As I measured the apple cider vinegar in my dinner preparations, my 3-year-old walked into the kitchen. He saw the apple image on the label and the color of the liquid in the container and instantly requested some apple juice.
I tried to explain to him that what I was pouring was not apple juice. I offered him grape juice from the fridge as I attempted to make him understand that we did not have any apple juice. But in his mind his mom was withholding his beverage of choice from him and, let’s just say, he had saved the drama for his mama!
I knew the vinegar was not juice.
I knew it was not sweet or refreshing like juice.
I knew he would not want to drink straight vinegar.
I knew what he was asking me for was not what he really wanted or what was best for him.
In all my attempts to reason with him I could not convince him of any of the above facts. So I decided to let natural consequences take place. I pulled a small cup from the cabinet and poured the vinegar into the cup with a final warning, which was completely ignored.
He took one large gulp and looked up at me with an expression that seemed to question my love for him.
I offered him some water—and a lesson about how I know what is best for him and how he needs to understand that when I am not giving him something he is asking for, there’s a reason!
But aren’t we the same way with God?
We think we know what we want, how we want it, and exactly when we want it. Our prayers can begin to resemble the self-absorbed temper tantrum of a toddler. We repeatedly ask God for things on our prayer wishlist that are inconsistent with His will. Then we complain and whine, saying we don’t understand why He is not answering our prayers.
When we pray we should remember the sovereignty of the God to whom we are praying. We need to remember that He knows what is best for His big-picture, eternal plan to be accomplished through our lives.
He lovingly listens to all of our prayers because we are His children. But He is worthy of a prayer spoken in His will, not whined like a toddler.
If you feel like it is hard to pray or you are unsure how to pray, let me assure you—you are not alone!
Even the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus in the flesh struggled with knowing how to pray. They struggled enough to ask Jesus for help. And Jesus, understanding the difficulty of prayer, gave the disciples (and us) a model through the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
We can use this model prayer as a guide to practice praying for a more effective prayer life. To help move us from simply praying a wish list or a rote prayer at bedtime or before meals to praying prayers that are effective, meaningful, and worshipful.
Below is a numbered prayer guide followed by the corresponding portion of the Lord’s prayer to help us pray the way Jesus taught his disciples.
1. Praise God for being your heavenly Father.
Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
2. Pray for those not a part of God’s kingdom. This the place to pray for people who have not had their greatest need met: to know and have a relationship with Christ. We can pray for specific friends, family members, or a people group that a missionary is working with on the other side the earth.
Your kingdom come.
3. Let Him know you will surrender to His will to use your life and your family in His bigger plan for His glory.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
4. Request for Him to give yourself and others the provisions, needs, or healing for the day.
Give us this day our daily bread.
5. Seek forgiveness. Sin and unforgiveness between others and God breaks our fellowship with God. Conversely, asking and receiving forgiveness builds our relationships with others and God. The verse here assumes we have already asked for forgiveness from or have forgiven others if we are coming before God asking for forgiveness for ourselves. We need to daily examine ourselves because He wants an unhindered relationship with us.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
6. Ask for God to lead you away from any sin or selfish desire that you have placed above Him.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
7. Finish with thankfulness and praise.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.