Day 13: Seven Practical Steps to an Ongoing Conversation with Your Heavenly Father

Practical Steps to Prayer

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

“Powerful praying is not a matter of knowing the right words to say, rather it is having a heart that is at God’s disposal—open to hear His every sigh and whisper and to echo it in prayer.  As God mods your heart so that it matches His, your heart overflows in prayer.  What God has spoken in your innermost being guides your lips in prayer.”
~ Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Prayer is vital to a life marked by an intimate and fulfilling relationship with God.  We know this, but often we overcomplicate it.  Here are seven practical steps to having an ongoing conversation with Your Heavenly Father.

  1. Approach Him with Confidence

When we consider a perfect and holy God who knows every detail about us, it is natural to feel some resistance to coming before Him.  It’s easy to picture Him with a stern look of disappointment and a wagging finger.

God knows we are far from perfect.  His grace is great and His mercy is wide.  “Approach the throne of grace with confidence,” He says (Heb 4:16).  We are confident, not because of our own personality or accomplishments, but because Jesus exchanged the penalty of our screw-ups for His perfectly-lived life.

Know that God wants you to come to him.  If you sense anything saying telling you aren’t good enough to be in God’s presence or He doesn’t want you to come to Him, know that’s not the truth and run to Him anyway.

When Esther approached the king (who was also her husband), she feared for her life.  She and her supporters prayed fervently that the king would extend his golden scepter to her, thus sparing her life (Esther 4:11, 5:2).

We serve a much different king and need not be afraid to approach Him.  Read the verse that comes just before the one that tells us to approach Him boldly.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Know this, my friend—God always extends His golden scepter to you.  He will never turn you away.

  1. Just Talk

You don’t have to be able to string beautiful words together in well-constructed sentences to pray well.  There are no special words or necessary phrases you must include.  You don’t have to have a particular tone or articulation of speech.

Prayer is just talking to God.  You don’t have to be fancy.  Just talk to Him like you would a close friend.  All you need is a heart that longs to connect with God.  Words are just a medium to convey ideas.  Words can be beautiful, but they are also clumsy and inadequate—especially so when we are trying to talk about the weightier matters of life.

God hears your heart just fine even when your mouth trips and stumbles over the language.  And if you can’t find any words to express what’s bottled up inside you, that’s okay too.  Real prayer doesn’t need any words at all.  The Holy Spirit groans our prayers for us when we are weak and our words fail us (Romans 8:26).  In addition, Jesus is sitting right next to God and interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Isn’t that cool?  While we’re trying to have a conversation with one part of the Triune God, the other two are holding our hands and helping us out.  I love it!

  1. Be Honest

Don’t be afraid to get real, ugly, and honest before God.  He already knows everything anyway.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thought from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
Psalm 139: 1-4

Don’t think you are fooling Him for one minute.  He who is called the Ancient of Days is never shocked or surprised by what just happened today!

  1. Talk Often

It’s extremely difficult to have a meaningful relationship with someone you ignore most of the time.  If you had a friend who only called you when she got herself in a fix and you were her last resort, you would not have a close relationship with her.  You would feel used.

It requires discipline to make prayer a regular and consistent habit.  The enemy will try to distract us from prayer any way he can.

In addition to dedicated times set aside for prayer, God also wants us to have an ongoing conversation with Him all the time (1 Thess 5:17).  He longs for us to recognize Him as the constant companion He truly is.

Remember “amen” doesn’t mean “the end”.  We’re supposed to continue to live in the context of the connection we established.

  1. Don’t Forget to Listen

Have you ever been in a conversation that was monopolized by one person?  Of course you have.  You have waited for that other person to take a breath so you could make your point or make an excuse to leave.

We all know that effective communication is a two-way activity with every party contributing and receiving.  But for some reason, we forget that when it comes to prayer and we think it’s up to us to do all the talking.  Don’t feel pressured to keep the conversation going.  Consider the possibility that God is waiting for you to take a breath so He can have a turn to speak.

Listening-prayer is trickier than talking-prayer because God typically doesn’t speak to us audibly.  How do you “listen” to someone you can’t even hear?  God often talks to us through our thoughts.  When we are quiet and intentionally listening for Him, He will call to mind things He wants us to know.  It’s easy to miss His still, small voice because it often feels like our own thoughts.  He lives inside us and guides us from within.

There have been a few times in my life when I had a thought that was so outside my normal pattern of thinking that I knew beyond all doubt it had to be from God.  I have also experienced plenty of times when I begged God for direction and all I heard was crickets.  Most of the time, I have an inkling of what I think maybe God might be saying and I just keep asking and keep taking the next best step.  Eventually, I look back and realize God was leading me the whole time, but when I’m in the middle of it, I feel like I’m fumbling in the dark.

The primary way God speaks is through His Word, which we discussed yesterday.  My Bible study and prayer times have very fuzzy boundaries because I pray to understand what I’m reading and my reading leads me to pray about other stuff and before I know it, I’ve followed a bunch of rabbit trails through Scripture and prayer and writing and it’s time to wake the kids for school.

  1. Use Scripture

Which leads me to my next point—using  Scripture to pray.  I love to use Scripture to pray.  I feel confident praying God’s own words back to Him.  I figure I can’t mess up too bad if I stick to the words He gave me.  There is a psalm for every mood and those guys were honest!  They didn’t sugar coat their negative feelings or attempt to mute their praise.  They are all out, tell like it is prayers.  King David wrote many of the Psalms and he is called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).  If these prayers drew him closer to God they can help me draw closer too.

Paul also has a bunch of prayers included in his New Testament letters that are excellent guides to praying for yourself or others.  Here is a partial list to get you started.

Romans 15:5-6
Romans 15:13
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
2 Corinthians 16:23
2 Corinthians 2:14-16
2 Corinthians 13:7-9
Ephesians 1:15-23
Ephesians 3:14-21
Philippians 1:3-6
Philippians 1:9-11
Colossians 1:3-14
Colossians 4:2-4
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

The most common use of Scripture as a prayer is probably the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught us.  When the disciples said, “Teach us to pray”, Jesus gave them this model prayer.  Many of us have it memorized and can rattle it off pretty quick, but when was the last time you really thought about what each word and phrase really meant?

The Lord’s Prayer is a very dense prayer model, and by that I mean that He has packed a whole lot of content into a few simple sentences.  It’s easy enough for a child to memorize but rich enough to take a lifetime to unpack its meaning.

Stay tuned for a prayer guide based on the the Lord’s Prayer that I am developing.  I hope to offer it to you soon as a free printable to help guide your prayer time.

  1. Use Music

Finally, music is wonderful aid to prayer.  There are so many heartfelt hymns and contemporary Christian songs that are really just prayers set to music.  Songwriters are often able to express the thoughts and emotions rattling around in me that I was unable to name.  What a gift it is when they give us the words we didn’t even know we needed to express the longing we only faintly realized we had.  Worship music is a powerful way to pray.

What to expect

So after we approach the throne of grace with confidence, what happens next?   How can we expect God to respond?  Let’s look at the second half of the verse again.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

  1. Receive Mercy

We receive mercy—not judgement or condemnation for our condition, our failures, or our mistakes.  We do not receive what we deserve.  Somewhere deep inside we know that.  That’s why we are naturally uncomfortable in His presence.  He was tempted in the same ways we are.  He endured the same pain we do.  He “gets” us.  He knows how hard it is to be us and He gives us mercy in return.  Receive His mercy and soak it into your soul.

  1. Find Grace

We find grace.  We receive what we do not deserve.  Sometimes we miss the evidence of God’s grace in our lives because we aren’t paying attention.  Make it your habit to actively look for signs of grace all around you.  Expect God’s grace to show up.  Be a Grace-Seeker.  What has God done for you or been to you?  Where do you see Him at work?  What blessings do you have that you know you don’t deserve?

  1. Help In Our Time of Need

He won’t leave us stranded.  He will be our help in our time of need.  He is able.  He is willing (Luke 5:13).  His help may not come in the manner or timing we expect or desire, but we must keep the faith—His help will come.  God is wise enough to prioritize what we need over what we ask.  God is good enough to give us the gifts that are best for us (Luke 11:13).

So approach God’s throne with confidence.  Use whatever words you have and when they fall short, let the Holy Spirit groan for you.  Be real and visit His throne room often.  Don’t forget to listen.  Use Scripture and song to help you communicate.

Do this and you will receive mercy, find grace, and be helped in your time of need.  God said so.

Here are two versions of Bekah Shae’s beautiful song “Here in this Moment”.  The original version is very upbeat and fast-paced.  The candlelight remix is slower, softer, and more prayer-like.  I can’t choose a favorite.  I love them both!

Original Version

Candlelight Remix

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Blessings, Elizabeth

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