed all the rituals so he would be pleasing to God. The tax collector, in contrast, said "God have mercy on me, a sinner." Then Jesus said,
"I tell you that this man (tax collector), rather than the other (Pharisee), went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Certainly God does want us to confess our sins to him and repent for them. But if only spotless, sinless people were qualified to pray, God would have a lot of time on his hands.
So what is the lesson that you, as a single person, can take away from these tips? How can you apply these basic prayer tips to your everyday life?
First, Jesus says that God honors sincerity and honesty. He's not impressed by big words and fancy language. He wants you to pray with your heart, not your head.
Second, Jesus says you don't have to jump through any kind of hoops before God will listen to you. He meets you where you are and doesn't disqualify you because you have sinned.
Third, as Jesus points out in all of his messages about prayer, God is your loving father who longs to do good for you. He has your best interests at heart. No matter how it seems at the time, or how painful your life is, God is not ignoring your prayers.
Fourth, you're to come to God in prayer with the simple, honest faith of small children. Don't worry about being impressive. Instead, strive to be completely sincere.
Finally, don't give up. As in the parable about the persistent widow constantly reminding the judge, we are to persevere in our prayer. In those situations, sometimes God changes our situation, but more often he changes us.
I was surprised by my long study of prayer. I expected something more...profound. Instead, I got the truth. But still, I'm no expert on prayer and would never claim to be.These prayer tips aren't much different than you'll read in other places.
Sometimes God answers my requests in ways I don't understand. But I try to talk with him often throughout the day. I thank him for things that make me happy. I ask him to give me understanding for the things that make me sad. I pray for family and friends who need his help, and I praise him for my salvation and for his goodness.
The more I talk with God, the closer he feels to me. I don't feel pressured to shout at him to make myself heard. I make time for silence during the day so God can reply, especially through his Word, the Bible.
Have you made prayer into something it isn't? You don't need to study and read and research for five years like I did. You can skip all that. Just start talking with God.
Oh--and one last prayer tip: Remember that conversation works both ways--so be prepared to listen, too.
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