Christian Prayer For Dummies book cover

Christian Prayer For Dummies

By: Richard Wagner Published: 12-11-2002

Advice and examples help you find your own prayer style

Discover how prayer works and why you need it now more than ever

Do you want to pray, but you're not sure how? This friendly guide explains the different kinds of prayer - revealing how and why to pray and how to discern God's answers. You'll see how to overcome hindrances, how to use a journal, and how to pray on your own. Discover what "Thy will be done" means and how to approach prayers that seemingly haven't been answered.

The Dummies Way
* Explanations in plain English
* "Get in, get out" information
* Icons and other navigational aids
* Tear-out cheat sheet
* Top ten lists
* A dash of humor and fun

Articles From Christian Prayer For Dummies

10 results
10 results
Incorporate Christian Prayer into Your Life in Three Weeks

Article / Updated 09-15-2021

It doesn't take long to establish a habit of daily Christian prayer. Follow these steps and you'll be surprised by how much Christian prayer can become part of your life after just three weeks: Determine the optimal prayer time that you're going to set aside to pray. Choose a specific location where you know you can be quiet at that time. Go to that same place each day at the specific time you've set aside for prayer. Spend those minutes in prayer. For those 21 days, stick with it no matter what. If you happen to miss a day, don't get down on yourself. Just make sure that you get back into the routine again the following day. The ACTS method of Christian prayer Ensure that your Christian prayer is complete by remembering ACTS — not the book of the Bible, but the acronym. The ACTS method of Christian prayer goes like this: Adoration: Give God praise and honor for who he is as Lord over all. Confession: Honestly deal with the sin in your prayer life. Thanksgiving: Verbalize what you're grateful for in your life and in the world around you. Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and yourself. The Christian Trinity Prayer The Trinity Prayer is brief, easy, and something you can do in just a few moments at most anytime for a quick prayer break. It's also an easy Christian prayer for children to learn. Here it is: Love of Jesus, Fill us. Holy Spirit, Guide us. Will of the Father be done. Amen.

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Having a Chat with God

Article / Updated 05-12-2016

Prayer is simply communicating with God. There's nothing magical at all about Christian prayer; it's matter of fact. However, Christian prayer is more than just telling God your list of requests and expecting him to answer your prayers like he's some kind of cosmic vending machine. Yes, prayer is a way to share with God what's on your mind. However, even more important, it's a way to get to know God and what he wants to do in your life and in the world. When you study the Bible, you find people praying left and right, but the subject of prayer itself is actually rarely addressed. A filled ball is essential to playing basketball, but it's also so obvious that nothing need be said about it. In the same way, prayer, or talking with God, is so natural that it's a given in the Bible. Although the Bible doesn't talk specifically about prayer methods, you do notice that the manner in which people prayed has changed through the ages. In the earliest of times, people like Adam, Noah, and Abraham prayed in a very familiar and direct manner to God and tended to focus on the practicalities of life. But from the time of Moses through the rest of the Old Testament period, prayers tended to be more formal and less focused on personal needs and more on national issues related to the Israelites. Christian prayer has its origins in the prayers of Jesus, particularly the Lord's Prayer. Christian prayer in the New Testament becomes more focused on the spiritual needs of individuals, such as the cleansing of sins, physical healing, and equipping of individuals with spiritual qualities to live like Christ. Prayer in the New Testament is also quite intimate and even goes so far as to tell you to call God your Daddy. Nowhere does the Bible list any specific rules on how to pray. Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians each have their own distinct traditions of prayer. The refreshing and liberating fact is that God is not much concerned with how you pray; he's more interested in what you pray about and what your attitude is while you pray. Surveys of U.S. adults and teenagers by Barna Research Ltd. from 1991–2001 revealed the following statistics about people's prayer habits: Who prays? 82 percent of adults and 89 percent of teenagers pray in a normal week. 88 percent of women and 75 percent of men pray in a typical week. People living in the South and Midwest pray more than those living in the West and Northeast (around 86 percent to 76 percent, respectively). 96 percent of born-again Christians pray weekly, while 72 percent of people not describing themselves as born again pray on a weekly basis. What do people pray about? 95 percent of adults thank God for what he has done in their lives. 76 percent ask for forgiveness for specific sins. 67 percent spend time in prayer worshiping God by praising his superior attributes. 61 percent ask for help for specific needs. 47 percent are silent during prayer to listen for God. What do people believe? 89 percent of adults believe "there is a god who watches over you and answers your prayers." 82 percent of people believe that prayer can change what happens in a person's life. When and how much do people pray? An average prayer lasts just under five minutes. 52 percent of people who pray do so several times a day. 37 percent of people say they pray once a day. 21 percent have extended prayer time with other family members (25 percent among Protestants and 13 percent among Catholics). 33 percent of adults regularly participate in a prayer group or other meeting that has a focus on prayer.

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Climbing the Five Tiers of Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

All prayer is directed to God, whether you're praying in your bedroom or Denver's Mile High Stadium filled with 80,000 people. However, the manner in which you pray and the words you speak should be tailored to the people listening and the place you are. In general, there are five tiers of prayer, each of which has a different style, content, and degree of intimacy: Personal: Personal prayer is quite obviously your private time between you and God alone. You know by now that personal prayer is a time of deep closeness between you and your loving Father in heaven. During this time, you can pray about anything and everything, anytime, and anywhere. Intimate: In intimate prayer, you pray with the people who are closest to you in all the world. Intimate prayer partners are typically your spouse, family members, your best friend, or a small set of trusted friends. You're likely to have different levels of intimacy even within this smallest of groups, but generally you'll freely share most concerns with these trusted people. Prayer time with intimates can even approach the same level of intimacy that personal prayer does. Small group: Small group prayer is what takes place within a Bible study, cell group, or accountability group. The group may or may not approach the level of closeness of the personal and intimate prayer tiers, but group members share a degree of friendship, trust, and commitment. Even at this level, personal prayer needs are freely shared and prayed upon. Church: Church prayer consists of prayer in a church service or other Christian context, but it takes place within a larger group of people whom you may or may not know personally. Prayer at this level should be heartfelt but more reserved than the first three tiers and should focus primarily on issues that affect the entire church. If you go to a small church of fewer than 30 or so members, there is much less distinction between the church and small group tiers. In fact, in rare cases, a small church can even begin to resemble a small group in terms of closeness. Community:Community prayer is the type of prayer said at town events that people of all beliefs and backgrounds attend. Examples include town festivities, memorial services, and graduations (depending on the latest court rulings, of course). Because people at such gatherings are likely to have different religious backgrounds, prayers should be the most formal and restrained in terms of their scope. You wouldn't, for example, want to pray for your mother-in-law's arthritis if you're called to give a prayer at the start of the World Series. During community prayers, pray in a way that steadfastly upholds the integrity of your beliefs, while at the same time respecting the beliefs of others in attendance who have different religious backgrounds. Churches, particularly evangelical Protestant ones, have become more informal over the past 30 years. One side effect of this newfound relaxed approach to worship is a blurring of the traditional boundaries between small group and church prayer. The sharing and praying that used to be done only in small, more intimate contexts is now being regularly done at the church level in many congregations today. Openness and candor within the family of God are refreshing and healthy and should be encouraged. But, at the same time, churches should use common sense and wisdom when deciding what's appropriate when more people are gathered together. Many churches, for example, offer a time to share prayer requests during worship. Although congregation participation is a good thing, this part of the service usually turns into a systematic listing of the current personal health problems of the church members. If you're regularly sharing your personal problems in church, you're confusing the function of the larger church (gathering as the body of Christ to worship and grow together) with your need for a smaller group with which to share deeply personal issues. Public prayer works best when you focus on issues that impact the church congregation as a whole. But because you're bypassing issues "too intimate" for the church at large, make sure the church has small groups and other support options so that those personal needs are appropriately and sufficiently nurtured. However, praying for special crisis or emergency needs of individuals is perfectly appropriate and desirable in the larger church context, but this practice should be the exception rather than the norm. Public prayer shouldn't be intrusive, giving out private details about a person being prayed for that he or she may consider an invasion of privacy. For example, you probably wouldn't want to make these prayer requests in public:"Lord, be with Al as he gets a tattoo removed from his buttocks tomorrow.""And, please give provision to Frank, who is now 45 days behind on his Visa bill." Finally, let the people being prayed for know before you pray for them to make sure that they don't have a problem with your singling them out in public prayer.

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Adding Fasting to Your Prayer Life

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Fasting isn't a complicated business. When you fast, don't eat. You stay away from all food or refrain from specific types of food for a set amount of time. (Refraining from all food makes you the hungriest.) The duration of the fast may be a solo meal, one day, a week, or, in some cases, even longer. Fasting from food can be done for a variety of purposes, either physical or spiritual. So abstaining from food alone doesn't constitute a Christian fast. Instead, a Christian fast is accompanied by a special focus on prayer during the fast, often substituting the time you'd spend eating with prayer instead. In many Christian churches today, fasting has become a lost discipline, one that is rarely, if ever, discussed and practiced. Yet, in spite of its decreased emphasis, there are a host of reasons to fast: Fasting has always been considered standard operating procedure for Christians. Fasting has been a common practice by God's faithful throughout history. The Old Testament includes a multitude of examples of the Israelites fasting when seeking the Lord's blessing or direction. The New Testament records that Jesus himself fasted, as did leaders of the early Christian church. Jesus didn't talk too much about fasting during his ministry, but the one time when he provided specific instructions on fasting, in Matthew 6, he started by saying "when you fast," not "if you fast." So it seems logical to conclude that Jesus expected his followers to incorporate fasting into their lives. Although Jesus assumes that his followers will fast, he never instructs people on the frequency or duration of fasts. Some Christians believe that he left those specifics up to the Church to decide, while others believe he left it up to individuals as prompted by the Holy Spirit. Fasting provides self-discipline in an undisciplined age. The age in which we live despises discipline. When was the last time you saw a TV commercial with a slogan like one of these: • Buy this TV later, after you actually have the cash. • Eat just one of our chips, so you can have some tomorrow. • Do you really need a new car? Your old one still works fine. • Friends don't let friends drink. Period. Fasting offers a way to impose self-control in your life; it gives you a "splash in the face" to awaken you to the need for the personal strength of will that you need to grow spiritually. When you restrain yourself physically, you'll find it easier to apply this same self-discipline in your spiritual life. The benefits of fasting "rub off" in your relationship with God. Normal exercise and a good, balanced diet go hand in hand in my life. Although fasting is a physical activity, the practice affects you deeply on the spiritual plane of your life as well. In other words, the amount of restraint and will power you practice physically has a tangible relationship to your willingness to submit to God's will. Fasting fosters concentration on God and his will. Oswald Chambers once said that fasting means "concentration," because when you're fasting, you have a heightened sense of attentiveness. Food or any physical sensation can satisfy, fill you up, and dull your senses and spiritual ears. In contrast, a hungry stomach makes you more aware and alert to what God is trying to say to you. Fasting provides a real-life illustration of dependency. Although modern man thrives on the idea of being independent, beholden to no one, fasting helps you put the facts in the proper perspective. It's easy to believe in your independence with a full stomach, but when you start to feel hunger pains in your belly after missing a meal or two, you awaken to your body's dependency on food to survive. Fasting reveals a physical reliance on food that points to the ultimate dependency — the fact that you're dependent on God for things far more important than food. Fasting prepares you for a big decision or an important event. Time after time in the Bible, God's faithful spend time in fasting and prayer before a major decision or event in their lives. For example, just after getting baptized, Jesus undertook a 40-day fast in the desert as a preparation to starting his ministry. Just before she put a plan into action that risked her life in an effort to save the Jewish people living in Persia, Esther calls for fasting (Esther 4:16): Go, gather together all the Jews and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and [then] will I go in to the king. Fasting brings you in line with God to seek his will and to simultaneously show your devotion to him before the big event or decision occurs. Fasting often surrounds God's special work in the world. On occasion, God moves in the world in a special way. For example, consider God's interaction with the Israelites, Jesus' three years of ministry, and the formation of the early Christian church. More recently, God has moved on occasion to bring people to him in what is commonly called a revival, an event where large numbers of people come to the Lord. Fasting preceded the revival known as the Great Awakening that swept through the American Colonies in the 1700s. If you start to study many of these major events, you'll invariably find that God's faithful fasted before them. Fasting empowers. Fasting can also give you newfound strength in your spiritual life because of the intimacy you gain with God as a result. The discipline of fasting can be problematic or even downright dangerous if you have experienced or are susceptible to eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Therefore, keep the following in mind: Don't fast beyond the time limit you originally set. If you find that you can't stop your fast, see your doctor immediately. If you feel yourself preoccupied with the physical aspects of going without food (such as possible weight loss), then the act of fasting may be a hindrance to your prayer life rather than a help. If you focus on the fast and have difficulty praying, break the fast immediately and pray about what you just experienced. If you're recovering from an eating disorder, avoid fasting altogether as a spiritual discipline.

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Psalms: The Heart of Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Book of Psalms is the unique book in the Bible. Whereas most books provide historical narrative, prophetic teaching, or doctrinal prose, Psalms is a collection of 150 songs and prayers and nothing else. Each Psalm expresses the full range of emotions that any human goes through during the course of a lifetime: joy, sorrow, desperation, anger, vengeance, praise, peace, and thankfulness. What's striking about the Psalms is that they're real, brutally honest outpourings of emotion along the roller coasters of life. When times are good, Psalms speak out in great thanksgiving and celebration, but when life is bad, the emotions expressed are more candid than what you hear on Oprah. Because of this, anyone, no matter where he or she is in life, can relate to the Psalms. Psalms truly expresses the heart of prayer. The Book of Psalms was separated into five minibooks a long time ago: Book 1 (Chapters 1–41), Book 2 (Chapters 42–72), Book 3 (Chapters 73–89), Book 4 (Chapters 90–106), and Book 5 (Chapters 107–150). However, these aren't assembled chronologically or even topically, so a much more practical way to think of the Psalms is to categorize them by topic. You can group the Psalms into six major categories: Psalms of praise and worship: Many of the Psalms focus on praising God. Look to Psalms 19, 33, 103, and 109 to find out what adoration and worship mean. Psalms of confession: A second set of Psalms contrasts the holiness of God with the sinfulness of man and cries out for mercy to God for his forgiveness. Examples are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, and 143. Psalms of anguish and lament. Many Psalms are written by an individual or group as a cry to the Lord for help in a crisis. Some of these Psalms address God boldly and even harshly because the writer perceives that God is abandoning them. However, these Psalms usually end with a confidence that God will intervene to deliver and save. Examples include Psalms 13 (individual) and 44 and 74 (communal). Psalms of history:Another set of Psalms focuses on incidents and events from Israelite history. Examples include 14, 44, 46, 47, 48, and 105. Psalms of anger: As you read the book, you may believe that several of the Psalms are simply out of place in the Bible. Instead of dealing with love and peace, they sound like something you'd hear in a Terminator movie. An imprecatory Psalm is one that deals with the defeat or destruction of an enemy. Examples include Psalms 35, 37, 69, 109, and 137. Messianic Psalms:Christians believe that several Psalms make prophetic references to the coming of Jesus Christ, hundreds of years before he was born. These Psalms focus on a future ideal ruler who will defeat the enemies of Israel and stand up for righteousness and justice. Some examples are Psalms 16, 22, 45, 69, and 110. Most people think King David wrote the Psalms, but that is only partially true. Nearly half are, in fact, credited to David, but several other authors contributed as well, the most famous of whom are Moses (one Psalm) and Solomon (two). The authors of 51 Psalms are anonymous.

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Finding Time for Christian Prayer at Work

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Incorporating a habit of Christian prayer at work can be difficult if you work full-time. You add prayer time to your workday, however, by following these tips: Pick a dedicated prayer time that avoids the rush of the day. If your schedule permits, get up early and regularly spend time in prayer before going to work. Whether you go by car, bus, or subway, praying during commute time can be an ideal way to transform what is usually dead time into quality moments with the Lord. After you eat, spend the rest of your lunchtime in prayer. When praying at work, close your office door or take a walk around the building. If you don't pray at work, then don't turn on the television, DVD player, or computer at home until after you're finished with prayer time that evening. Don't let work or any other activity become more important than being still with God. Don't wimp out on prayer on weekends. Set up a different weekend schedule for prayer that works on days that you aren't in the office.

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The ACTS Method of Christian Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Ensure that your Christian prayer is complete by remembering ACTS — not the book of the Bible, but the acronym. The ACTS method of Christian prayer goes like this: Adoration: Give God praise and honor for who he is as Lord over all. Confession: Honestly deal with the sin in your prayer life. Thanksgiving: Verbalize what you're grateful for in your life and in the world around you. Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and yourself.

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How to Hear God's Voice during Christian Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Christian prayer is a method of speaking to God. To get the full benefit of Christian prayer, though, you can't just speak, you must prepare yourself to listen, as well. The following tips can help you hear what God is saying to you: Get the inside scoop on what God will say to you by reading his diary (the Bible). Listen actively and attentively to all of his message. Expect a whisper, not a yell. Discern the tone of the voice. God's tone is patient and calm. False voices are rushed and impulsive. Look at the circumstances to see whether God is trying to get your attention. Because listening is an art, not a science, always be humble and reliant on him to hear you. Make listening your lifestyle, a byproduct of how you live your life.

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The Christian Trinity Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Trinity Prayer is an easy Christian prayer for children to learn Grownups can pray the short Trinity Prayer in just a few moments at most anytime for a brief prayer break: Love of Jesus, Fill us. Holy Spirit, Guide us. Will of the Father be done. Amen.

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Wisdom from the Lord's Prayer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Lord's Prayer (or the Our Father) is the most well-known Christian prayer. Examining the Lord's Prayer can equip and empower your entire Christian prayer life. Focus on the following six essential pieces of advice gleaned from the Lord's Prayer to help live a more prayerful life: Praying together is Jesus' first priority. Pray to a personal God, not a title monger. Surrender to open the door to God's blessings. Live a life of trust, one day at a time. Knowledge of sins done by and to you underscores the depth of God's grace. Pray for protection in a dangerous world.

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