Ephesians 6:18 'Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and
requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.'
In touch with God
In Old Testament times, people couldn't come directly to God. They had to go through
a priest. But all that has changed now. Jesus has opened the way so that every Christian
can stay in touch with God. In that respect we are all priests and can come to him
in prayer directly:
Revelation 1:5-6 Jesus 'loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and
has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.'
On the listening end
It's important to remember that prayer is not just you talking to God; it's also
him speaking to you. Prayer is two-way communication.
So there will be times when you remain silent and listen, waiting to hear God speak
to you. Like the boy Samuel, you can say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening'
(1 Samuel 3:9). Having said that, you must then listen! But how does he speak?
It's possible, though unlikely, that you'll hear an audible voice. More commonly,
God will speak to you:
Through the Bible. As you read and meditate on Scripture you'll find certain verses
'jumping out of the page' and grabbing your attention.
Through preaching. Already you'll have been in meetings where it seemed as if something
the preacher said was tailor-made for you.
Through the Holy Spirit inside you. You may sense him steering your thoughts and
inclinations in a certain direction. Gradually, for instance, a conviction may build
up in your heart that a particular course of action is the right one.
Through spiritual gifts. A prophecy, for example, or the interpretation of a message
in tongues may be God's means of speaking to you.
Through counsel. A church leader or more experienced Christian whom you consult for
advice may become a channel of God's word to you.
With experience, you'll learn to 'tune in' better and be able to distinguish God's
voice more clearly.
Two kinds of prayer
1. Any time, any place
A husband and wife don't need to make an appointment with each other before they
can talk. They are friends and naturally chat about anything and everything. The
Lord and you are friends, too (John 15:15), so you can talk to one another at any
time and in any place:
Exodus 33:11 'The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his
In the supermarket, driving the car, facing a difficult interview-you'll find him
always available and ready to hear your spontaneous prayers. The Bible records how
Nehemiah once prayed this way when in a tight spot (Nehemiah 2:1-6). More recently,
a boy who had just scored a goal in the school football match was heard to say, as
he ran back to his position, 'See that one, Lord?'
2. A focused time
The busy nature of modern life means that, sometimes, a husband and wife have to
decide to unplug the telephone and not answer the door-bell in order to have undisturbed
quality time together. We need to do that with the Lord. Jesus said:
Matthew 6:6 'When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father.'
Be practical, and build into your personal schedule a regular time when you can give
God your undivided attention in prayer. Jesus did this:
Luke 5:16 'Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.'
Since he had no home of his own during his public ministry he would find a quiet
spot out in the country. You could do the same, though it may be more sensible or
convenient to pray at home. Try to choose a time when you'll be alert and when you're
unlikely to be disturbed by children, visitors or the telephone.
Drawing near to God
Thanksgiving and praise is always a good way to start your planned prayer-time (Psalm
100:4). You can then go on to bring your requests to the Lord, but be sure to mix
your thanks even with those:
Philippians 4:6-7 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer
and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
It's easy to become self-centred, so always pray for other people and situations
as well as for yourself and your own needs. And remember: God isn't a slot-machine
guaranteed to produce the answer you want, when you want, just to please you. He's
a person and wants you to develop your relationship with him.
Sometimes, when you're in difficulties, you will find that, while you feel the need
to take the situation to God in prayer, you don't really know what to pray. The good
news is that God understands, and has provided a wonderful helper: the Holy Spirit
himself! We are to 'pray in the Spirit' (Ephesians 6:18), that is, as directed by
Romans 8:26-27 'The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought
to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot
express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the
Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.'
The Holy Spirit will help you to pray according to God's will:
He may do so by directing your thoughts along certain lines.
Or he may prompt you to pray in tongues. In this case, your mind won't know what
you are praying but you'll have a deep conviction in your spirit that you are praying
in line with God's will (1 Corinthians 14:14).
Either way, your prayers will reach the Father through the Lord Jesus. That will
lift the pressure of the situation and bring you peace.
Prayer: getting into the habit
You'll have no problem with the 'any time, any place' kind of prayer. It has probably
already become as natural to you as breathing.
But getting into the habit of more focused prayer, where you deliberately get alone
with God, may take a bit of time-and some self-discipline. If you haven't already
done so, make a start this week:
Settle on a suitable place and time so that disturbances will be minimised. You can
sit, kneel, stand or walk about.
Start to thank and praise the Lord—for what he has done and for who he is.
Then go into 'listening mode', waiting quietly in God's presence and expecting him
It's helpful to have a notebook for jotting down what you believe he's saying to
you. Then you can be sure to follow his directions.
Ask him to bring to mind the names of people he wants you to pray for, and to show
you any needs they may have. Jot them down, then pray for each one.
Learn by heart
Philippians 4:6'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer
and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.'