How to Pray Correctly? Two Biblical Stories Tell You the Answer
Praying is a way for Christians to commune with God and obtain enlightenment from Him, and is an essential practice in our daily life. Since praying is so important to us Christians, how should we pray in accordance with the Lord’s will so that He will hear? This is an issue that every Christian is concerned about. Now let’s find out the answer from the Bible.
1. The Prayer of a Pharisee and That of a Publican
Let’s look at a parable told by theabout the prayer of a Pharisee and that of a publican in the Bible. The Lord Jesus said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:10–14). From these verses, we can see that God approved of the publican’s prayer and detested the Pharisee’s prayer. This is because in his prayer the publican spoke the words of his true heart with a humble attitude and sincerely confessed to God and begged for His mercy. The Pharisee, however, acted very arrogantly and deceived God when he prayed to God. He always bragged about what good deeds he had done and which rules he was able to keep, while covering up his own evil deeds. He never acknowledged that he often devoured widows’ property, placed onerous burdens on others and bore witness to himself instead of God in the synagogue, nor did he ever reflect on all of this. Therefore, his prayer was not approved by God at all.
The Lord Jesus exposed that the prayer of the Pharisee in essence was a prayer that tried to deceive God. He taught people, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). The Lord’s words tell us that the Pharisees always prayed in front of people and deliberately said a bunch of nice-sounding words or words of praise to disguise themselves as people who loved God. Their purpose in praying like this was actually to gain others’ admiration and win their hearts. Given their improper motive of deceiving God, how could the Lord not detest them? In contrast, although the publican was a sinner who usually embezzled people’s money, when he was aware of his sins, he was able to come before God and truly repent to Him. He laid himself bare before God and spoke the words within his heart, regretting his sinful actions and pleading for God’s mercy, and in the end, he received God’s approval.
Similarly, in our church, we can see that many people, when praying, often stand in a high position and say many words to praise themselves and claim credit. They show people how much they have run around, how much they have suffered, and how many times they have helped and supported the weak, so that others may look up to and admire them. In no way does such a prayer accord with the Lord’s will. Actually, a prayer which is after the Lord’s heart involves speaking words within our hearts, acknowledging our sins to God, and truly repenting and begging for His mercy.
So the prayer that is after the Lord’s heart is about telling the Lord what is in our hearts rather than saying an array of nice-sounding words to God, boasting about our own goodness while concealing our wickedness to earn the Lord’s acceptance and others’ favor. It involves being open to the Lord about how we have been controlled by our corrupt dispositions of arrogance, selfishness, and deceitfulness and done things which are not in accordance with the Lord’s teachings and are detestable to Him. Then we can regret ourselves before God, express our desire to no longer live by these corrupt dispositions and to practice according to God’s teachings, and beg for His mercy and His change of heart. This kind of prayer is after God’s heart.
2. Solomon’s Prayer
Here is another biblical story, which is about Solomon’s prayer. Back then, Solomon prayed to Jehovah God, “And now, O Jehovah my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the middle of Your people which You have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this Your so great a people? And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to him, Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life; neither have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies; but have asked for yourself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to your words: see, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like you before you, neither after you shall any arise like to you. And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like to you all your days” (1 Kings 3:7–13).
From Solomon’s prayer and Jehovah God’s promise to him, we can see that God particularly graces and blesses those who take His will to heart. Solomon didn’t ask for his personal interests in his prayer to God, but instead asked that God grant him the wisdom to rule over His people so that the people of Israel could better worship and obey Him. His prayer delighted God, so God blessed him, not only granting him wisdom, but also the riches and honor that he hadn’t asked for.
Let’s think about what we usually pray to God for. Most of us always pray like this, “Lord! Please grant me a prosperous career.” “Lord! Please bless my children so that my son can get into a key university and my daughter can find a decent husband.” “Lord! Please keep my family safe.” What we have asked for is all about our own benefit—what we shall eat, how we shall be clothed, and enjoying more blessings. Actually, the Lord Jesus once clearly said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31–33).
The Lord directly told us that we should not worry about or pray for the food and clothing of our flesh, because God has already prepared all this for us. We should pray for God to give us the burden to serve the Lord, pray to obtain God’s guidance when we support and help the brothers and sisters, pray for the spreading of God’s gospel work and pray for a deeper understanding of the true meaning of God’s words. When we interact with others, we should pray to not live by the arrogant disposition. When we have our own ambitions and desires in our words or actions, we should pray for the ability to forsake them and practice the truth of being an honest person. When we muddle through in our service to the Lord, we should pray to accomplish God’s commission with all our heart and soul. Especially when natural disasters or man-made calamities befall us, we should pray for God to grant us faith and strength so that we can stand firm and bear witness … If we can frequently pray to God in these aspects, I believe God will always listen to our prayers and lead us to understand the truth and His will.
Therefore, the prayer which is in accordance with the Lord’s heart is about praying for the church, for the commission God has entrusted us with, and for the ability to practice the truth, rather than for the food and clothing of the flesh. God hopes that we can gain the truth and life, that we are able to be considerate of His burden, do the church’s work well and preach the gospel to everyone who thirsts for the truth so that more and more people who belong to God can return before Him. So praying for these things is after God’s heart.
At this point in our fellowship, many brothers and sisters may have knownin accordance with the Lord’s will. I believe as long as we pray according to His will, we will certainly establish a normal relationship with God and constantly obtain His guidance.