Do I Need to Follow a Pattern While Praying?

Following the structure and topics of the biblical prayers is a good practice.

Consider this: we find many prayers in the Bible, but we don’t find any texts that say, “You must pray according to this pattern.” The closest we get is the Lord’s Prayer. Teaching His disciples how to pray, our Lord prefaced the prayer by saying, “When you pray, say . . .” (Luke 11:1–4), and, “Pray then like this . . .” (Matt. 6:9–13). Christians have recognized for centuries that this means Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern, as an example of the kinds of things we should pray about.

 

I find prayer difficult. It’s not that I don’t want to pray; rather, I find prayer to be a hard practice. My mind is prone to wander while I pray. Sometimes my prayers become laundry lists of things that I would like God to give me or my friends and family. So, I’ve done just about everything I can to make prayer simpler. I have practiced prayer, read books on prayer, and attended classes on prayer.

But do you know what has helped me the most? Following a pattern for prayer.

My task is to answer the question, “Do I need to follow a pattern while praying?” As I look through the Scriptures for God’s teaching on prayer, I have to respond, “No, but . . .”

Consider this: we find many prayers in the Bible, but we don’t find any texts that say, “You must pray according to this pattern.” The closest we get is the Lord’s Prayer. Teaching His disciples how to pray, our Lord prefaced the prayer by saying, “When you pray, say . . .” (Luke 11:1–4), and, “Pray then like this . . .” (Matt. 6:9–13). Christians have recognized for centuries that this means Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern, as an example of the kinds of things we should pray about. But the Apostles didn’t always follow this exact model. Several Apostolic prayers don’t conform to this pattern but include only select elements of it (e.g., Eph. 3:14–21Jude 24–25). And when we look to the Old Testament, we find many different kinds of prayers. For instance, the book of Psalms features many different prayers, though they can be grouped into several categories.

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