Tag Archives: God

How Not to Pray (Guest Post)

How Not to Pray

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written as a devotional for HopeStreamRadio.

Matthew 6:9-13 is a very familiar passage. Most of us know it well. It says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (ESV*).

The preceding verses, verses 5-8 read this way: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (ESV).

Praying in Public, Motivated by a Desire to Be Seen and Admired

Where is our focus?

Prayer is about glorifying the Lord rather than ourselves.

Praying in Order to Receive a Reward

If we’re seeking the praise and admiration of others, God says that’s all the reward we will receive. Contrast that to praising Him and asking Him to send His kingdom and accomplish His will. That’s infinitely better than any reward we may receive from others.

Praying in Secret

Although we are to pray with and for one another, by and large, prayer is a personal matter, one between God and each individual. It’s a time to do business with the Lord as it were. A time to ask Him to meet our needs. A time to ask for forgiveness. A time to ask for the desire and the ability to forgive those who have wronged us.

Praying to our Father Who is in Secret

As I was reading these verses recently, the words “who is in secret” caught my attention like never before. Our Father is in secret. What does that mean exactly? Perhaps it means that there are few who even begin to know what He is like. Perhaps it means that only when we are alone with Him can we truly focus on who He is and not become distracted by our environment. Perhaps it means He chooses to meet with those who come apart. It’s interesting to think about these things—and to pray about them.

Image with text: "Pray... confident God hears." #prayer @StephBethNickel guest posting at janetsketchley.ca

Photo: Pixabay

Praying, Confident that He Sees (and Hears) Us

If we pray to impress others, if we pray all the while considering what they think of us, our focus will not be on God. And it’s likely our confidence will be in ourselves. However, if we shut ourselves away where others won’t see or hear us, it’s much more likely that our thoughts will be about Him, that our prayers will be for His ears and not the ears of others.

Praying, Confident He will Reward the Humble

It’s humbling to pray by ourselves. There are many passages throughout the Scriptures that stress the importance of humility. We must acknowledge God’s greatness and our inadequacy to ever earn His favour. Still, we can be confident of His love and His desire to meet our needs.

Praying without Rambling On

As a communicator (that’s a polite way to say I like to talk a lot), I am able to express myself with words—lots and lots of words. And yet, there have been many times I’ve thought about just how inadequate those words are. There is nothing I can say to impress the Lord or convince Him to do what He is not already willing to do. Even so, He invites me to pour out my heart to Him, to seek His intervention in my life and in the lives of those whose paths cross mine. But I must always remember that it’s not because of my many words that He acts. It’s because of His great love.

Praying, Confident that God Knows What We Need

The wonderful thing is that God knows everything we need—even better than we do. As we come to Him and ask Him to meet those needs, we can rest assured that He will do so—not always when and how we want. But He loves us and will always do what’s best.

Praying, Confident that He is Willing to Provide

It’s during those times when things aren’t going as we want that we must remember all of God’s promises are true. He will fulfill each and every one of them. As we come apart to seek His face, may we have confidence in this truth.

I encourage you to take some time to come apart and seek the Lord in prayer this day.

Tweetables

Pray in secret, confident God will reward the humble (click to tweet this).

Pray, knowing God is willing to provide your needs (click to tweet this).

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

What’s the key ingredient of prayer?

The best part of prayer is the human soul’s communion with the Divine Presence, and that usually happens when we stop talking and rest in Him. Listening. Abiding. Worshiping.

Of all the words we offer in prayer, most of them fall into the ACTS categories:

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Struggles/Surrender (traditionally Supplication)

All are important, all have their place, and individuals may be called more to one area than the others. We need them all.

But I suspect the single-most important ingredient is adoration.

When we quiet ourselves before God and concentrate on Him: His character, attributes, will, purposes, His activity in our lives, something changes inside us. In the stillness, the peace, we find a gateway into the rest of what we need to say to God and to listening to what He has to say to us.

Adoration sets the tone.

God is exalted in our prayer, and this leads to each of the other areas: confession, thanksgiving, and requests for His help. It also strengthens our faith as we remind ourselves Who this God really is.

If time is short and I slip into just praying for needs, especially if those needs are overwhelming, I start wearing them like a burden. My perspective skews, and they look even bigger than they are. I lose hope, even while continuing to plead for God’s intervention.

Those are more wishes than prayers.

Grounding myself first in God keeps intercession true, because no matter how big the issue, I’m secure in the knowledge that God is bigger and that He has a loving plan. It reminds me that even when life is tough, God is tougher.

Cookies and Mangers

Perfection… the bar was set pretty low, I thought. I was making Christmas cookies. I don’t bother with fancy-decorated ones, but when I roll them out and cut the little shapes, I do like them to be intact and to look like they should.

The cookies weren’t cooperating. Some tore, but mostly they just clung to the countertop when I tried to lift them to the baking sheet, compressing their crisp shapes into long, thin caricatures.

All I wanted was to bake something nice for my family, and suddenly I was dealing with a “take every thought captive and don’t feel sorry for yourself” moment.

The moment passed, the cookies went in the oven, and look what came out. Don’t say God doesn’t have a sense of humour. Would it have mattered if they’d gone on the tray perfectly?

Christmas cookies

Can you tell what they’re supposed to be? Guess I didn’t get the recipe quite right — they swelled up and lost their sharp edges. If you squint a bit, you can find trees, stars and teapots.

But it got me thinking about how we want everything perfect. And about how messy, dusty, smelly and just plain unsuitable the Bethlehem stable was as the birthplace of the Saviour of the world.

Some suggest the stable was a blessing to Mary and Joseph, a haven from the noise, overcrowding and general mayhem of the guestrooms. Maybe so. It definitely made the shepherds’ visit easier.  But it was hardly “perfect”.

Look at what was perfect, though: the timing, the fulfillment of the Bethlehem prophecy, the willing mother and surrogate father, God Himself in human form. The symbolism: the Divine in a humble, earthly mess.

So maybe the lesson from my cookies is to discern which elements need my best efforts at excellence and which are “optional extras”. And to trust God’s perfect working even when I don’t meet my own expectations.

Transplanted to Flourish

For [the godly] are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:13-15, NLT*

Transplanted trees… usually they come from the nursery (or forest) with their roots in a ball of dirt. Scrawny ones may be pulled out of poor soil with bare roots, or their roots may even need washing before being plunged into good ground.

It’s amazing that God would take humans in all our messiness, clean us and label us “godly,” and transplant us into His own house — into His presence. May we not stand there, roots clenched tight into the clot of dirt they came with. May we consciously poke our roots into the wide, deep, nourishing ground of God’s presence. May we flourish. May we thrive.

God of grace and mercy, what can we say but “Thank You”? Help us grow into all You’ve designed us to be, with our confidence fully rooted in You.

With the thought of flourishing in the courts of the Lord, here’s Kutless with “Better is One Day.” This is a new version to me, and I like what they’ve done with it.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.