Prayer is a learned ability. When the disciples saw Jesus praying, they said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray..." Jesus did not retort, "Well, if you were truly saved, or if you were as spiritual as you ought to be, you would know how to pray. Why, everybody knows how to pray from a child." He didn't do that, rather He taught them by His own example and with a model prayer for them.
I have prayed privately with some of the saints in the land: Robert G. Lee, Adrian Rogers, Jack Taylor, Vance Havnar, Henry Blackaby, S. Franklin Logsdon, Tim LaHaye, E.V. Hill, Bertha Smith, and others. Most of these saintly people would begin their prayers with these words or their equivalent: "Lord, we don't know how to pray like we should. We are Your children and we have great needs. Teach us to pray like we ought to."
That is lesson number one in the school of prayer: we need to be taught. Jesus has left us good instructions for praying.
R.A. Torrey, in a fine old book How to Pray, said there are two levels of prayer: elementary and college. I would add a third: graduate level. Torrey says elementary praying is prayer on the personal level. It is praying about your needs, expressing you worship, and making personal requests. College-level praying Torrey teaches is intercessory prayer, prayer for someone else. Every believing parent has done that kind of praying for his or her children. And a level I think beyond that is graduate level. That is prayer on a truly high level-a sacrificial level. That is the apostle Paul praying, "I could wish myself accursed for the sake of my brethren", or Moses appealing to God for the erring children of Israel, "Lord, if you won't forgive them then blot my name out of the book." Few of us ever know prayer on that level. Jesus did...for you and me.
THE PATTERN OF PRAYER
1. Approach God with praise and honor due His name. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
2. Affirm His will ahead of time."Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
3. Recognize that He is the source of every need of life. "Give us this day our daily bread."
4. Remove every known hindrance to answered prayer. "...forgive us our sins as we forgive others...deliver us from evil..." It may just be that the reason for unanswered prayer lies here.
5. Don't forget where the blessings come from. "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever..."
TWO PRINCIPLES OF PRAYER
1. You have a heavenly father who wants to give you what you need. Don't hesitate to ask. Jesus makes the point that is our earthly fathers know how to give us what's good for us, there is no question taht our heavenly Father is willing to give what is best for us. Ask. We sometimes miss great blessing because we don't ask.
2. Keep on asking. The illustration Jesus used is or a man who needed food for a friend who had arrived late at night. Even the Seven/Elevens were closed, so he went to his next door neighbor and knocked on the door until he came and continued asking until he gave him bread. Jesus said that's the way to pray: "...ask and you shall receive; seek and you will find; knock and it shall be opened unto you."
SOME IMPORTANT REMINDERS
The name that gives access. Praying so God will hear means praying in Jesus name. That means far more than tacking Jesus' name on to the end of an otherwise very selfish string of words. Praying in Jesus' name means that prayer is offered in the Spirit, nature, and desire Jesus would have on the subject being prayed about. It means you take the position Jesus takes on this prayer need. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in my name I will do it that the Father may be glorified."
The Word God will honor "Not one word of all His promises has failed." Take His promises to you, spread them out before Him, and pray them back to Him. It's like a child saying, "But Daddy you promised." Perhaps that is why my dear mother prays on her knees before an open Bible.
The prayer He never fails to answer. "Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Great verse. You might put your "call" to Him in these words: "Lord, life is too much for me alone. I am sorry for what I have done to keep us apart. I am going to quit it. I turn from it now. I am grateful for Jesus, your Son who died and was resurrected for my sins. I invite Him to come into my heart and life now and I thank you for rescuing me. I want to live my life under Your direction. In Jesus' name. Amen."
You never really know until you try!