Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). We are neither born with or miraculously endowed with a special knowledge of prayer and the ability to pray. Typically, we study the subject or we observe others and adopt their practices. If we are not careful, prayer can become more methodical and repetitive, and really lack the purpose, the depth, and the special connection with God that is intended. Maybe you have thought about your own private prayers and wondered why you felt like you were just talking to yourself, or just going through a religious ritual. Perhaps you have wondered if it possible to make a connection with prayer that gives it meaning and purpose in your life. I really believe that such is possible. If you are struggling with this, I would like to propose some structure to your prayers that will help you understand with clarity what you are doing when you pray. Try dividing the particulars of your prayers into four categories: prayers of healing, prayers of help, prayers of hope, and prayers of happiness. With these main categories identified, you can put each prayer concern into its respective category. Then, you have a central focus for each grouping of prayer concerns. This may help you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Give it a try.
In the “healing” category, list those who are ill or who are facing surgery. Your mind at this moment can be focused solely on God’s healing power and promises (James 5:14-15). Everything, at this moment is about the need for healing and the God who can provide healing.
In the “help” category, list individuals or situations wherein God’s help would really be beneficial. That may be a family that is dealing with difficult circumstances, a congregation struggling to overcome a challenge, or a person who’s health situation is not likely to improve, but who could use God’s help in enduring those circumstances. He is the God of all comfort and we have access to Him and should request His aid (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It may help my fervency in prayer to put all of these requests together and to lay them before God in a structured way.
In the “hope” category, list those matters that need to improve and that you hope will improve. It may be church growth, the success of an effort to get the gospel to our community, or even a relationship that is troubled. These are things about which I should be hopeful and not pessimistic (Romans 12:12). Focus and show God your hopefulness.
Finally, in the “happiness” category focus on reasons to be happy. We should not have to look far to find some (Psalm 68:19). Also, consider God’s answers to your prayers. It is helpful to follow your requests from start to finish; often you can. This will help you see why you are praying.
We all do things and wonder why we are doing them and if there is any value. Our attitude toward prayer should definitely not be that way.