Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." - Luke 11:1 (NKJV)
This request from one of the disciples leads us into the familiar passage known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” The beautiful words of this powerful prayer touch our hearts over and over again because they express the heart of God.
We are also Jesus’ disciples, and He is eager to teach us to pray. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t even know where to begin, but if we will ask, He will guide us.
Many years ago, the Holy Spirit used a sister in the Lord to encourage me toward praying scripture over the concerns in my life. That simple step transformed my conversations with God.
I began by simply making personal declarations over myself based on some of my favorite scriptures. Instead of letting fear overcome me, I remembered promises found in Isaiah 41:10 and 2 Timothy 1:7. I made them personal and prayed over myself:
Lord, I will not fear because You are with me; I will not be discouraged, for You are my God. You will strengthen me and help me. You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand. God, You have not given me a spirit of fear. You have given me a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind.
Another time, I was determined to storm the gates of heaven to ask for something I felt was the Lord’s will. As I began my prayer, I sensed the Lord was nudging me away from what I was going to ask. Instead of insisting on my own way, I simply asked, “Lord, if this isn’t the way I am supposed to pray, please tell me how to pray.” Quickly, the Lord’s prayer strategy rose within my spirit. I learned another important lesson—His instruction on how I should pray would be an ongoing process.
Through a little study book called Crafted Prayer, by Graham Cooke, I gained further insight and encouragement to go to the Lord and ask Him how to pray. Many times, instead of long prayers and petitions, He gave me only a word or a phrase.
At a time when I was struggling with forgiveness issues, the Holy Spirit led me to declare, “Lord, I forgive; please help my unforgiveness.” As I was going through the process, sometimes I prayed that simple phrase many times a day. The more I spoke those words, the more I walked in forgiveness. I learned to dwell not on the injury or on my own struggle to forgive, but on the power of God to lead me into the solution. When it is necessary, I still pray that prayer.
When I asked the Lord how to pray for a person in leadership who was being unfairly maligned, the Lord have me only four words: protection, wisdom, courage and vindication. As I declared these words daily over him, I saw God’s protection over him, and I heard him speak with wisdom and courage as he faced difficult situations. Although he is no longer in leadership, I am beginning to see the vindication.
Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Once I thought I was believing and should be receiving, but I was only becoming discouraged as I had prayed for one of my friends for several years and had seen no results. I took my discouragement before the Lord and asked Him if I needed to change my prayers.
The Lord’s prayer strategy surprised me—He chose to lead me into truly believing. The prayer He gave me was, “Thank you, Lord, for what You are doing in her life.” He taught me to believe He was working even though I could not see. Eventually, He opened my spiritual eyes, so I could more clearly discern His hand. He led me to delight in the destination instead of becoming frustrated in the journey.
Today, this is the same prayer He has given me for our country, and my words have become, “Lord, thank You, for what You are doing in our nation.”
As I have asked the Lord to teach me to pray, the Holy Spirit has truly become my prayer partner. I am thankful that even in those situations too deep for words, I can trust Him to pray for me (see Rom. 8:26).
I share all these examples and scenarios in hopes of building your faith and encouraging you. We are always learning how to pray. If you are new to prayer, don’t let discouragement overwhelm you. Start with taking the promises of Scripture and making them your own. As His Word comes alive to you, you will recognize Him guiding your prayers in other ways.
Even if you are a seasoned prayer warrior, don’t hesitate to come to Him for fresh insight, asking Him again to teach you to pray. The invitation to pray is ultimately an invitation into an ongoing conversation with our Savior—one we should all be eager to accept.