Flying, just the thought of it, had given me anxiety attacks throughout my life. So how in the world did I go from being terrified of flying to becoming a pilot for the best hour of my life? My theory is praying, being patient, and waiting for God’s guidance.
I spent numerous months in deep prayer about the details of my adventure. As soon as I felt the inkling of wanting to finally conquer my fear of flying in my heart, I asked God in prayer to take my idea and run with it his way. I asked him to confirm or deny my flight plans, and I also asked a few friends to help me pray about the idea. Then, I waited patiently for God to answer.
One night, I felt a physical sensation of peace and calmness about flying that I had never felt before. Because of this, I felt like God was saying for me to go ahead with my plans. I checked the weather reports around the weekend of my birthday. It was sunny skies and perfect flying conditions for that weekend. I contacted a friend, who shared the same birthday weekend, and he was available. While dancing around my apartment in total excitement, I made the reservation. I called my friends again to ask to pray for protection during my journey. I was ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
I recently shared my experience with a close friend who just started their personal relationship with God. My friend was very impressed with my courage, the fear God had lifted from me, and how powerful prayer can be. My friend started to ask me question after question about prayer. So what exactly is prayer and how do we do it?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, prayer is “an address as a petition to God in a word or thought.” Prayer can be fancy, official, and complicated. But prayer can also be as simple as a conversation. Think of it like a casual chat with your best friend. Your best friend knows all your personal history, failures, successes, secrets, and concerns. You are usually very blunt and open with your best friend with your words and emotions. Prayer is just that, a very open blunt conversation with your words and emotions to God.
There are countless reasons why we pray. People can pray when they are sad, happy, afraid, anxious, calm, busy, sick, healthy, bored, or on any other occasion. There are a few technical definitions of some of the types of prayer. A few types that I will be sharing about are Adoration, Thanksgiving, Confession, Petitionary, and Intercessory prayers, but there are others.
Adoration is basically giving God all the credit (praise), love, and respect (honor) he deserves. This should be an essential foundation of all prayers. Everything you say when you pray should be done in a manner that shows you love God, but this specifically takes time out to worship God. It can usually be done at the beginning of the prayer. Adoration’s primary focus is loving the Lord. This type of prayer doesn’t really mention anything about the person who is praying. It’s the “I love you” at the beginning of your conversation with God.
A thanksgiving prayer isn’t for the turkey dinner. It’s a “thank you” to God for what he has done. It is also different than adoration. Adoration is just loving God and giving glory for who he is. A thanksgiving prayer’s primary focus is to thank God for the gifts and blessings he has bestowed to you and the world around you, whether from the past or present. Since he is the ultimate provider, it’s important for us to remember to thank him as often as we can.
A confession is not just an admission of a crime done. Simply put, it’s an apology to God for whatever sins that have been committed against him. Its purpose is a real heart-to-heart between you and God. It’s an open invitation for God to work in your life and heart, and it puts you in a right relationship with God. Confession isn’t just saying we are sorry, but stopping that behavior that got us into trouble with God. When you confess, you first take ownership and responsibility of the sin and recognize the impact that it has on your relationship with God, yourself, and others in your life. The key is then to ask for forgiveness and be willing to change that behavior, thought, or action. You would want to repent, which means having the intent to turn away from that sin and not do it again. Basically it’s the willingness to change in order to strengthen your relationship with the Lord.
Petitionary prayer is like an “SOS” to God, like shooting up a flare in the storms of life. It’s asking for his help on your behalf. It can be for a big request, like healing for a disease, to a simpler need, like providing change in your pocket for your laundry that night. This prayer is more about the person who is praying. It’s a humble request to God that acknowledges you are only human and desperately need him in your life. Most people feel ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help because it shows weakness. But God wants to show you his strength and faithfulness in this type of prayer. It’s allowing God to be your knight in shining armor.
Intercessory prayer is asking for help from God for other people. You are voicing prayer on behalf of this person to God, and Jesus is the intercessor, the bridge between you and the recipient of your prayer. Intercessory prayer can be done in a large group of people, like gathering as a church, or in a small group, like two people praying one-on-one. You are actively seeking help from the Father on behalf of another person or group of people. Once again, this type of prayer is not about the person who is praying. You are focusing your love, energy, and compassion on Jesus in hopes of him working on behalf of your fellow human. The other person ultimately receives love, energy, and compassion from Jesus, not you.
Think of [prayer] like a casual chat with your best friend. Your best friend knows all your personal history, failures, successes, secrets, and concerns. You are usually very blunt and open with your best friend with your words and emotions. Prayer is just that, a very open, blunt conversation with your words and emotions to God.
We now know what prayer is, some of the types of prayers that are out there, and the reasons why we pray, but there is one important question left. How do we pray? There is no right or wrong answer here; there are many different ways to pray. How to pray depends on the individual’s spiritual personality and what environment they are in.
The typical image of prayer, ingrained in us through pop culture and church tradition, is kneeling on the floor, head bowed, eyes closed, hands folded at the chest, and praying in a whisper. On the other hand, in other parts of the world, prayer is in public, standing up, arms raised above the head, eyes opened, smiling, slightly swaying back and forth, dancing, singing out loud to God or a variety of other expressions. Ultimately, prayer posture doesn’t matter. What matters is making sure your mind is quiet so you can focus on God. Basically that means having no thoughts of the day at work, your grocery list or if you did your dishes or not. Your thoughts are on God, the prayer itself, and the person you are praying for, whether it’s more for yourself or someone else.
When starting to pray for the first time, people often get nervous about how to start and what to say. Some like to quote the Bible in their prayers, preferring an existing “script” of what to say to God. For example, The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13 is often a good way to begin reflecting on God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (NKJV).
Pioneered by John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement of churches, one simple formula I find useful is called the Five Step Prayer Model. This model is used when you are praying for another person, but you can also use the same steps on yourself when you are praying to God on your own. The first step is the “interview.” When you approach a person for prayer, you might ask them what you can pray for, listen to them intently, then ask God, “What is the Holy Spirit saying in regards to this person’s life?” Then you calm your mind and wait for God to answer, whether impressions, pictures, emotions, verses, or something else comes to you, God will answer how he chooses.
The second step is to ask more questions from the impression you get or feelings you have for what might be deeper under the surface, helping you perhaps get closer to the root of the situation. Then you relay the information to the other person to see if your assessment is on target. In the third step, ask God about the best way to pray for the person. For example, does God want you to pray for action on something or a situation now, instantly, or later in his timing?
The fourth step is the prayer itself. In prayer, don’t rush. Be patient and watch what God is doing through you and through the other person. What is the person’s emotional state? Is God hitting a nerve somewhere? Ask for feedback during or after your prayer. A good question to ask is “Did God show anything to you?” If the person replies with something, you can continue to pray for that element in their life. The fifth and final step is basically a wrap up by saying “Thank You” to God, making sure the person is all right and possibly to suggest things to help them pursue the change or healing or growth that God had spoken to them about during prayer.
An important thing to remember is that you don’t have to know all the answers, but just be open to what God wants to accomplish and offer encouragement.