These one-word prayers can open the lines of communication between you and God.
Posted in , Feb 24, 2022
My mother was hospitalized with cancer the summer of my fourteenth year. Day after day, I knelt at a crude altar at a church camp in Missouri, desperate, begging God to heal my mother.
She died a few months later.
Prayer doesn’t always “work”: As hard or as much as we may pray, we don’t always receive the answer we want, the result we’ve been hoping for. God always answers prayer but not always in the way we’d like. This may be because our heart wasn’t right when we prayed. Or because the timing wasn’t right. Or because we were seeking our own will and not his.
Sometimes you don’t know how to pray. Your mind is muddled; your heart, heavy. When that happens, try one of the best prayers at any time: “How?” That is, “How should I pray? Should I speak? Should I listen? Cry? Or just wait?” This simple prayer always works, because its sensitive and submissive approach prepares us to pray rightly and well.
As Robert Benson wrote in his book Living Prayer: “I need to listen, listen for the prayer of God that is rising in my heart, perhaps for the prayer that I should be praying rather than the one that I am praying.”
You probably have a list of people you pray for regularly. God wants to hear those prayers from us, as he cares about all who are on our minds and hearts. But his Word also urges “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). So another prayer that works is “Who?”
In other words, “Who is on your mind and heart, Lord? Who should I be praying for right now? Who do you want to bring to my mind so that, through prayer, I can partner with you in what you want for that person?” Following this prayer with a few moments of silence will often amaze us with the names and faces God brings to mind.
Here is one more prayer that always works. We may rush into prayer with our minds made up as to what God should do in our lives. But this one-word prayerhelps us pause and do as Judah’s King Jehoshaphat counseled his northern counterpart: “First seek the counsel of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:5).”
Should I ask for healing or grace to endure (2 Corinthians 12:9)? Should I pray for deliverance or boldness (Acts 4:29)? Should I request a change in circumstance or attitude (Philippians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Praying “What?” can open our eyes to possibilities. It may even lead to a miracle or two.
These three one-word prayers require no special knowledge or skill—simply a few moments of sincere, submissive willingness. So why not try them? You’ll soon find your prayers working as they never have before.
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