Years ago, my neighbor informed me that I wasn't a Christian unless I prayed in tongues, and she assured me that if I was truly a Christian, then most assuredly all I needed to do was open my mouth (without any thoughts in my head, of course) and speak out loud. She also informed me that praying that way was a sure fire way of getting my prayers answered, but she stopped short of telling me any other kind of praying would never get an answer from God. Being the good Christian, of course I wanted the proof of speaking an ecstatic language so I asked God for the gift so I could pray this way. He did give me the gift, and I prayed, and prayed. My prayers were so beautiful and so long. I was grateful to be able to pray in the language of Heaven, but what was I praying? I had no idea. I had visions of angels, and the throne room, and gold columns with gold floors but I had no clue what I was saying or what those about me were saying.
I discovered something extraordinary through this experience when I realized I desparately needed to hear my own petitions. I needed God's comfort as well as hearing my own supplications. The extraordinary thing is if I never knew what I was praying about, then how would I know when and how God answered my prayer? Excellent question… The Holy Spirit translates and magnifies, you know, so why not let Him do that and bask in the Father/Child relationship by understanding my petitions? Excellent question with an embedded lesson. This question launched me upon my quest to discover the anatomy of prayer. The journey is not over, yet, but this is what I've learned so far…
God gives us the formula… or perhaps a better term is the guidelines.
We must pray always… do not worry about anything but bring everything to God in prayer — And the peace of God which is beyond our utmost understanding will keep guard over your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-72. Does this mean that every word out of our mouth or thoughts must be a prayer? No… I don't think so, for how could we ask for a Coke and a burger at the drive-thru? How could we carry on our day to day conversations with our neighbors and our brothers? No, I believe this means just what Paul states… carry all things to God in prayer and never worry for that is a sin. Make it a conscious, deliberate process.
Confess our sins: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Confess your trespasses [5:16 NU-Text reads [Therefore confess your sins.] ] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.Several studies have proven prayer produces faster healing. What those studies do not indicate, but the Bible is clear and specific about is that confession of sin brings about healing, as well as the ill person asking for their Christian siblings to pray for him or her. There are many verses which support this. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16 is just one of them.
Repent. Acts 3:19 “Therefore [ Acts 2:38; 26:20] repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that [ 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 4:1ff] times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
So what does that mean exactly?? If we confess our sin… If we turn from that sin… If we do not practice habitual sin… If we come to that emphatic decision that we will not do that sin again then bring it all to the Lord expecting Him to take care of it and provide that escape hatch when we are faced with that temptation again… Then and only then are we refreshed with the Lord's presence. Our relationship with God is opened wide to allow fresh breezes from Him flow into our hearts. When we are unrepentant, when we deliberately sin, our relationship with our Father dries up because we know what we've done is wrong (the Holy Spirit convicts us), but we turn away and close our hearts to God.
The true point is the heart intent with God because He always searches our hearts. 1 Chronicles 28:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23.4. There is great joy in this kind of praying with the fullness of the heart. Deuteronomy 28:47 “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies… That is a conditional phrase meaning if you do not do this, then this will happen. In order to please God, we must serve him from the heart; and when we serve wholeheartedly, then we pray with joy and gladness of heart for everything. The results are staggering from the human standpoint because blessings are always poured over the obedient, prayerful, joyful child.
Pray with purpose — What is the purpose of it? Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. [He is] always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, [pleading] that you may [as persons of ripe character and clear conviction] stand firm and mature [in spiritual growth], convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God. Notice Paul is using Epaphras as example of how to pray with purpose. We pray for others.
And how do we “stand firm and mature in spiritual growth fully assured in everything willed by God? Start with Pray without ceasing bringing everything to the Lord in prayer Philippians 4:6-7 and finish with prayer every day. We do not need ecstatic language for God to understand us. He was human, remember? He knows our inward parts intimately, and He knows the most fleeting of our thoughts. We must be honest with Him so that He can complete our perfection. Praying is one of the main tools He uses. Not praying by rote, not uttering something meaningless to our own ears. The Holy Spirit will add His own interpretation of our prayer and translate our groanings, magnifying them to our Father.
This is how we continuously pray in the Spirit: Continual Spiritual growth and being “prayed up, confessed up and making that firm, conscious decision to bring it all to God. It is not rocket science and it basically depends upon our heart attitude. It also means that we should all recognize sin as sin. (This includes those seeming “acceptable sins” like worry.)
Pray with adoration — Psalm 139:14 I thank you, High God–you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation! Once you start bragging on how wonderful God is, you start to understand just how marvelously wonderful He is. No matter how magnificent the blessing, when you shout out from the mountain top how epic are the reaches of His Love, Grace, and Splendor He always manages to do something even more spectacular. He makes me catch my breath and pause at the sheer wonder of His majesty.
Pray with thanks giving — We are a thankless generaton. We have forgotten how to say “Yes, Ma'am” and “No, sir”. We have forgotten how to say “Please” and “Thank you”. Who decided this was all right to do? We hold out our hands like eager, greedy, little children and once the candy blessing has dropped into our sticky little hands we run off to a corner so we can gobble it down without sharing. Thanking and praising our Lord Father is the absolute least we can do to pay homage to Him. Thanking Him is the act of submission which declares to the world it is the LORD who is in control, and all things do come from the LORD.
Continual Adoration, Confession, Thanks giving, Supplication, Purpose … our ACTS of prayer have purpose.