I recently met with a young woman who had just begun to follow Jesus. Her hunger to follow Jesus well and learn more was encouraging and refreshing. We talked about several things and I asked her if she had any other questions. She hesitated and quietly said, “Can you tell me how to pray?” This simple request melted my heart.

This sweet young lady wanted to communicate with her Savior and she wanted to do it well. She had been in church and observed many people praying from the stage and wondered how she could do it that way. I explained to her that there was no ‘right’ way to pray. In its simplest and most honest approach, prayer is just talking to Jesus –like the song of the same name.

I encouraged her to not emulate others in her prayer life. God has created her as a one-of-a-kind daughter and He loves her just the way He made her. Her voice, her words, her cadence, her personality, her mind, her emotions…these are uniquely her. God simply wants to hear from the real her. He desires a relationship with her.

The Bible tells us, “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Psalm 116:1-2 puts it this way, “I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my pleas. Because he has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” I love the mental image of the God of creation inclining His ear to hear from little ol’ me. In the same way that I will drop everything to hear from my children, God desires to hear from us, His children.

So, let’s put away the fancy words and the ‘Christian-ese’ and just talk to our Father as often as we can in a real way. (Christianese definition: ‘terms, jargon and religious terminology used in Christianity’.)

We can, and should, set aside specific times to pray and listen on a regular basis. There are times, though, when a quick shout out to heaven in the heat of a moment serves its purpose, too. Prayers can be out loud and in our head. Prayers can be for others and for ourselves. Prayers can be joyful, sad, or questioning. He hears them all.

I did share with my new friend that years of motherhood, and serving in Children’s Ministry, taught me we often approach God as we would a blessing vending machine. Every mom and dad know that the prayers of their small children are typically a heavenward wish list. We adults can get into that habit, too. I taught my kids a tool that is easy to remember as we learn to pray:  It’s PRAY.

P for PRAISE: The Bible tells us to, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise: Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4-5)

R for REPENTANCE: When we recognize that we are not obedient to Jesus, repentance is as easy as confessing our failure and making a plan to change.

A for ASK: This is when we pray for others. We talk to God about our family, friends, co-workers, community, government, world. This can be a long list. Pray for what and who is on your heart.

Y for YOURSELF: Finally, we seek God on our own behalf.

This PRAY tool is not a formula to follow, but a reminder that prayer is more than simply asking God for stuff.

The most important thing we can do is to establish a rhythm of prayer in our life. Get into a habit of talking to God on a regular basis. In the old days, our family only prayed before meals and at bedtime. As we matured in Christ, we tapped into the lifeline of talking to Him often.

The first time I read the apostle Paul’s verse to, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thes 5:16-18), I thought, ‘Yeah right, Paul. That’s not possible.’ But, decades later, I have learned to rely on frequent communication with my Father throughout each and every day. I need it. I need Him. And He wants to hear from me.

Today, I will be praying that those of you who read these words will discover their rhythm of prayer.


Sylvia Gaston is Connections Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at sylvia@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.