Carlyle wrote in a letter to a friend, “Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of the sould of man.”
William James wrote, “The reason why we do pray is simply that we cannot help praying.”
William Barclay wrote: “Prayer is not an acquired art; it is an instinct. In the times when life is too much for us, when we are strained beyond breaking-point, when we are tempted beyond the power to resist, when our minds are troubled, and our hearts are broken, then we pray.” And yet, the disciples felt the need for the Lord to teach them how to pray. Just as running is a natural activity that can be disciplined and developed, so we can learn how to pray.
Here are five “Laws of Prayer” that I have found helpful:
- God knows best. The purpose of prayer is not to change God but to change ourselves – to align our wills with the will of God. Do you remember the first part of Jesus’ model prayer? “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9, 10)
- God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. Don’t pray for enlightenment in order to skip the hard work of study. Rather, as you study ask God for understanding (James 1:5).
- Prayer moves within the natural laws that govern life. Bad things do happen to good people. Prayer gives us the power to thrive in the midst of adversity (Romans 5:3 ff.).
- We must be definite in prayer. Jesus warned us to avoid meaningless phrases and endless repetition (Matthew 6:7, 8). Prayer is not a mantra!
- We must be honest in prayer. We can’t lie to God and we shouldn’t lie to ourselves. That’s why confession is such a critical part of prayer.