how i am learning to pray better

How would your prayers change if someone in your household was diagnosed with stage-whatever-something? If you were facing financial poverty? If a family close to you was breaking down? 

How would your tone change? Your choice of words? The frequency? Your posture? Their duration?

An incredible young family (here for Dad and here for Mom) is opening my eyes about how I pray. We are wading through things right now but we are not in a season of crisis. Not by a long shot. But within my arm's reach are many who are. And people ask me to pray for them or I offer to, all the time. It's what good Christians do for each other, right? I am discovering the need for deep, well-prayed prayers. Ones that stick. Ones that are worthy to be offered to a Guy who created the entire universe.

Don't mistake this for religion. This is not about tight form, but I do recognize holes and shallowness in my end of the dialogue.

I bounced around Nehemiah this week (next prayer: Jesus, please help me, I suck at the Old Testament) and am smitten by the prayers in chapters 1 and 9. The Jews are in distress, as the book's opening lines understatedly describe. I see two major components of these prayers. First, they are saturated with truths about who God is and what He does. 

And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, (‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬)

Next, there is confession of our sinful nature.

They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (‭Nehemiah‬ ‭9‬:‭17)

Sometimes I misinterpret my relationship with God, treating Him like a holy ATM with my mindless button-pressing kind of prayers. I still have so much to learn, but so far I know this: moving away from recited prayer can lean towards conversation, but it must still come from a place of humility and a desire to worship. If I am going to ask God for things for myself or for others who ask for my intercession, I need to declare that I know what He is capable of (and I find that all in Scripture, so I gotta get in there more), with the desperation of knowing that I can't do it in my own power.