Day 16

How to Pray

from the The Sermon on the Mount reading plan

Matthew 6:5-8, 2 Kings 4:32-37, Isaiah 26:20, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 1:35-38, Luke 18:9-14

BY Kaitlin Wernet

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-8, 2 Kings 4:32-37, Isaiah 26:20, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 1:35-38, Luke 18:9-14

My copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe smells like hot asphalt and recess kickball. With grass stains and dog-eared pages, the book was on my third grade required reading list, but my time spent feasting on the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy was anything but forced. I spent every moment I could nose-deep in its chapters, only looking up from the playground outfield if my name was called out (at least twice), or if my face was hit with a ball (just once).

The most tattered and beloved pages of that book are in the beginning chapters—before the lion or the witch are even introduced. It’s the wardrobe that got me. Lucy, the youngest, is the first to wander into her uncle’s neglected spare room and open the wardrobe doors, finding the forest dreamland of Narnia just beyond them. One of my favorite lines is easy to miss, because it’s just before she steps foot into the newly discovered world:

“She did not shut [the wardrobe door] properly because she knew that it is very silly to shut oneself into a wardrobe, even if it is not a magic one.”

We are hesitant to close the door on the world we love, even when an even better one awaits us. Even the most adventurous child is hesitant to explore in secret. But in teaching us how to pray, Jesus says to “go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). He instructs us to approach the Lord from a secret place, unlike the hypocrites who stand on the street corners yelling for their Father. Isaac left for a field, Christ retreated to a mountain, Peter went to a rooftop.

While this is a great warning against hypocrisy, these actions point us more toward the realm we enter into with prayer than the world we leave behind when we retreat—and it’s way better than Narnia. Prayer is the place where we do our most God-honoring work. Alone with Christ is where we remember that we can trust in Him alone.

It’s not that our Father doesn’t want others to know we’re talking to Him; it’s that He wants us to know who He is apart from others and the distractions of this world. We must intentionally and physically practice that truth that He is always near—we are never alone. If we don’t make a point to to “go away” from the world and pray, we will miss this. If Lucy had stood outside the wardrobe speculating about the possibility of Narnia, she and her siblings would have been left, as the book describes, “always in winter but never Christmas.”

The world is loud and familiar, but it does not see us and know us the way Jesus does. He is better, and He waits to meet with us in the secret places of our hearts that are not secret to Him.

Heavenly Father, we confess it is difficult to close the door to a noisy world. But You alone know and offer what we really need. Teach us how to pray when we don’t know where to start. Help us to form words that are vulnerable and true, for they bring You glory. Amen.


Post Comments (63)

63 thoughts on "How to Pray"

  1. Becky says:

    I am in a season of waiting. I have been planning to spend my entire summer in Nicaragua, teaching English with a missionary organization. And in the last month, civil unrest and protests have taken over the streets….leaving my long-awaited plans in limbo. Even as I type this, a national dialogue for peace is happening in Managua. And I am utterly helpless. Helpless to bring peace or justice or reforms. Helpless to protect my friends who live there. Helpless to guarantee any changes or improvements that would ensure that I will be able to go. All I can do is pray. I have prayed in small groups and I have prayed alone, pouring out my doubts and fears. Prayer reminds me that it is not I who controls the future and that trusting God when things are so uncertain is much easier said than done.

  2. Bevvie Byrom says:

    This really opens my eyes. This is amazing thank you for all you do here at she reads truth.

  3. Kristen Clegs says:

    For those of you who struggle to discipline yourself to pray, what do you do to help yourself? I love studying God’s Word and digging deep into passages, contexts, cultural clues, etc, but I have always struggled to just talk to my Father. Maybe it’s because verbal communication has never been my strength, but I want to improve in this weakness….

    1. J says:

      Hey Kristen, I’m the same way. I especially get nervous about having to pray out loud in groups. For me, I just pray/talk to Him in the car. When I make it more like a conversation, I find I have more things to say. But I do need to work on listening to Him and being still before Him, too.

    2. Becky says:

      I pray according to a template I read about in a Tim Keller book. I begin by reflecting on the scripture I have just read. Then I confess anything that convicted me during the reading…sin, shortfall, poor attitude, lack of faith, etc. Then I bring my requests. This is different from my regular prayer list of supplications. Instead, it is based on the reading and usually flows naturally from what I have confessed. I ask God for what I need to be obedient to what I have just read. And lastly, I take time to praise God for whatever attributes were revealed in the scripture that day. I have found that this really helps to bring the scripture alive and it feels so much more like two-way communication between me and God. I can easily pray for 30 minutes once I include my regular requests. I have also found that praying out loud is tremendously helpful for not losing my train of thought. It might seem weird at first but it is very natural for me to just start talking to God. I live alone so that helps with the privacy factor. I’m not sure if these ideas are what you’re looking for but I know they have totally turned my prayer life around in a good way.

  4. Laura says:

    In the secret of His presence
    How my soul delights to hide!
    Oh, how precious are the lessons
    Which I learn at Jesus’ side!
    Earthly cares can never vex me,
    Neither trials lay me low;
    For when Satan comes to tempt me,
    To the secret place I go.
    When my soul is faint and thirsty,
    ’Neath the shadow of His wing
    There is cool and pleasant shelter,
    And a fresh and crystal spring;
    And my Savior rests beside me,
    As we hold communion sweet;
    If I tried, I could not utter
    What He says when thus we meet.
    Only this I know: I tell Him
    All my doubts and griefs and fears;
    Oh, how patiently He listens!
    And my drooping soul He cheers;
    Do you think He ne’er reproves me?
    What a false friend He would be,
    If He never, never told me
    Of the sins which He must see.
    Would you like to know that sweetness
    Of the secret of the Lord?
    Go and hide beneath His shadow;
    This shall then be your reward;
    And whene’er you leave the silence
    Of that happy meeting-place,
    By the Spirit bear the image
    Of the Master in your face.

    1. nancy says:

      I love this!

    2. Peg says:

      So beautifully written thank you for sharing.

  5. Kristi says:

    I needed to read this today. I decided to read the entire story about Elijah and the Shunammite woman’s son in 2 Kings 4. I was intrigued by how the boy’s mother didn’t tell anyone about his death. Instead, she went to Elisha in faith and Elisha prayed. I was reading a blog post about that story and it made a point about how we should “run to the throne, not the phone.” This is something God has continually been trying to teach me. Yesterday was a rough day. A loved one of mine was feeling extremely discouraged and I felt like I didn’t know how to respond. As I was about to go to sleep last night, I felt like calling or messaging someone else about the situation. But instead I felt God saying no – “this is between you and Me.” So I prayed…and although the situation isn’t fixed, I can already see some parts of those prayers being answered. Just as Elisha did, I will continue to shut my door and pray, interceding for this sweet loved one and the many people who need to be covered in prayer. So thankful for this timely reminder of the power that lies in praying to our heavenly Father.

    1. Kristi says:

      Oops! Just realized I wrote Elijah instead of Elisha in my second sentence. I meant to type Elisha.

  6. Terri says:

    Just wanted to encourage you with a big answer to prayer. In one week my 2 sisters and I in 3 different situations were put in danger and great loss of property. One sister from Hurricaine Henry (water came up to her back door and stopped), One sister from Hurricane Irma (She’s in Naples 1/2 mile from airport with 142 MPH wind recorded) and me from a fire in Washington state (fire over ridge 15 miles away). None of had any damage to us or our property. My brother who has a mobile home in Estero, FL had very minimal damage to it. I’d say that was a miracle!!!

    1. truthseeker says:

      Our God is so great! Thank you for sharing this

    2. Emily says:

      That’s such a praise! God definitely has His hand of protection on your family!

  7. Tiffani says:

    On the way to work this morning as I take on a new position I felt the anxiety rising I then turned the radio off and made the decision to just Be Still. Not knowing the words to say because very rarely do I pray for myself…I was just quiet! Wow did I need this today and all the responses…Emmaus retreat (DeColores) so refreshing to see and hear other testimonies and know I am not the only one struggling with these issues. The reassurance of Gods Presence is AMAZING!! God is Good All the Time!
    Blessings and Prayers

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