Prayer: How to Begin

Although completely overlooked in our daily rush through life and drastically underestimated in comparison to our modern advantages, the greatest thing we will ever do in our life is to pray. That is not simply a Christian overstatement in order to please God or to sound super-spiritual. If we stopped for just a moment and seriously considered what prayer actually is then we’d shutter in humility at how often we take this great privilege for granted. In the words of the great Welsh preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, prayer “is the highest activity of the human soul.”  

Now, if we understand prayer as the greatest thing that we will ever do in this life then we shouldn’t be too surprised that prayer often seems difficult to do and to do rightly. In his prayer for the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul provides us with some good insights on how we ought to pray.

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him." (Ephesians 1:16-17)

In looking at the way he begins this prayer, we can make a few helpful observations on how we should begin our own times of prayer. 

We might notice that Paul begins his prayer by offering thanksgiving and acknowledging who he’s now speaking with. In identifying God as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Father of glory” (v. 17), Paul is taking a time-out to take in the greatness of the God to whom he is now speaking.

Perhaps there is nothing that will help us more in our difficulty with prayer than to stop as soon as we start and seriously consider what we’re doing and who we are speaking with.

Do we find ourselves more often than not rushing into the presence of God in order to offer a hurried request?

If we considered what we were doing then we would certainly not do it so casually. Scripture warns us to guard our steps when we approach the presence of God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-5).

We must begin our prayers by recognizing and realizing what it is we are actually doing.  

As the apostle points out, we are praying to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Father of glory” (v. 17). We aren’t praying to an unknown God, but rather a God who has made Himself known and revealed Himself to us in a very particular way. We are praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has made Himself known and knowable through His covenants, His people, His word and His redemptive work through His Son and our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

This means that we don’t have to come before God with uncertainties as to who He is and how He might respond to us. We can come before God with confidence and assurance knowing that we have peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ who graciously brings us into His presence (Romans 5:1).       

Through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have access by faith to the “Father of glory”. We have been granted access to approach the same God whose presence made Moses hide his face in fear, Isaiah cry out for his life and John to fall on his face as if he was dead (Exodus 3; Isaiah 6; Revelation 1). The Son of God has secured us as adopted sons of God and has told us to now address the Almighty God of Glory as, “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). 

The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.”
— Timothy Keller

Are we aware of what is truly taking place each time we bow our head in prayer? Have we carefully considered what a privilege it is to pray? May we begin our prayers with thanksgiving and recognize that it is only through the gracious work of our Lord Jesus Christ that we can even begin to approach the Almighty God of Glory and dare to call Him “Our Father”.