By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Prayer can seem intimidating if we lack confidence that God will really listen to our prayers and answer them. We may see prayer as an obligation rather than an opportunity – and end up not praying much, then feeling guilty. If we learn to pray confidently, though, we can enjoy the process of praying, because we’ll wake up to God’s presence with us there.
What Does it Really Mean to Pray Confidently?
Praying confidently means trusting that God will meet us in prayer because he cares about us. 1 John 5:14-15 assures us that we can pray to our loving God with confidence: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” It’s possible to pray confidently because God will listen to us with love and answer us according to his will, which reflects his great wisdom and power.
All we need to do is show up, do our best to communicate with God, and then trust God to respond in the best ways and in the best timing. The more we devote ourselves to prayer, the more we can develop the trust we need to do so.
5 Ways We Can Learn to Pray Confidently
Here are 5 ways we can learn to pray confidently:
1. Approach God with reverence and humility. If any sin in our lives has distanced us from God, we may lack the confidence to pray. John 9:31 reveals, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” We should be reverent and humble when approaching our awesome God, confessing our sins and accepting God’s help and forgiveness so we’ll be able to come into his holy presence with a clear mind and an open heart. We can confess directly to God: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can also confess to our brothers and sisters in Christ: “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16). Once we’ve dealt with any sins we need to confess, we can be confident in approaching God with our prayers. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” 1 John 3:21 assures us.
2. Let go of formulas. We don’t need to worry about following any formulas when we pray. God will still accept our prayers if we don’t use formal language when we speak or if we don’t sit still with our eyes closed. God will still listen and respond if our thoughts are unorganized or our emotions are raw. God will meet us where we are when we simply pray naturally, and his Spirit will help us express what we’re truly longing to pray. As Romans 8:26 assures us, “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” We don’t need formulaic methods of praying; all we need is a genuine desire to communicate with God.
3. Try out creative possibilities. We can feel free to try praying in new ways that shake up our prayer routines. The creative possibilities for expressing our prayers are unlimited, and include writing, drawing, singing, and dancing. We can pray silently anytime and anywhere, such as while driving, walking, or cooking. What’s most important is that we pray in ways that truly get us excited about communicating with God. My book Wake Up to Wonder describes how to move from seeing prayer as an obligation (just one more task on a to-do list) to an opportunity. We have an opportunity to enjoy a wondrous encounter with God every time we pray. Getting excited about what awe-inspiring experiences we may have with God can motivate us to pray. Each time we’re encouraged by God’s wonder during prayer, we can grow more confident about communicating with God.
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4. Listen as well as talk. Prayer should be a two-sided conversation between us and God. So, after we talk to God, we need to listen to what God may have to say to us. God promises in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” By quieting our minds and focusing on hearing from God, we can discern messages that the Holy Spirit sends into our minds during prayer. It can be helpful to keep a prayer journal for recording whatever we sense God saying to us after we pray. The more we pay attention to God’s answers to our prayers, the more confidence we can build, because we can see that God is really responding.
5. Expect big answers from our great God. We can also develop more confidence as we pray by expanding our prayers. Rather than only praying small prayers (for situations that don’t require much help from God to change) pray big prayers (asking God to intervene in situations and do what only he can do). We can remove limitations from our prayers, keeping in mind that God “… is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Invite God to do something greater than what we can do ourselves, in each situation we present to God in prayer. Dare to ask for big answers from our big God! As Jesus encourages us in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
How Confident Prayer Changes Our Spiritual Lives
When we pray confidently, we’ll see our spiritual lives change for the better. Anxiety will decrease, and peace will increase, in our lives. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
When we’re confident during prayer, we’ll have the faith to pray for God’s best to happen, not just for what we want to happen. So, our prayers won’t be constrained by our limited perspective. By praying confidently, we’ll find ourselves praying for God’s will to be done instead of trying to convince God to follow our own plans. Those pure motives, fueled by confidence that we can trust God to do what’s best for us, welcome God to intervene powerfully in our lives.
Confident prayer also changes our spiritual lives by helping us persevere when praying through challenging situations and waiting for God to answer in the best timing. Praying confidently helps us follow Roman 12:12’s advice to, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Confidence helps us move beyond just praying one-time prayers for God’s help, and instead wrestle in prayer persistently, to see God’s power come into situations and transform them.
The ability to communicate with our Creator in prayer is a blessing that we can embrace with confidence. Learning to pray confidently will move us closer to our loving God who always wants to meet with us. As Hebrew 4:16 says, “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.” Let’s look forward to the wonder we can discover during our prayer times with God!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Made Suta/EyeEm
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter.