I have come to believe that one of the major ways to tell if a person is a mature Believer versus an immature one is the manner in which they pray: how they pray, when they pray, and what they pray for.
For a couple of years I volunteered in a prayer ministry and I also attended a Sunday School and I heard many prayer requests and I heard and saw very little praise requests (also called praise reports). The stacks of requests for things like jobs, financial needs, relationship issues (including finding a mate), and healing were always large. Yet the stack with follow up praise reports or simple thanksgiving offerings were tiny. This was either because the individuals didnít feel it was necessary to praise of offer thanks for the answered prayers and met needs or perhaps those prayers were never answered, at least, not in the manner that they were looking for.
In any case, I often felt during those times Iíd go into pray that people were treating God like a vending machine of blessings. Insert a dollar and press D5 for a job or E2 for a husband or C8 for healing. Another way I saw it is that they treated God like a distant yet powerful and wealthy relative that they only bothered to call or write when they needed something.
Now there is nothing wrong with going to the Lord God with our requests. In fact, we should and we must rely on the Lord and not our own wisdom and strength in living our lives. However, there is a manner to rely on the Lord that doesnít leave us treating Him simply as some sort of Blessing ATM.
Jesus Christ gave us a model prayer and we Believers call it the Lordís Prayer. We recite it by rote all of the time during Church services and many times we fail to consider that this was simply a model for how to pray and that each item in that pray must be prayed in the order laid out by our Savior in order to be effective.
Before I get into each item, its order, and the purpose of both let me give two examples of a prayer by an immature Believer versus a prayer from a mature Believer and I will use the same need to illustrate the difference. Iím electing to use a request for a job as right now in our economy this is one of the most common type of prayer requests I see and hear:
Prayer for a job from an immature Believer:
ďDear Lord, I need a job really bad and I need it now. Please help me get a job as soon as You can so I can pay my bills and meet my familyís needs. Amen.Ē
Prayer for a job from a mature Believer:
ďHeavenly Father, I praise Your Holy Name. You are the only God and the King of kings. You are the Maker of all things and all things good come from You and You alone. I thank You today for always meeting my needs for I recognize You meet my every need in Your good timing and in Your perfect way. I thank You as my Creator for the wonderful way in which You made me, including my skills and abilities. I thank you for the opportunities and blessings to use those skills and abilities You have given me in the past and that You will give me again so that I can glorify You. (Matthew 6:9)
Father, I pray Your will be done in my life and the lives of my family in regards to our income and the manner in which our financial needs are met! (Matthew 6:10)
God, I come to you today requesting that You provide me with yet another opportunity to glorify Your name by means of a job. I ask you to put an opportunity in my path that is accordance to Your will for my life so that I may bless others with my witness, my time, and resources in accordance to Your commands. I pray for the right job in the right time and I thank You for I know You will see my job needs will be met. (Matthew 6:11)
I ask you to forgive me for those times in the past I wasnít thankful or appreciative of those previous jobs and that I failed to take advantage of opportunities to glorify You, witness for You, and bless others with both my time and resources by means of my career. I ask You to forgive those times I gossiped, slandered, complained, and was ungrateful for those jobs while I had them. I ask for forgiveness for not being the good steward with the resources my previous job provided. I repent of those things and dedicate my future job to You and glorifying You by being of service to my clients, co-workers, and bosses and in sharing my resources with as many people You put in my path to bless. I thank You for your grace, Father God. (Matthew 6:12)
I forgive my previous employers for their poor or ungodly business practices and for their poor stewardship, Lord. And I lift that business and every person still in that company in prayer that they will be blessed, Father. I pray for others who like me, no longer have a job in that company, that they too will find the right opportunity in the right time so they can take care of their families and financial needs. (Matthew 6:12)
Heavenly Father, I pray for the strength, wisdom, and faith in my financial matters and my job search. Guide me by means of Your Holy Spirit to do what is right so that Iím not tempted to take just any job that comes my way. Help me stay the course You desire of me and give me a steadfast spirit and help me to remain focused on what is truly important, glorifying You! (Matthew 6:13)
Huge difference isnít there? The immature Believer just goes right to Godís throne without acknowledging his or her God and without praise and thanksgiving. They get right to the request and thatís it.
The mature Believer acknowledges their God and praises and thanks Him before anything else! The mature Believer enters Godís courts with praise and thanksgiving! Make no mistake, when we pray to our God we are in a spiritual sense entering His courts!
The mature Believer acknowledges the need for Godís will to take place in all things, even in our perceived needs and confesses this and agrees with this.
The mature Believer makes his or her request in accordance with Godís will.
The mature Believer then repents of any sin that may stand in the way of having the request answered and forgives others in order to attain that forgiveness. This takes place late in the prayer so we remember that God has grace for us. We neednít get things ďrightĒ with Him first before we make a request for He truly loves us and has grace for us, but we must be right with Him and others in order for Him to meet it! He doesnít want us to repent and seek forgiveness simply because we want something from Him, so the request comes first, repentance comes later.
The mature Believer requests God to be with them, to guide them, and to protect them from anything that may lead them off the path in attaining that request or in their lives once that request is met. This is because to a mature Believer, what is most important is living a life that glorifies God and living the life He wants them too. This requires Godís wisdom and strength as we cannot do that on our own wisdom and power.
This is how a mature Believer prays when they have a request for themselves and/or others.
They acknowledge God and Who He is. (Matthew 6:9, Psalm 100)
They praise, thank, and revere Him. (Matthew 6:9, Psalm 47)
They request and agree that Godís will must prevail in all things, including the request. (Matthew 6:10, 1 John 5:14)
They make their request in faith! (Matthew 6:11, Hebrews 4:16)
They repent and ask forgiveness for any specific sin related to the request that may block it. This example didnít have anything to specific as a real prayer might (i.e., ďI repent and ask Your forgiveness Lord, for gossiping about my boss Joe and my co-workers Betty and Lucy who seemed to be Joeís favorites.Ē (Matthew 6:12, Psalm 34:18-19)
They forgive others. This prayer wasnít too specific as it was just an example, but a truly personal prayer might name names and offenses (i.e., ďI forgive Joe my boss for lying about me and getting me fired and I ask you to bless him and his family, Lord. And I forgive Betty and Lucy for helping him and ask you to bless them as well.Ē) (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 5:43-48, Proverbs 10:12 )
They then pray for God to protect them from temptation asking for His guidance and wisdom especially as it is related to the request. (Matthew 6:14, Psalm 119:33-40)
In short, mature Believers do not treat God like a blessing dispenser to check in and out with whenever they need or want something. They pray all the time even when there is no seeming need or want at all. They will praise and worship Him and show thankfulness always! And when there is a request, they still praise Him and thank Him first because that is what He deserves!
A couple of helpful hints if this type of praying is new to you is to get a concordance and to familiarize yourself with the Psalms. The Psalms are a treasure trove of scriptures showing how and what to praise God for and how to request things like wisdom, guidance, strength, steadfastness, even more faith! Of course, studying the Bible is a must as well so you are aware of what Godís will is on life matters such as finances, relationships, even healing. Effective prayer must have faith behind it. You must believe God hears you and will meet that need or needs even if you arenít sure when or how! The best way to pray effectively pray with faith is to use His Word (the Bible) in your prayers tailored and personalized to that specific person, entity (like a family, church, company, or country), and/or request. Hence why a concordance in order to look up scriptures specific to your needs is quite handy!
One side note, if youíve ever made a prayer request in a Church and that prayer was answered, one way to demonstrate you arenít just using God to get your needs and wants met is to follow up with a praise report. ďGod answered our prayers for a job for me. I got a great job last week and I want to praise and thank Him for meeting my and my familyís financial needs! God is good!Ē This goes a long way to treating God as we ought and it helps those who do pray for others in the prayer ministry, bolstering their faith as well!
I hope this blesses you today! May God bless you with continued wisdom and insight into His will for your life!