When I was a young man, just out of school, I lived next door to a really nice family.  Living with them was their nephew, Alfie, who was in his late teens or perhaps early twenties. A huge man, a head taller than the tallest folks I had ever known, Alfie had a physique like Goliath.  He was one enormous individual!


But one day, Alfie took ill, and he got worse.  Mysteriously he grew worse still, and shortly thereafter, he passed away – of all the things imaginable, from malnutrition.  Alfie had the appetite of a horse, and he looked the part, but the food  with which Alfie gorged himself    had little or no nutritional value.  He failed to supply the fuel necessary to support his immense body, and as a result, he suffered the consequences of those poor choices. 


In order to thrive, our physical bodies must be sufficiently nourished, in the same way that a car needs fuel to keep running.  We require regular exercise as well, to remain fit and strong.  Then, we need sufficient rest, for repairs and restoration.  And of course, we must breathe … or we will die.


We can survive an occasional skipped meal, and we could dispense with exercise, if we don’t mind becoming “couch potatoes”.  It’s even possible for us to get by for a length of time with less than adequate sleep.  But,   have you ever tried to get along without breathing. Anybody every try it?  No?  You know, just about the time you get the hang of it, you fall over!  I’ve heard of professional divers who can, incredibly, hold their breath for several minutes. But it’s humanly impossible to go very long without breathing!


Spiritually, we have these exact same needs: We need to feed our souls on the nourishment of God’s Word – that’s the Bread of Life.  We need to exercise by walking in God’s counsel and sharing with others the Good News of the Gospel.  Then, it’s essential to rest –  we need to rest in all of God’s work on our behalf : He is our Creation, our Redeemer, the One Who Sanctifies us. He gave us the Sabbath for rest, refreshing, and restoration.


But by far our most critical need is spiritual deep-breathing – that’s prayer. Prayer is the very breath of the soul. Without prayer, just as without physical respiration we lose consciousness, we will die spiritually without prayer.  Opening our hearts in genuine prayer to our Maker is spiritual  respiration.


Thru the prophet Isaiah, God says: “… My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8.  God has made it possible for us to establish an open, two-way connection with Him, 24 / 7, through heaven’s hotline.


As I grew up, I was taught to read prayers from a prayer book.  These prayers, written years ago by other people, seldom expressed all that was weighing on my heart.  But as I became more familiar with the stories in the Bible, I noticed that the central figures – the most faithful of God’s servants – prayed from the heart, prayed conversationally, as though they were speaking to a person.  Actually, they were!  God is our Heavenly Father.  So I decided to do as they did.  What a difference it has made in my life!  And it can do the same for you, as well.


When the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus laid out this foundation: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in churches and on street corners, to be seen by others … But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, Who is unseen.  Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans; they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Don’t be like them  (Now listen)  for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  Matthew 6:6-8  NIV     Prayer doesn’t change God – prayer changes us!  Prayer leads us into a proper posture and a right relationship with Him.


Well, where do we begin   to learn to pray   so as to reach God’s heart?  Well, we learn most things by simply doing them.  I learned to pray by just doing it.  And you can do the same.  You are uniquely “you”, and God knows you thoroughly.  So why not speak with your Heavenly Father    in your very own words, straight from your innermost heart?


So, the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray”, and He gave them the blueprint.  Now, I believe that what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” was never intended by Jesus to actually be repeated verbatim, like a mechanical recitation.  I truly believe that what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” is actually a template, a pattern, a format that we can follow, to help organize and to present our most personal petitions to the Father above,  in an orderly, acceptable fashion.


Jesus told them, “Pray this way,” and He began, “Our Father Who is in heaven.”   We should address God directly, reverently.  “Hallowed (that is, holy)   is Your name.”  He is our Creator, the very Author of life and breath!


Take a moment here to praise Him, to thank Him for His love and providence, and for His many blessings, and for listening to your thoughts.  Then continue:


“May Your Kingdom come.” Pause here and ask Him to reveal how you can help to hasten His promised return, the restoration of all things,  and how you can share that Good News with those you meet throughout your day, so as to lead them to Him.


“May Your will be done in earth” – in my life, in my home, in all my affairs; in my speech, my thoughts, in all my associations and activities – “just as it is done in your Kingdom above.”  Remember the old classic hymn: “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way; Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”


“Give us today our daily bread” – our sustenance. God’s promise is that He will supply all of our needs. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  NIV.  We should always pray genuinely, meaningfully, earnestly, presenting to Him our personal needs and concerns.  One of God’s many names is “Jehovah-jirah” – “God, our Provider”.


We should ask Him also for strength of character, for a full measure of faith, and faithfulness;  for obedience and wisdom, genuine love for one another, mercy and grace to show toward others.  Ask for whatever it is that you may lack, and thank Him in advance, then, be willing to put it all to work for Him.


“Forgive us our debts, our trespasses, sins, our offenses, in the same manner, in the same proportion as we forgive others who hurt us, who use us, who are rude and unkind … (perhaps downright abusive?)  That is sobering, isn’t it!


Jesus told of a man who owed his king an enormous debt – let’s say it was something like $25K.  The debtor made such a heart-rending appeal to the king that he forgave the man of the debt.  But then, this ungrateful guy goes out into the city street and he comes across a man who owes him, say,   fifty bucks.  He lays hands on this guy and threatens to drag him into court if he doesn’t pay up immediately. The king, who had forgiven the man’s humongous debt, hears of his incredibly cruel treatment of his neighbor,  and   he reinstates the original amount of the debt, requiring now of this foolish man, all of it in its entirety.


You want to ask Him to forgive all sin – sin of commission, of omission; our thoughts, words, and deeds,   including skewed motives – perhaps even doing right things, but for wrong reasons! And ask Him for the gifts of mercy, grace, and forgiveness   toward others.  Take out all the trash,  leave it at the curb,  turn around 180 degrees, and walk away from it – and don’t ever look back!


“Lead us clear of temptation, and protect us from evil.”  This would be an excellent place to pray also   that He will protect you and your loved ones from sickness, from harm and danger, from the violence and the evil in this world; and keep you from slipping away in your relationship with the Him.


Ask Him to be your guardian, your guide, your protector and counselor in all your dealings and affairs.


Always pray in accordance with His will, and with His purpose for you today, always in harmony with His Word.  Submit yourself to His will, and commit to His plan and purpose for your life,   because He is Lord, and we are not!


When the Patriarch Daniel, in exile with the Nation of Israel, prayed for understanding and guidance, the angel, Gabriel, appeared before him, saying, “From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard.” Daniel 10:13   The Message


We must first become humble and submissive, teachable and willing to do what He asks of us – we should present ourselves to Him with a willing spirit.


In closing your prayer, praise Him again and thank Him for listening.  Ask Him for the indwelling,  the abiding,  of His Holy Spirit, and to give you access to the mind of Christ, as the Apostle Paul counseled the church at Corinth.


Conclude your prayer in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “… there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all …” I Tim 2:5, 6


And the Apostle John quotes Jesus, “I am the Way … No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6  NIV  “I am the Door.”


Again, in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “… whatever you ask the Father in My name,  He will give you … Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23  NKJV


Pray early.  Before embarking on a trip, isn’t it smart to first fill your fuel tank?  Pray early, at the beginning of each day.  Fill your tank with unleaded high-test!  King David, whom God calls “a man after My own heart”, testifies, O Lord, You are my God.  Early each day, I will seek You.”  Psalm 63:1


… and pray often.  II Timothy 5:17 advises, “Pray without ceasing”.  And in Luke 18:1-6, we find this intriguing example:  “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 And there was a widow in that town, who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”

4 ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out  with her persistence!” 

          6 ‘And Jesus said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.”’ NIV  (Could this be “the squeaky wheel” approach?)


The Bible speaks frequently of intercessory prayer – that’s prayer on behalf of others.  We should pray especially for those who stumble and fall, and for those who struggle.  Have you ever been “in the Valley”?  Sometimes, those who slip and fall are so overwhelmed that they just give up the fight.  Listen to Paul’s advice in his letter to the church at Galatia:  Paraphrasing Galatians 6, He says, “Even if someone is caught in the act, caught red-handed, those who are spiritually-minded should work to restore that fallen Brother or Sister… because the next time … it may be you.”  It may be you!  It could be me!


We should intercede for those who are in our hearts and on our minds  –  subjects of our concern.  Scripture teaches that when we do pray for another individual, we need to pray for his or her particular need … but we also need to pray:

1)   that the individual’s faith does not falter

2)   and that he or she will not fall prey to the adversary

3)   pray in accordance with God’s Word and with His plan for this person

4)   pray that God’s purpose will be fulfilled, and that His will be done

5)   pray continuously, in Jesus’ name, our Intercessor before the Throne of Grace

6)   and we should expect to receive fulfillment in God’s way, in God’s time.

7)   Thank Him for listening and hearing, and answering in His time and manner.


Scripture says we are to pray for our leaders and for all those in authority – whether we like them is irrelevant! You wouldn’t throw rocks at the driver of the bus you’re riding in – or the pilot of the plane you’re in!  So we need to be praying for wisdom and integrity for those who educate our children, for those who administer our judicial system, and particularly for those in government.


I Timothy 2:1, 2 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men,  for kings and all who are in authority …” That would include  Presidents, Governors, Mayors, pastors, judges, law enforcement officers, and what about employers and supervisors? 


There are prayers God will not hear.  Here are some obstacles, barriers:  The first is deliberate, conscious, open sin.  Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”  NIV


The prophet Micah 3:4  “… they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them … He will hide His face from them, because of the evil they have done.”   Take out the trash!


The second is neglectful indifference (shrug!)  Proverbs 28:9 “If one turns away his ear from hearing the Law,even his prayer is an abomination.” Proverbs 1:24-33  RSV


The next one is secret sin.  Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” NIV


The Epistle of James identifies the self-seeking prayer as one more barrier. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  James 4:3  NIV


And even the way we treat those in our family can present an obstacle to our prayers.  “You husbands … live with your wives in an understanding way … and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 NAS


God never identifies a problem without revealing its solution.  Here is the remedy:  Jeremiah 29:12, 13 “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” NAS


At times. my own personal prayer has been little more than a one-sided recitation, an uploading of personal requests and wants.  But, prayer is to be two-way – not simply  speaking unilaterally to God.  You want to     pause,      reflect,    and listen. “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10.   Pause … and allow Him to speak to you.


I cannot pray “Our Father” if I don’t demonstrate that relationship in my daily conduct.

I cannot pray “Who art in heaven” if heaven is not my true home, and I am just a stranger here.

I cannot pray “Hallowed be Thy name” if I, who am called by His name, am not permitting Him to do His work of sanctification in me.

I cannot pray “Thy Kingdom come” if my personal interests and pursuits are primarily in earthly things.

I cannot pray “Thy will be done” If I am unwilling to permit Him to direct my affairs.

I cannot pray “on earth at it is in heaven” unless I’m committed to His service right here, right now.

I cannot pray “Give us this day our daily bread” if I keep His blessing all to myself,  and am indifferent to the fundamental needs of those around me.

I cannot pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” if I hold a grudge or am not willing to forgive and show mercy to others.

I cannot pray “Lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot pray “Deliver us from evil” if I am not prepared to wear the whole armor of God, and fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer,

I cannot pray “Thine is the Kingdom” If I do not give my King the simple obedience of a loyal subject.

I cannot pray “… and the power …”  if I am fearful of what mortal man can do to me.

I cannot pray “… and the glory …“  if I am seeking foremost    my own crown of honor and praise.

I cannot pray “Forever” if I am not preparing right now for eternity with Him.

I cannot pray “Amen” unless I sincerely mean,”Whatever it takes, whatever the cost,           no turning back.  I’m in all the way!  Let it be so” AMEN!


2 Chron 7:14-16  “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  NIV


Open your heart   and speak plainly with your Maker,   from the very depths of your being, and, in your own words, express your thanksgiving and your praise. Tell Him your concerns, your needs and present your petitions, in the name of Jesus Christ, Who is your Intercessor, and your very own personal Mediator.


Psalm 63:11  … All those who put their trust in God will see His glory, while the mouths of doubters will be stopped.