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How to Pray
/ Part
January 23, 2022
/ Groups:

Challenge Follow up

How is your prayer list coming along? Has God already begun to move? Share your experience of organizing your “asking” in prayer.

The Face of Mom

When I was roughly 8 years old, I lived in rural Iowa. My folks drove a sedan – probably a Chevy or a Pontiac. In the days before bucket seats both the front and back seats were wide benches. Seat belts were not in fashion (nor required) and my brother and I had the run of the backseat. But what we really liked to do was sit on our knees and lean over the front seat and bother mom.

You do not have because you do not ask God.
James 4:2

She was patient (mostly) but children have so many things to tell you. As we traveled she and my father would have an adult conversation, while I would pepper her with a steady stream of, “Mom.. Mom… Mom… Momma… Mom… Mom.” I recall that she was very good at ignoring and talking over me. It was probably a super-power. But eventually I would get desperate. The dead possum or broken taillight or herd of cows I had seen was simply too important to let it go. So, I would reach over from the back seat to the front seat, grab her chin and pull her face toward me. I knew that once she was looking me in the face I’d be impossible to ignore. Of course, at this stage I was probably going to be in trouble – but that doesn’t quite make the point I’m driving at.

We listen to God when we are gazing at His face. When we turn our face to Him, we cannot ignore His voice. We begin to hear what He is speaking into us. Our final stop on learning a life of prayer is to yield.


To yield we must first be willing to contemplate. This means laying aside the asking and the neediness – and gazing into the face of Jesus. Let’s face it, the neediness around us is exhausting. You can never pray enough to meet the needs you see. We need a respite from the machinery of life, perhaps even a respite from the machinery of the “Christian life”. We need to have the grace to sit at the feet of Jesus and gaze into his face. Greig says it beautifully:

If petition is prayer at its simplest, and intercession is prayer at its most powerful, contemplation is prayer at its deepest and most personally transformational.

Contemplative prayer about staring in wonder. It is experiencing rather than analyzing. It is stargazing, not astronomy. It is when we can enjoy His presence without demanding or fretting or even speaking. The Bible is full of these moments. Paul speaks of being caught up into heaven to hear inexpressible things he cannot even explain (2 Corinthians 12:4).  Elijah, Peter, and John all had similar experiences. David declared:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,  which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them or human beings that you care for them?   - Psalms 8:3-4

Prayer it seems is not just rational. God moves on our emotions as well as our mind. Paul speaks of the spirit interceding for us with groans that cannot be understood as words (Romans 8:26).

This is something I do intuitively (or perhaps thoughtlessly) in worship. I show up and let the music wash over me, and before I know it, I am outside my head letting the Holy Spirit minister to me wordlessly as I worship.

Practicing contemplative prayer is deeply personal. You might be someone who needs to move and walk. You might be someone who kneels or stands. You might like nature. You might prefer music or silence. For guidance, there is a path to follow but it is a winding path. This isn’t a 3-step plan. It is a natural progression where one thing leads to the next.

Meditation (me and God) – Fix your mind on a picture an object or (commonly) a phrase from the Bible. Reflect on it quietly. When distracted come back to it. Don’t wig out if it feels repetitive. Meditation is quieting your mind and heart to hear from God, and it gets easier with practice.

Contemplation (God and me) - As we meditate our center of gravity shifts from me and God to God and me. Just be in that moment as simply and honestly as you can manage. You are being in the presence of God.

Communion (Only God) - Forgetting yourself completely. God becomes the focus, and you are no longer “inside your head”. Instead, you are fully absorbed in Him and His story.


Yielding means hearing and following what God is speaking into your life. We can each learn to hear from God and our lives can be intentionally guided by Him. Probably the most common question that Christians ask is “How can I hear from God?” It takes humility, integrity and a healthy dose of common sense, but you can hear from God, and you can trust that your steps are ordered by Him.

Here are some ways God’s speaks to us:

The Bible – Our Daily Bread

Jesus prayed that God would give us our daily bread. Daily bread is often used to mean the scriptures – the Word of God. The Bible is our primary source of revelation, and it is the authority we use to weigh all the other ways we hear from God. If it doesn’t line up with scripture, it isn’t from Him!

The Bible is more than a textbook or a reference book to “prove” doctrine or theology though. God can speak to you directly through His word. The Word of God is living and powerful, and it’s able to cut through our confusion and bring life to our walk with Him. I often read a scripture I have read hundreds of times before and find the Holy Spirit has brought it to life in some new way that speaks to me personally. So be prepared for little bursts of delight as you read the Word!

Dreams, Visions, and the Gifts of the Spirit (Prophecy, words of knowledge and discernment)

God speaks throughout scripture in dreams, visions and through specifically speaking to us through others using the gifts of the Spirit. It can be wonderful and so encouraging when a fellow believer confirms something in us that we have been praying about, or when a dream or vision occurs that directs our path. This is where the caution comes in. If it is directional (if someone or something seems to be guiding you on a specific path or toward a specific decision), seek wise counsel and check it with the Word of God.

Counsel and common Sense

Speaking of wise counsel, it is no less spiritual to seek wise counsel than to receive a dream or vision. God met Paul with blinding light on the road to  Damascus. But he also met two seekers on the Emmaus road where he spent time explaining the law and the prophets to Him. Both are important ways God speaks to us!

The Still Small Voice

Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19 God often shows up as a quiet voice. It can be and idea or a mental impression. It often happens after we stop trying so hard to get him to speak. I receive from God on the treadmill or in the shower – well after I have spent my time in prayer. This need not be strange. It can become a natural and intuitive part of following Jesus. It’s a reflection of your deepening relationship with Him that you begin to hear His whisper.

Confession and Reconciliation

The hardest and most challenging line of the Lord’s prayer is, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer says, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

Our greatest need is for forgiveness. God’s greatest miracle is always without exception that he has made a way for our forgiveness and reconciliation with Him. Yet it is clear from this prayer that our forgiveness is contingent upon us wiping the slate clean with others as God wipes the slate clean with us. Matthew’s gospel uses “debts” – something that is owed and due. It is costly and precious.

Jesus calls us to forgive even as He forgives us. This is how the cycle of a broken world is mended. This is how He uses us to bind up the wounded.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you hear from God? Talk about a time when God has spoken to you. How did it happen? Was it a person? His whisper? Through the word? Explore the various ways God speaks to us.

2. Do you struggle with forgiveness? Maybe you have trouble accepting God’s forgiveness. Is it possible there is someone you need to release from his or her debt to you? Confess it and pray together.


Take each day this week and pray the lord’s prayer. Try to go through the progression of Pause, Rejoice, Ask and Yield.