The only thing I really, really want to say before we get into it is honestly and truly, the only way you could be doing prayer “wrong” is if your prayers are not sincere. God is happy beyond belief to be in communication with you. He is happy beyond belief that you go to Him asking for help and council in your life and that you are seeking His will. If you’re beating yourself up that you are doing something wrong, let me relieve you of that right now. God is pleased that you are turning to Him. God hears your prayers.
The Bible Verse that Changed My Prayer Life
One day while reading the Bible, I stumbled upon the below bible verse. I felt like the Holy Spirit was guiding me towards this verse showing me how I should structure my prayers.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
This verse just gives me all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings. I mean, who doesn’t want more peace in their life? Jesus tells us that we can have peace, despite our circumstances. But how do we experience God’s peace? Well, He actually tells us in the form of providing us direction in our prayer life:
Don’t worry about anything
Pray about everything
Tell God what you need
Thank him for all that he has done
These four points should be the foundations of our prayer life. Let’s break them down one by one.
1. Don’t Worry About Anything
Worrying is such a strong part of my life that I’m going to start by sharing what Jesus himself tells us about worrying.
“This is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
Every time I read this verse it builds me up. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we truly do not need to worry.
I incorporate this into my prayer life by telling God exactly what I’m worried about. I tell God everything. I just let it all out. I tell Him what worries me in every area of my life. My relationships, my finances, my career, my health…I hold nothing back. If it is on my mind that day, that week, or that season, I tell God about it.
I even tell God when I’m worried He hasn’t been more present in my life. Yes, I tell Him about my spiritual concerns. I tell Him how I’m worried He hasn’t heard my prayer, or how I feel like He doesn’t care, or why hasn’t my prayer been answered.
Trust me when I say, tell God anything that worries you. If it gives you anxiety or concern, tell God.
2. Pray About Everything
I used to wonder what was “okay” to pray about. In my head it was clearly okay to pray for the poor and the sick, but what about everything else? Was it “right” for me to pray for myself? Was I being selfish? I have a roof over my head, plenty of food to eat, a good education, heck, I even splurge on luxury items like travel.
Is it really “right” for me to continually pray for myself?
I don’t know about you, but this was a real struggle for me. But Philippians 4:6 says to pray about everything. Actually James 4:2 even says, “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it”. Wow, doesn’t that just hit you right between the eyes. It does for me.
One time while I was getting my hair done, I overheard a conversation between my hair stylist and another client that stuck with me. The client and the stylist were clearly very close and the client was complaining about something (I honestly can’t recall what it was). The stylist said almost out of frustration (maybe this client frequently complained about the same problem), “have you even prayed about it”? Stunned the client responded, “well, no”. Then the stylish said, “well, how are you expecting something to happen when you haven’t even asked God for it?”.
Those words stuck with me. Taking our problems, concerns, and requests to God through prayer should be our first step, not an afterthought. Just pray. Pray about everything. Don’t worry if it’s a silly prayer, if you deserve it or not, or if you feel you have enough “bonus points” stored up in heaven for God to bless you. Just turn to him. Pray about everything, and as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually”.
3. Tell God What You Need
As always, Jesus says it best. Here are two of my favorite verses about how we should tell God what we need.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know we have what we ask of Him.”
(1 John 5:14-15)
These verses are really quite radical. I mean, we can have whatever we ask for in prayer, by simply believing that we have received it. Wow, that’s game changing.
You know what I really love about this verse? It doesn’t say we should believe God will do what we ask, or we should believe God is capable of doing what we ask. It says we should believe we have already received it. If we believe it’s already ours, then it will be. That is truly extraordinary.
Now, come on let’s all admit it, we feel like we need a lot, don’t we? (I’m going to pretend you all are virtually nodding your heads yes – me included.)
We need that raise, we need that new car, we need our husbands to stop doing xyz, we need our children to stop doing xyz, we need a house (or we need a bigger house), we need more clothes, we need to get accepted into that school, we need more vacation time, we need, we need, we need.
Now I’m going to do something crazy and not make you feel like the things you need are trivial. If you feel like you need it, then darn it go ahead and pray for it! You give that request to God.
However, finishing the verse from James 4:2-3 it says, “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.”
Wow, that’s kind of a hard pill to swallow. We may not be receiving what we ask for because our motives are wrong. I have found that God is very interested in our motives.
Here are a few of my favorite examples of this:
Money: God doesn’t have a problem with you having money, but God does have a problem with the love of money consuming you. (Deuteronomy 11 & 1 Timothy 6:10)
Alcohol: God doesn’t have a problem with you drinking, but God does have a problem with drunkenness. (Matthew 26:27 & Galatians 5:21)
Piercings/Tattoos: God doesn’t have a problem with you piercing your ears and wearing earrings, but God did punish the Israelite when they did it for Baal (they were worshiping another god). (Ezekiel 16:12 & Hosea 2:13)
In each of these examples the motive was the problem, not the act. Only you and God know what your motives are during prayer. I encourage you to search your heart and ask yourself, what is my motive for this request? There’s nothing wrong with asking God for help financially so you can afford a nicer car. However, is your motive because you want to appear wealthy, you want to impress others, or are you wanting to keep up with your co-workers or friends? These are the things you need to ask yourself, and God will also reveal to you.
4. Thank Him for All that He Has Done
Now (finally!) we have come to my favorite part of the 4 foundations of prayer that I think will truly create breakthrough in your prayer life, giving thanks.
During a low season, I started to journal. I honestly have never been much of a journaler, if that’s even a word. I could never stick to a diary, and the idea of keeping a journal just seemed daunting. But I knew journaling was important and giving thanks was important, so I would force myself to write down everything God had done in my life. Even when (literally!) there were days that all I could come up with was that I was thankful for my cat. You better believe I wrote it down.
What’s truly incredible is that by writing down what you’re thankful for, it does a number of things:
Helps you to maintain a spirit of gratitude
Helps you to see the positive and good things in your life (Philippians 4:8)
Helps you realize your circumstances may not be as bad as they seem
Helps you to see the progress of a prayer request
I believe that when we are thankful to God despite the negatives that are going on in our lives, doors open in heaven. It is totally okay to talk to God about things that you are unhappy with, these are called lamentations and there’s an entire book of the Bible devoted to them. However, you should always end your prayers with praise. Thank God for what He has done in your life, what He is doing in your life, and what He’s going to do in your life.