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Free in Christ: Individual prayer

“Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). Read how two Christians pour out their hearts to God in prayer.

A simple way to pray

Last year, I led a session at a Men of His Word conference in Phoenix called “A Simple Way for Men to Pray.” The year before, attendees suggested this topic, with many admitting they didn’t have a structured personal prayer life. They wanted to, but they weren’t sure how to start.

This isn’t a new problem. Martin Luther’s friend, Peter the Barber, asked for prayer guidance five hundred years ago. And even Jesus’ disciples faced the same challenge, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Luther encouraged making daily prayer a habit. He suggested making it the first activity of the day in a private, quiet place. Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer to show them how to align their hearts with God.

Whatever structure you choose, make prayer coupled with Bible reading a daily habit.

As I prepared the presentation, I found more than 650 prayers in the Bible. God has given us plenty of examples and tremendous freedom to construct our prayer lives in many ways.

Rather than try to cover them all, I chose to share my personal morning prayer routine. I use two simple scriptural references: Jesus’ petition, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10), and the tax collector’s prayer, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). These references set the right tone for my day, focusing on God’s will and recognizing my need for a Savior.

Here’s my daily prayer routine that I shared at the conference:

Time: Daily at 7 A.M., alone in my home study.

Method: Bible reading (10 minutes) followed by structured prayer (5 minutes).

Pray out loud: Saying the words out loud involves more senses and keeps me focused.

Use the ACTS format:

  • Acclaim God as Lord.
  • Confess sins.
  • Thank God for forgiveness and blessings through Christ.
  • Supplication, or bringing requests (mostly spiritual) in Jesus’ name.

This 15-minute routine helps me focus on the right things and avoid the trap of only asking for blessings. It forces me to focus on my relationship with God. I can confess my darkest sins to him, knowing that my sins are forgiven in Christ. There’s plenty of time throughout the day to ask for earthly blessings and intercessions.

I start with Bible reading because this is listening to God. It’s his means of grace. Prayer is talking to him. It’s part of my sanctified life. This sequence matters because it first grounds me in what God has done for me and then prepares me to respond in prayer appropriately.

Interestingly, the most feedback I received after the conference was on praying out loud. This is a practice I started ten years ago and has become my preferred way to connect with God, especially in this early-morning session. Several men have told me they have tried this approach and found it to be a tremendous blessing.

Still, all of this is just one way to pray. Most of the men’s conference participants adapted this structure to their own lives. Some have extended their Bible reading and prayer time as their schedules allow. Others tried this as-is to establish a new habit. The beauty lies in the flexibility and personalization of the practice.

Setting aside time to start your day with Bible reading (listening to God) and prayer (talking to God) is an incredible privilege. This conversation with your Creator will keep you focused on what’s really important. It helps you align your desires with his will and clearly see your status as a sinner saved by grace, prepared for sanctified living.

Whatever structure you choose, make prayer coupled with Bible reading a daily habit. It’ll soon become the best part of your day. What an awesome privilege to converse with the Creator of heaven and earth every day!

Thomas Bernthal

Learn more about Men of His Word.

Talking to my Father

Before we start: Sometimes praying comes easily, sometimes not so much. That’s why this article isn’t about how I feel about praying but about how I pray. I do not do these things because I’m awesome at praying. I do them to help me become better at praying.

It’s baffling that the holy God who lives in unapproachable light invites me to approach him boldly every single day with every single thing that’s on my mind and heart. He wants to hear it all: confessions, good news, laments, and requests. So since he invites me to pray and tells me that he hears and answers me, I don’t really have any good reason not to pray to him, right?

Yeah, but I know myself. I am not good at discipline, and my prayer life can easily become underwhelming. That’s why I have a structure that guides my morning prayers. (The list might seem long, but it really takes only a few minutes.)

After I’ve read my Bible, I open my inexpensive, nothing-fancy prayer journal. For me, writing the words keeps my mind from wandering. I pray about what I just read—rewriting a psalm or thinking how to apply God’s Word to my life. By talking about God’s words first, the rest of my prayers stay in perspective.

Then, I’ll look at the prayer board that hangs in my kitchen and lists “urgent” prayers. These are struggles that people I love are facing—the friend whose wife just died, the family member looking for work, or the person whose health isn’t so great.

The most important part isn’t what methods I use or when I pray. It’s simply that I am talking to my Father and my Father really is listening and answering and acting.

After that, I get out my list of “ordinary” prayers. I’ve assigned topics to specific days so that once a week I talk to God about family and friends; the places I work; the schools my children attend; the ministries close to my heart; and federal, state, and local governments.

Finally, I pull out my list of “character” prayers. When my kids were little, I chose 31 qualities I wanted to see God develop in them and prayed about one each day of the month. Though the kids are grown, I still want them (and my husband and me too!) to have these traits, so why stop now?

Then I go about my day.

But, obviously, things come up throughout the day. That’s when I’ll say what one of my high school teachers called “arrow” prayers—one-sentence prayers that thank God for good news or express awe at his goodness or ask him to intercede in a hard moment.

You might expect me to say I end my day with prayer. But, admittedly, I don’t. I am not a night owl, and I pretty much crash at bedtime. But through all of this, the most important part isn’t what methods I use or when I pray. It’s simply that I am talking to my Father and my Father really is listening and answering and acting—in his time; with his amazing grace, power, love, and mercy; for my good and his glory.

Linda Buxa

Author: Multiple authors
Volume 111, Number 06
Issue: June 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Free in Christ

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