Disclaimer: I’m still a learner, and most definitely not an expert on praying.
1. The only real mistake we can make in prayer is in not praying.
If we pray earnestly, almost anything we do is better than not praying. After all, no father rejects the child’s plea because she did not use the right words or form. He welcomes his child into his arms.
Someone has said, “Nothing never happens when we pray.”
2. No matter how much you pray, you will never be completely satisfied with your prayer life.
You will always feel the goal is out there beyond you somewhere. We must work against perfectionism, that mental disease that convinces us because we’re not doing something perfectly, that we should stop it altogether. No matter how ineffective you think your prayers are, believe that they matter to God and keep on praying.
3. The Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer.
Romans 8:26 assures us “He helps us in our weakness because we do not know how to pray.” The Greek word translated “helps” is a compound Greek verb “synantilambanomai.” The “syn” means “together, with us.” The “anti” means “opposite to, in front of.” And the “lambanomai” is a form of the verb “to lift.” Together they tell us the Holy Spirit gets on the other end of our task, opposite to us, and together with us lifts the burden. He does not do this in our place, but works with us.
4. Keep on praying.
Persistence in prayer is taught so many times in Scripture. My favorite is blind Bartimaeus in Luke 18. Let nothing stop you from praying. Not your own inadequacy (of which there is much), your own needs (which can be overwhelming), not your fears (which never tire of assaulting you), and most definitely not other people (discouragement is all around us). Just keep at it.
5. Our emotions and feelings are irrelevant to effective praying.
We need to rescue our prayer life from bondage to our emotions. You know, “I don’t feel like my prayers go beyond the ceiling,” or “I don’t feel like praying today.” When you turn to the Father in prayer, how you feel has nothing to do with anything. Pray anyway.
6. Heaven places the same value on our prayers that we do.
If it matters to us, it matters to our Heavenly Father. The widow’s mite did not mean much to anyone else in the Temple that day, but because it mattered a great deal to her, it was precious to the Father. This principle holds true for our prayers, our offerings, and anything else we give to the Lord: when it arrives in Heaven, it carries the same value there we placed on it here.
7. Throw away your clock.
Jesus said it’s the heathen who think they will be heard for their much speaking. The goal in our prayertime is to be real, to touch Heaven, and not to log so much time. Think how insulted your sweetheart would be if you brought along a clock on your next visit, and you kept looking at it to see how much time had gone by so you could feel good about the investment you were making in the relationship. How much time you spend in prayer has little to do with anything. This assumes, of course, that you are spending some quality time with Him each day in prayer.
8. It’s not necessary to know the will of God in order to ask for something.
Go ahead and ask for healing, for that new job, for this blessing, or that condition to change. What if it’s not the will of God? Then, friend, He won’t do it.
Do not think you are tying God’s hands by your prayers. That’s why Jesus ended His prayer in Gethsemane with “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” He taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
My job is to ask. It’s the Father’s place to sort things out and decide what He wishes to answer and grant.
9. There is a mystery involved whenever we come into the presence of God.
We are kneeling before the Almighty Sovereign God, Lord of the universe. Be quiet. Be still. Get alone with Him. Humble yourself. Wait on Him. Respect Him as having sense and quit insulting Him with your pet memorized phrases. Tell Him the truth, what you’ve been up to and what you’re thinking now. Tell Him what blesses you about Him, and what areas of your life you need particular help with.
Jesus said He already knows our needs before we ask, but He likes to see if we have figured things out too. So, go ahead and make your requests to Him.
Whatever answer comes, accept that as His will, at least for the time being. And keep on praying.
10. Always keep paper and pen handy when you are praying.
My experience is that when you come into the Father’s presence in prayer, He will frequently call your attention to something He wants you to know or do. He may tell you someone to see, something to do, someone to call, something to forgive, a verse to look up, a text to remember, a debt to pay, or a neighbor to help. Write it down. Then, go back to your prayer. Expect to receive from Him every time you turn to Him in prayer.
When I was a kid on the Alabama farm, times were hard and surprises were rare. But we were always glad when our uncle Johnny Chadwick drove up from Birmingham. He was a police officer with the city and was forever meeting interesting people, getting challenging ideas, and having things given to him. He would bring up day old cakes and pies from bakeries. He once brought me an old used bicycle, the first I’d ever owned. Once he arrived with a truckload of calves which it became my assignment to feed before and after school. He never came empty-handed. We were always eager to meet Uncle Johnny.
How much more when we come to pray, entering into the very presence of the loving Heavenly Father, should we be eager and expectant about what is about to happen.
(At a future time, I’ll list my most recent “10 lessons learned about prayer.” I’m still working on that list.)