by Raymond McAlister
July 2011

In my opinion one of the greatest failures among Christians today is a lack of prayer, at least it is in my life.
Just what is prayer? Praying is simply talking to God. If you try to make more than that out of it, you will unnecessarily complicate things. It is a son (or daughter) talking to his father. I realize that many people cannot relate to that statement because they have grown up without a father or have grown up with an abusive father. I just read in a book this morning that one out of three people in the United States grows up without a father in the home. So, you may not understand what it means to share your heart with someone who loves you unconditionally, regardless of what you have done. May I assure you that you have a heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally and is anxious to hear what is on your heart.

There are personal prayers, corporate prayers and written prayers. Personal prayers are those shared just between you and God. Corporate prayers are those where two or more people are present and one person talks to God on behalf of everyone. Written prayers are those that have been written by you or someone else. In my opinion personal prayers are by far the most important. Corporate prayers, although they are important, are often just words repeated and at the end of the prayer we often do not even remember what was said. For corporate prayer to be effective, everyone must agree with the one praying and offer it to God as their own.
Many of the Psalms are written prayers and have blessed millions. These prayers are usually written for others to read and not for God to hear. If I met you on the street and took out a piece of paper and began to read, "Good morning, how are you today?" you would probably wonder what was wrong with me. Talking to your earthly father does not need to be fancy and well structured, and neither does talking to your heavenly Father. 

There is no special "prayer language." You do not need to use "thee" and "thou." You can use the same language to talk to your heavenly Father that you use to talk to your earthly father.
When we hear someone pray and we hear them say, "In Jesus' name we pray" we know that is the end of the prayer. Just what does it mean to pray in Jesus' name? In John 14:6 we read, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." and in 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Because we are sinful beings we cannot approach God on our own. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and on the cross made a payment for sin that satisfied the Father.
 If I went to Tallahassee to see the governor, his secretary would stop me from seeing him. However, if I went to the same governor and told his secretary that the president sent me to see the governor, I would be ushered right in. The difference between the two is by whose authority I was trying to see the governor, my own or the president's. The same is true with God. I cannot approach Him on my own but I can approach Him because Jesus sent me. You don't have to put "In Jesus's name" at the end, you could put it at the beginning. You don't even have to use those exact words as long as you recognize that it is because of Jesus you are able to approach the Father.

We do not pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we pray to the Father. And, we certainly do not pray to or through a priest, angel or "saint." Because of what Jesus has done we go directly to the Father.

That is why Paul said in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

The most memorable sermon I have ever heard on prayer was delivered by Jack Hyles during a Bible conference in Indianapolis. He said it was difficult for him to pray an hour at a time, so he broke it up into five ten to fifteen minute segments during the day.

The first segment of his prayer would be PRAISE. Spend time doing nothing else but praising, glorifying and edifying God. We praise God for Who He is and what He has done. I often see something, like a beautiful flower, and tell God how beautiful it is and what a good job He did. Did you ever think that in all of creation man is the only thing with an appreciation for beauty. God either created beautiful things for His enjoyment or for mine. Either way, I get to appreciate it. Spend time praising God each day.

The second segment was spent in THANKSGIVING. The thing we should be most thankful for is our salvation. We should be thankful for the Bible. Without it we would have no idea where we came from, what we are doing here or where we are going. We should be thankful that God has given us a reason for living. We should be thankful that God has given us so much, supplying all our needs and then a lot more. Are you thankful for the people God has put in your life? Be thankful every day.

The third segment is CONFESSION. This calls for some serious contemplation as to how we have failed in the previous 24 hours, a repentant spirit and a resolve to do better. It usually isn't the "big" sins that give us trouble, it is the "little" ones, like pride, jealousy, anger, etc. It is always much easier to see the faults in others than in ourselves, so ask God to reveal to you the sin in your life.

The fourth segment is devoted to INTERCESSION. That means you intercede on behalf of others. This is where you are going to need a prayer list. Some of your friends need to be saved, some are sick and some are hurting. Missionaries desperately need a wall of prayer. You should pray for your pastor and church. The list could go on and on. You need to be concerned about the needs of others.

The last segment is SUPPLICATION. Supplication is a humble request. Now that you have prayed for others it is time to pray for yourself and your family. You and your family have problems, heartaches and sickness just like everyone else and God wants to hear from you. Tell Him what is on your heart and how you feel. 

By the time Jack Hyles got through praying these five short times during the day he had prayed for over an hour. 

I saw a booklet once titled "Prayer: Asking and Receiving." That really isn't my opinion of prayer. How would you feel if the only time your children talked to you they were asking for something? How do you think God feels when the only time He hears from you, you are asking for something? God is not some big Santa Clause in the sky waiting to give you whatever you ask for. To me praying is more about fellowship than asking for something.

How about where we are told to "pray without ceasing?" If you and your earthly father were together all day, what would you talk about? Who knows? It might be about anything. So, as you go through the day your heavenly Father wants you to talk to him about whatever may be on your mind. It may only be a sentence or two at a time. It may be to show Him a beautiful sunset or thank Him for finding you keys or who knows what. I once heard a preacher say that whenever he saw an ambulance with its red lights flashing, he said a quick prayer for the person inside. I now do the same.
Then there may be times when you will need to spend some extended time on one purpose, maybe an hour or more or perhaps all night. That is a lot easier when you have had fellowship with Him all through the day.

You will never learn how to pray by reading this article. You will learn how to pray by praying!