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Time in Prayer

Prayer is more than talking to God. It's also listening to God and learning from God. Prayer is a conversation with your heavenly Father.

Prayer is maybe both the simplest and most mysterious part of discipleship. At its core, prayer is simply talking to God and listening to God. Those two things are the bookends of prayer. But between those bookends are all kinds of questions like these:

  • How does a person talk to God? (Standing? Kneeling? Out loud? In unison with others?)
  • What does a person talk to God about? (Disappointments? Hopes? Confusion? Thankfulness?)
  • When and where does a person talk to God? (At home? At church? At school? At work? In the morning? Before meals? Before bed?)

And also these:

  • How does a person listen to God? (With their ears? Their mind? Their heart?)
  • What does God’s voice sound like? (Audible? Whisper? Nudging in the soul? Written words? Other people?)
  • When and where does God speak? (Only when I’m praying? After I’ve prayed for a certain length of time? At home? At church?)

Prayer is not limited to a specific time, place, style, or script. Really the only guidelines for prayer in the Bible are that it be simple and direct (as modeled in the Lord’s prayer), that it be often (“pray on all occasions”), and that it be sincere and humble (as seen in the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector).

An Amazon search for “prayer” pulls up more than 60,000 items. There are lots of ideas and "experts" and guidance on prayer. Some are probably helpful. Some are probably nonsense.

Though it doesn’t provide a neat and tidy indexed “how-to” section on prayer, the Bible offers lots of guidance, wisdom, and examples. If you want to be a praying person — and every follower of Jesus is called to be a praying person — the best place to learn more about it is in God’s Word and then by actually doing it.

Warm-Up

Begin with a conversation starter,​ then use some of these warm-up questions.

  • On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest) how would you rank yourself as a praying person? Why?
  • On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest) how would you rank your prayer confidence? Why?
  • What positive prayer experiences have you had? (Maybe God didn't answer the way you hoped, but you still felt heard and comforted.)
  • What struggles or questions do you have about prayer?
  • Why do you think prayer is important for people who follow Jesus?

Read & Reflect

Use one or more of these passages to see what Scripture says about spending time in God’s Word. You can also engage with the passage by copying out part of it, rewriting it as a prayer, rephrasing it as its opposite, summarizing it with a single word or phrase, making a list or chart of similar and dissimilar things, or turning it into something visual like a doodle, design, or flowchart.

Jesus' Example

Read Matthew 14:13-23 (Jesus blesses food then prays alone) or Luke 22:39-46 (Jesus prays in a garden).

  • What general things do you learn about prayer from this story?
  • If you pray for meals, what does that look like? If you've prayed during a really difficult time, what was that like? What did you say to God?
  • What things about Jesus’ words or actions might be an example for you to follow?
  • What would that look like in your own life?

Positive and Negative Example

Read Luke 18:9-14 (parable of the Pharisee and tax-collector)

  • How might you retell this parable with a modern twist, relevant to your context?
  • What do you think Jesus would say is the "wrong" kind of praying and the "right" kind of praying?
  • What is one specific idea or truth you see in this parable that will impact your own life of prayer?

Teaching Example

Read Matthew 6:9-18 (Jesus teaches about prayer).

  • List the different topics Jesus includes in this prayer. Why do you think he included these things? Why do you think he didn't include other things?
  • Does anything surprise you about how Jesus told his followers to pray? If so, why?
  • What is one major takeaway about prayer from this passage?

Some Ideas About How to Spend Time in Prayer

  • Start each day with a short prayer asking God to be with you and thanking him for something in your life. You could do this at the same time each day like while making your bed, getting dressed, or brushing your teeth.
  • Pray each time you begin reading the Bible, asking God to be present and teach you.
  • Pray a Bible passage by turning it into a simple prayer, like this: “Dear God, help me to trust you fully, in everything I do and say” (Proverbs 3:5).
  • Pray at a specific prompt of your choice, for example each time you see a bird, each time you hear a certain sound, when you walk out the front door or into class, or something else like that.
  • Pray slowly by writing your prayers in a journal. This also allows you to go back and remember your prayers and write down how God answers them.
  • Pray before each meal, thanking God for the gift of food.
  • Pray at the end of each day, thanking God for how he loved, guided, protected, and comforted you.
  • Learn more about prayer at this BibleApp reading plan.

 

Student Card

Capernaum Version

More verses about spending time in prayer

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you​ and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God​ for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. (Psalm 18:6)

The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

[The believers] all met together and were constantly united in prayer. (Acts 1:14a)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, when we don’t know what God wants us to pray for, the Holy Spirit prays for us​ with groanings that can’t be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26-27)

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. (Romans 12:12)

Devote yourselves to prayer​ with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Philippians 4:2)

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. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Devote yourselves to prayer​ with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4:2)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other​ so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2103 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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