So this last week has been quite incredible for me. To start, I was picked to be a counselor at Impact Retreat, an incredible organization at Texas A&M that works to integrate incoming freshmen into the body of Christ and help them come to fully know God. And so this weekend I had a chance to just sit and talk with a fellow counselor and with the co-chair of my camp (Delta Gad for those who care), and we just talked about his vision for Impact this summer and for continuing to be a light to them afterwards. We talked and brainstormed ideas on how we could better prepare for the retreat and better prepare ourselves to effectively disciple them, and I began to think about my own experience as a freshmen at Impact.
As a freshmen coming into college, I knew God was there, but that was about it, and so going to Impact I did not know hardly anything about the Gospel or how to live with a true relationship with Christ. Impact was an incredible learning time for me, but at camp I realized that I did not even know how to pray or why we need to pray. And this was one of the things we talked about, and that I decided I would make sure the freshmen know about, and what I am going to talk about here.
So first off, I will not be telling you how to pray. I will not be giving you the words to say in prayer, nor a formula with which to follow in prayer. This is for several reasons, the first being that Jesus has already told us this, and how could I possibly explain better how to pray than Jesus, in Matthew 6:9-16. However, Ben Stuart, the leader of Breakaway Ministries, has been doing a series decoding this Lord's Prayer, and I highly encourage you to listen to the podcasts, with the specific podcasts from January 17, 2012 to February 14, 2012, titled "Our Father," "Hallowed Be Your Name," "Your Kingdom Come," "Give us Our Daily Bread," and "Forgive us Our Debts."
The other reason I will not be telling you exactly how to pray is because prayer is not something that should be formulaic; prayer is deeply personal and therefore the way I pray is not the same as the way you pray. In Mark 1:35, we see that Jesus wakes up early in the morning and goes off to pray in absolute solitude. Jesus' time of prayer is a special time with which Jesus can get close to God, and in fact, in Deuteronomy 4:7 we are told this exactly: "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord Our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" The times that you pray will probably be different than mine (although they shouldn't; I'll get back to this.) Each day you should set aside a special time in which you devote yourself to spending quiet time with the Lord, immersed in his Word and in prayer and thanksgiving. We see in Mark that Jesus gets us in the morning to have a special moment with God, I like to spend mine in the late afternoon, while I have friends who prefer to do theirs at night before bed. Each way is fine, and no one time is any more holy than another because God sees us all equally and since we are all devoting a time of each day to prayer, God is pleased equally with all of us.
Now coming back to what I said earlier; the times you pray should not be any different from mine. This is not to say that your quiet time should be the same as mine, but rather than you should never not be praying. We see over and over again in the New Testament that we should "pray continually," such as in Colossians 4:2, Luke 18:1, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and I'm sure many other places as well. But with so much repetition, it is clearly evident that God wants us to pray, and he wants us to pray literally in every moment about all things. Prayer is not a burden on the Lord, it is not something that he listens to simply because we do it, but he listens to our prayers because our prayers bring him great joy. It does not matter what you pray about, as long as your prayers are true and they glorify God. So go ahead and pray about anything; talk to God like you would a friend, tell him about your day, the things that happened and what you did. Tell him the things you need in your life, tell him where you need help, and "cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you"(1 Peter 5:7). Pray for other's and their needs, and pray for health and safety for everyone around you.
It really doesnt matter what you pray about, God just wants us to pray, in all situations, never forgetting Him who gave us everything. God gives us so much, and so much more is still coming soon in his perfect Heaven. But on this earth, the closest we will get to living with God is when we are in prayer, so why should it be a burden on us to say that we are nearly in Heaven right now?