There are two different types of prayer, formal and informal, and unfortunately there aren’t enough Christians who have gotten rid of the formal style in their personal walks with Jesus in order to adopt the more relationship-building informal style. If you’re still praying formally, it is no fault of your own. From Church, to Christian radio, to our own personal mentors, the formal style of prayer is still predominately the way Christians are taught and learn.
From believers to non-believers, everyone has heard a formal prayer. It’s the type of prayer that’s typically led by one person out loud in a group setting, whether it be a pastor praying over a congregation, or a father praying over the food at dinner time. It’s a formalrequest and petition to God made by one person, on behalf of all present, in agreeance of all that was mentioned.
So why would you pray like this when you’re alone? The answer is, you shouldn’t.
The bible teaches Jesus Christ is not only our Heavenly Father, but also our friend. Therefore, you should ask yourself, would I be so formal with a best friend or a close parent? When you pray by yourself, no matter where you are, the only two people present are you and God. It’s a special relaxed encounter that should be treated just as if you’re speaking to someone very close to you.
Now take that person you have in mind of which you’re especially close. If they were to come over for dinner and they stepped through your front door, would you greet them formally like this?
“Dear Wonderful Friend,
Thank you for showing up tonight.
I ask that you come inside.
I pray you had a safe drive over.
I pray you had a good day today.
I hope this dinner is a blessing unto you.
I pray your family is doing well.
I hope you’re in good health.
No! It would be weird, awkward, and they would turn around and drive away quickly.
In reality, you would simply have a friendly relaxed conversation with them. You would talk about each other’s day. You would talk about your ambitions, hopes, dreams, what you’re planning to do next week, etc. That’s all informal prayer is, a real conversationwith Jesus. In First Thessalonians 5:17, it says, “Pray without ceasing.” This is impossible to do with formal prayer, because once all the requests and petitions are finished, the prayer is finished. With informal prayer, this verse is easy to achieve because it’s a conversation rather than a list of requests. Think about how many times we’ve spent hours on the phone with someone having an awesome conversation. We talked without ceasing, just as Jesus describes to pray without ceasing.
So how we practice informal prayer? There’s 3 easy steps to began before each informal prayer, and after these are done, the informal conversation between you and God should flow easily.
- Ask Forgiveness
Before any prayer, I make it a habit to ask God for forgiveness for any sins I’ve committed before the prayer. The reason is because the bible says any sins we’ve committed, we’ve committed against God, and since God is our friend, just like my earthly friends, if I’ve offended them, I want to apologize and clear the air to make sure we’re on good terms before we hang out. Conversations between friends are always better when both parties are lighthearted.
- Give Thanks
I thank Jesus for the life He’s given me to see another day. Proverbs 27:1 says we don’t know what each day brings forth, therefore, no one can be certain they’re going to wake up alive. So each day God gives me I thank Him for. Imagine, each day your best friend leaves a present on your bed for you to open when you wake up. That’s exactly what God does, each day His breath of Life is given to us. So thank Jesus for it.
- Just Talk
Romans 8 details that God knows our heart and Spirit even if we don’t speak, so say anything and everything like He’s sitting right in front of you. This is where the heart of the informality begins. There’s no reason to be embarrassed to say something to God because He knows everything already. You can start off with your big items in life, but the important part is moving from requests to conversation. Sometimes, just changing the structure of your requests is enough to turn your formal prayer into an informal conversation. Take the prayer from above. Informally it might sound like this:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for being a better friend to me than I am to you. I’m sorry about that. Forgive me for going against your Word. Help me do better going forward. Thanks for always being there for me and showing up when I call your name. I know sometimes it feels like you’re farther away than you actually are, hopefully we can close that gap so I can feel your Spirit living inside me like your Word says. I’m alive and talking to you, so thanks for keeping me safe today. This world is crazy, and the fact I’m still alive is all thanks to you. I appreciate that. Your Word says I’m still alive for a reason, so help me fulfil what that reason is. It’s funny I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to eat today, but I’m just happy you’ve given me the ability to have options. There’s so many people starving, but I’m doing well in that regard. Everyone that’s still in my life I’m grateful for, help me to be a good influence in their lives. I’m in good health all things considered. If I need to take better care of this temple you’ve given me, let me know so I can do so.”
All the same things were said, but the informal version is much better relationally between two people.
Informal prayer will take practice. I’ve been practicing for years but I still catch myself reverting back to the formal style in my one-on-one’s with Christ. It’ll take time, but it’s well worth it to learn. Formal prayer is great in group settings, but if you want to take your relationship with Jesus to the next wonderful level, I encourage you to practice informal prayer. You will immediately begin to notice positive change in your outlook on life, your attitude, and your relationship with God. You will feel happier, have more faith in your prayer, and begin to open your eyes to more blessings in your life. So remember, clear the air with God, give Him thanks, and talk to Him like the friend He is!
Thanks for reading!
— The Christian Realist