This was one of the first questions I asked myself when I first became a Christian. But I was unsure and unwise to ask my friends how to do this because I did not come from a Christian family or background.
In hindsight, I would have recommended my younger self to have gone and asked someone, or even ask God directly. James 1 verse 5 refers to seeking wisdom from the source above “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
I am not sure how I learnt how to pray. There’s no 1+1 formula. But surrounding myself with Christians at church and at small groups did give me some guidance, and a good starting point.
If you are just beginning your journey of faith, the Lord’s prayer is a good "prayer for dummies", to put it plainly. In my opinion, it addresses our basic prayer life of when and where to pray (Matthew 6, verses 5 and 6 - “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen”).
More importantly, verse 9 says “This, then, is how you should pray”.How much clearer can the directive of the word of God be, right? The Lord’s prayer which follows in verses 10 to 15, teaches how our basic prayer should be like.
From this basic prayer, you will find that the more you pray, the more words will flow out naturally from your mouth. Our prayer life is like learning to walk. You start off with your parents and/or friends teaching you how. Then you start crawling on your knees before the baby steps begins.
This was how my prayer life developed. I went from not saying a single word in small groups to saying a few words. This was as basic as a one-liner "Thank you Jesus for the food before us. Amen." (whilst at the same time, my heart pounding my chest for all its worth).
A part of me always thought a good prayer is one where there are many words; many lines. Because if you refer to the Lord’s prayer, it is a few lines long for what a basic prayer is.
Hence a few years after I became Christian, I was frustrated with the words that were (and weren’t) coming out of my mouth when I was praying. I knew what I wanted to say. It was running through my mind, but never came out right. I guess the human in me wanted this “perfect prayer” every time I prayed, but it never happened.
Fast forward, now some 10+ years of praying, maybe I was hard on myself. I’ve come to realise that there is no perfect prayer. Even if the words did not come out right to me, the more important aspect is that I prayed.
Whether my prayer was one minute long or one hour long, it’s still a prayer. Even more importantly is that God hears my prayers.
Not so long ago an observant friend said, "I always know when you have finished praying as you always end with the words 'we thank you and praise you, in Jesus’s name'”. It seems like after years of praying, I’ve developed an unconscious etiquette in how I end my prayers.
And it's a good habit. Here’s why I love to end my prayer regardless if I’m praying for myself or someone and their needs, because I believe Jesus needs to be thanked and praised no matter our circumstances.
It's taken out of two revelations. One is that it's easier to thank and praise God when life seems good. The second, is that it’s harder to do this, when life isn't. The book of Job in the Bible is my reference - that even in Job’s darkest and hardest days, Job still chose to praise God.
And whilst I don’t know and still have much more to learn about praying, I do feel my prayer life is constantly evolving. I hope yours is too.
Cindy Adwong lives and works in Auckland. My aim in life is to live life to the fullest daily. I love being effective and efficient in all I do. My hobbies include spending time with people, baking, cooking, travelling and just being alive, amongst numerous to name.