HOW TO PRAY – A SIMPLE GUIDE FOR NORMAL PEOPLE (click for video introduction)
by Pete Greig
Pete Greig is a worldwide authority and the face of a generation when it comes to prayer. One of the founders of the 24-7 prayer movement, he has seen, experienced, and chronicled amazing works of God in the world.
How to P.R.A.Y. (Chapters 1-2) – ‘The disciples said: “Lord, teach us to pray!”’
Every pilgrim gets a stone in their shoe eventually. You wake up one morning thinking, ‘Is this really all there is to knowing the Creator of 100 billion galaxies?’ You read the book of Acts and ask, ‘Why isn’t it like that any more?’ Your world falls apart and you desperately need a miracle. You stare up at the stars and feel things bigger than religious language. You say to yourself, ‘If this thing is true there’s got to be more power, more mystery, more actual personal experience’. And so, finally, you turn to God, half wondering whether you’re any more than half-serious and say, ‘Lord, teach me to pray.’ And he replies, ‘I thought you’d never ask!’
PAUSE (Chapter 3) – ‘Jesus said, ‘When you pray…
To start we must stop. To move forward we must pause. This is the first step in a deeper prayer life: put down your wish-list and wait. Sit quietly. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalms 46:10). Become fully present in place and time so that your scattered senses can re-center themselves on God’s eternal presence. Stillness and silence prepares your mind and primes your heart to pray from a place of greater peace, faith and adoration. In fact, it is in itself an important form of prayer.
REJOICE (Chapter 4) – ‘Say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
No one stares up at the Northern Lights thinking, ‘Wow, I’m incredible!’ We are hardwired to wonder and therefore to worship. The Lord’s Prayer begins with an invitation to adoration: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ Having paused to be still at the start of a prayer time, the most natural and appropriate response to God’s presence is reverence. Try not to skip this bit. Hallowing the Father’s name is the most important and enjoyable dimension of prayer. Linger here, rejoicing in God’s blessings before asking for any more. Like an eagle soaring, a horse galloping or a salmon leaping, worship is the thing God has designed you to do.
ASK (Chapters 5-7) – ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done … and give us this day our daily bread.’
Prayer means many things to many people, but at its simplest and most immediate it means asking God for help. It’s a soldier begging for courage, a football fan at the final, a mother alone in a hospital chapel. The Lord’s Prayer invites us to ask God for everything from ‘daily bread’ to the ‘kingdom come’, for ourselves (‘petition’) and for others (‘intercession’). In this section, we explore the extraordinary, miracle-working power of prayer, but also the questions we face when our prayers to unanswered.
YIELD (Chapters 8-12) – ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil… Amen!’
The final step in the dance of prayer is surrender. It’s a clenched fist slowly opening: an athlete lowering himself into an ice-bath; a field of California poppies turning to the sun. We yield to God’s presence ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ through contemplative prayer and by listening to his word, which is ‘our daily bread’. We yield to God’s holiness through confession and reconciliation, praying ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive others’. And we yield to his power in spiritual warfare, asking our Father to ‘deliver us from evil’. And so, in all these ways, it’s by surrendering to God that we overcome, by emptying ourselves that we are filled, and by yielding our lives in prayer that our lives themselves can become a prayer – the Lord’s Prayer – in the end.