I remember as a young Christian, being very nervous about being asked to pray before a meeting or even saying grace before a meal. Today, although I am used to praying in public, it can still be an unnerving thing to be asked to do it suddenly. On the other hand, we all have heard before how important it is to have a healthy private prayer life.
However, we still struggle to pray regularly. Perhaps we remember to pray right after we lie down at night in bed, but end up falling asleep before we can say, “Amen.”
There is something about prayer that makes it difficult for us to take up naturally. For most people, I think it is the fear of not knowing what to say or saying the wrong things, due to a lack of confidence in one’s own ability. As for private prayer, we sometimes do not know what to pray for, except to petition about our own needs. This is expected, because prayer is an activity that is unnatural to the old self. Nevertheless, prayer is crucial to continuing in the Christian life (Rom. 8:15).
In the Gospels, Jesus taught that prayer is not to be used to impress others of one’s piousness (Matt. 6:5–6). If we are called upon to pray in public, our attitudes should be the same as if we are praying in private. We should not be anxious about what other people think. Jesus also taught that it is wrong to pray lengthy prayers with the hope that it will manipulate God into answering them (Matt. 6:7–8). When we pray, we ought to be trusting our Father to hear us, rather than our own eloquence or fervour.
The best way to improve our prayers is to be immersed in the Word. The Psalms is a good place to learn how to pray. It contains not just prayers of praise and thanksgiving, but prayers of lament as well. Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is a good example of how we ought to pray.
Regardless of how “well” we pray, the Holy Spirit must intercede because we are weak and without discernment. He prays on our behalf that which is in perfect accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26–27). Therefore, my friends, please go forth and pray confidently without hesitation. The Holy Spirit is here to help you, even without your knowledge.
Dn. Mervin Lin