Prayer does not come naturally or easily, it needs to be taught. Jesus gave his disciples the model of the Lord's Prayer (shown on the right, below the Series Index). We pray to God, our Father, who is holy, he is to be honoured. He is a king, king over the lives of Christians and all creation, and we ask for his rule to be effective here and now, for his will to be done. That may mean us changing, to pray 'thy will be done' can be very painful - remember it led Jesus to the cross.
The WOW Factor
It is appropriate then to begin our prayers with Adoration and worship of God for who he is, an element of 'Wow!' if you like. This may be easiest through remembering the words of one of the hymns of praise we sing like 'Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son', or through some of the names God is called in the Bible like 'wonderful counsellor, Father, prince of peace, mighty deliverer.'
Then as we recall who God is, we begin to reflect on who we are - as he is holy, so we are unholy, we are sinners. This leads us into Confession and Penitence, into saying sorry for things we have said and done which offend him and things we know we ought to have said and done but have not. 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' You might want to use the Kyrie Eleison, 'Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy', or the Orthodox Jesus Prayer, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
Take a look at Daniel's prayer in chapter 9: "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled... We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God."
Knowing that God graciously forgives us when we repent of our sins, leads us to thank him, to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. He provides for our daily needs, our food and drink, our homes and health, our friends and families, work and leisure, church, the beauty of the world around us. It is so easy for us to miss out on thanksgiving as we take so much for granted. What do you really appreciate about your life this day? Thank God for it. All you need to say is, 'Today, Lord, I want to thank you for...' Or, if you find it easier, picture it in your mind's eye.
Having said thank you, there are many things we want to say Please for. The majority of our prayers tend to be requests, supplication for ourselves - 'Give us this day our daily bread.' 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' and intercession for others. It is relatively easy to think of requests for ourselves and those closest to us, but we also pray 'thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' God is concerned about the whole of this planet and so should we be.
Patterns for Prayer
Common Worship provides a useful pattern for intercession on page 174. It consists of five sections: prayers for the church and its leaders; prayers for all in authority in this nation and every nation; prayers for our families and the local community; prayers for those who are sick and in need; and prayers in memory of those who have died and for those who mourn.
As mentioned earlier, prayer is work and work needs method. It is a good idea to keep a note of things and people to pray for. But remember to edit it and update it regularly. Pray with a newspaper open or after watching the news. Talk to God about what you have seen and about what concerns you. If you find it difficult to put into words, remember the pictures you have seen and lift them to God. 'Lord, look at this.' The weekly notice sheets usually contain some pointers for prayer. In your intercessions ask God to prompt you with prayer concerns. Remember that Jesus interceded both for his followers and his enemies, whilst Paul prayed both for Christians he knew and those he had never met.
To summarise then, a basic pattern of prayer is: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication: ACTS. Or, if you find it easier to remember: Wow! Sorry, Thank you, Please.