Scripture encourages us to be devoted to prayer (Col. 4:2) so teaching about prayer should be part of a Bible teacher’s agenda. Perhaps we’ll teach an entire lesson about praying or simply incorporate truths about prayer into other lessons. We’ll also teach by example as we turn to the Lord throughout the lesson, not just to begin or end a session.
Do Get Beyond the Mechanics of Praying When Teaching About Prayer
Using tools like the ACTS acrostic, the finger prayer, etc. can be helpful but teachers need to take students beyond the 1-2-3 steps of praying to the real essence of prayer — communing with God, our relationship with Him. It grows out of abiding in our Lord (Jn. 15:4-7). The objective in praying should be about connecting with God. That’s how praying will become more of a delight than a duty.
As with human relationships, to connect we need to communicate. When communicating with people, we don’t follow a set pattern each and every time we talk with them. Why would we put our relationship with God in a neat little box? We need to help students understand that praying is a matter of their hearts connecting with His. Our posture, words, and order of our prayers may vary in keeping with the need of the moment. The Bible doesn’t command a set formula for praying but rather that we “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18).
Notice how Psalm 62:8 encourages us to pour our hearts out to God. It doesn’t say think first about what to say and the order to say it in and then craft your thoughts out in a prayer to God.
The heart can be messy at times but that’s okay with God who wants us to be real with Him.
Don’t Get Hung Up on the Right Words to Say in Prayer
Perhaps you’ll want to use the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13) as a pattern for students on how to pray. And, that’s just what Jesus intended for it to be — a pattern. Right before giving that prayer, Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. … And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. …” (Matt. 6:5-8)
The danger of rote or even crafted prayer is that it can easily turn ritualistic. We soon fail to think about what we’re even saying. We need to help students enjoy authentic/genuine, heartfelt communication with God. We can do that by stressing how prayer is simply about pouring our hearts out to the God worthy of our trust (Ps. 62:8), love (Matt. 22:37), and adoration (Isa. 29:13).
Also, if students feel they need to be eloquent in the wording of their prayers, they will tend to have greater reticence in praying aloud in front of other people. They may become more conscientious about what people hear than what God hears.