How often do you pray? How? Why? Or perhaps the question should be: Do you pray at all?

When I was little, my mom taught me to pray every night in bed before I went to sleep. I tried to touch all the bases, and it ended up being exactly the same every night, word-for-word. I remember it starting off, “Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for our family and our friends; our food, our clothes, and our house.” I suppose this did remind me that God was watching me, although I benefited little besides that. Don’t get me wrong – I thank God for giving me a wonderful mother who encouraged such things. I don’t remember when I stopped saying that prayer, but it was probably sometime around grade 5.

The thing is, we can easily get confused as to what pray is for, should look like, and whether or not it is effective. When wanting an accurate view, we should always look first to the Bible.

“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9 ESV)

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Mark 14:38 ESV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6 ESV)

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)

This list in no way covers all the Bible has to say about prayer, but these verses do speak loudly. Let’s quickly look at each one respectively.

1. In Matthew 6:9, Jesus sends a to-the-point message as to what prayer is primarily about. “Hallowed be your name.” I don’t know about you, but I often forget to glorify God above all else in my prayers. It can, unfortunately, sound more like I want the Father to glorify me – something which only Jesus should ever pray. So glorify God! The second point will then come naturally.

2. “. . . not as I will, but as you will.” Here’s another one that we can easily dismiss. Our prayers tend to be a list of our will, and complaints about why our will doesn’t happen. If you find it hard to want God’s will in your life, remember the first point. Glorifying God will always lead to trusting in him and his good purpose for you and others.

3. This is a big one for me. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Ain’t that the story of my life. Students, we are at an incredible risk, every minute of our school lives and even the rest of them, of falling into temptation and dishonouring God’s name in front of our friends. We shouldn’t go to school without first begging God to keep us from disgracing his name. The thought is intimidating, but have faith: is he not “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless”? (Jude 24)

4. There’s a lot to be said about James 1:5-6, most of which I won’t get into. Still, look where James tells those in the Dispersion that God “gives generously to all without reproach.” Don’t think God is in any way stingy! Now, you might protest that you don’t always get what you ask for, but James reads your mind and later says: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Remember step two, about praying for God’s will to be played out. (I say step, because for me, this is a great prayer structure to connect with God. But I’m not imposing a prayer outline on you.) Align yourself with the will of God, and you will see things done.

5. “Pray without ceasing.” This might seem like too great a command, but think about it. Have you ever heard of having an ongoing dialogue with God? That’s it. If at a given moment, and given what’s going on in your mind, you would be uncomfortable having God come in and talk to you, your thoughts could use some cleaning right there. I myself am no master of it, but we change for the better when we pray throughout the day.

So there you go. Go throughout the day giving God glory, asking to see God’s will played out, begging for protection from sin, and remember that God is a good, generous Lord. And by all means, give thanks! With the help of the Holy Spirit, your sanctification with take flight like an eagle.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.