My mind kept wandering. I wasn’t going to make it through this prayer meeting. Prayer after lengthy prayer covered everything mentioned during request time. On my knees, with my head in my arms, I was fighting sleep. I only held passionate interest in two or three of the issues being prayed about. Was I just a sluggard? A weak Christian, bored with the goings-on?
No. I had run smack dab into the middle of a prayer meeting filled with “list pray-ers” and people with the gift of mercy.
For many of us, growth in our prayer lives comes slowly because we never learn a basic truth about prayer. Just as our individual personalities differ, so should our prayer styles differ.
Just as our spiritual gifts differ, so will those different gifts affect the way we pray. There is no “one size fits all” style when it comes to prayer.
Some people are very emotional when they pray. They seem to pour their hearts into the issue at hand. They pray passionately, often with tears or with great dramatics in their voice. But is that the model for all of us? Do we know we’ve arrived when we can pray like that?
Others need to have a list in front of them. They make sure they cover everything. When they pray in a group, if it appears someone’s request was missed, they’ll jump back in and remember it. Still other individuals pray almost militantly, seeming to rebuke Satan and demons almost as much as they address God.
Some believers pray almost exclusively using Scripture. They base their prayers on the Psalms or on the Lord’s Prayer. Others carry on a two-way conversation, saying something, then waiting for an answer, talking, listening, talking, listening. Some can only pray short thoughts; others pray for minutes—even hours—on end. Many believers often pray using a spiritual language or “tongues.” They often don’t even understand exactly what they are praying.
And different cultures often pray in different ways. Some ethnic believers, when in a group prayer meeting, all pray at one time. Many Korean and African-American churches pray this way. I recall the struggle one of our designers had with our staff prayer times at NavPress. She had come to Christ through the ministry of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a church where everyone raises their voices in prayer at the same time. We staid, Caucasian evangelicals were only used to praying one at a time. She tried to change us, but to no avail. Two styles had collided.
Is One Style Correct?
But is one of these styles the correct one? Should we force ourselves into it? No!
As you grow in prayer, you need to find your prayer style and then primarily develop that style. Does that mean you should never pray another way or that you should refuse to pray with people who pray in another style? Certainly not. Learning to appreciate prayer diversity is beneficial both to us individually and to the unity of the church. We all need to continually fight being in a box or a rut in regard to prayer. I always recommend that believers try new things with prayer—new methods, new subjects, new locations. Anything that can keep prayer fresh and invigorating.
So how do we find our style?
We will get into that in next week’s “Prayer Hacks.” Just know today, there is no one correct way to pray. We all pray differently and that is okay!
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