Three Keys to Effective Prayer
‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2)
The keys to effective prayer are not some formula of words or particular prayer techniques – they are having a renewed mind in three vital areas: a right understanding of God, a right view of ourselves and a right understanding of what prayer is.
- Jesus revolutionised Jewish prayer by addressing God as ‘abba’ or ‘Dad’. Yes, a Father whose name we hallow but also understanding that God is a good father who delights to give good gifts to his children. He is GOOD – he is ‘swift to bless’. He desires close loving relationship with us, his children, and has given us the gift of prayer so that we can communicate with him, benefit from his wisdom and comfort, and effectively co-labour with him. Too often our concept of prayer is analogous to sending an email to the CEO requesting their intervention – we are unsure it will be read let alone actioned and so we carry on as best we can, hoping for, but without assurance of, any intervention from on high. The intimacy of the Father-son/daughter relationship gives us confidence that our prayers are heard.
- When we understanding that we are beloved sons and daughters of our ‘abba’ we have confidence that our needs and desires matter to our loving Father. We don’t come to him in prayer as unknown beggars trying to twist his arm; we come as his children who long to know his heart, who desire his wisdom and perspective on the situations we face, and who know that he delights to answer our prayers. Our prayer life (or lack of it) often reveals how we see ourselves in relation to God – servants, friends, sons/daughters or orphan-hearted (i.e. those who ‘lean on their own understanding’ Prov. 3:5)
- Understanding prayer: Prayer is not a divine slot machine where we feed our prayer into the slot, select the code for our situation, and watch the answer drop into our hands; that would be to treat God as a machine and prayer as our way to control his action. Prayer is all about relationship – coming into loving union with our Heavenly Father. Through listening to God in prayer we learn how to walk by faith and not by sight, we gain his perspective on our situations and we learn how and what to pray.