Christianity is so much more than a professed religion. It's about more than your choice of churches to attend or holidays to celebrate. Christianity is a lifestyle. And being a Christian is more than a label. Being a Christian begins with a decision you make. You decide to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But Christianity is not just a one-time event. It's worked out every single day of your life.
When you decide to adopt the lifestyle of a Christian, one of the first things you have to learn is that you will have problems you can't solve by yourself. And you will also learn that there are some things that are beyond your understanding and control. You have to let go of those things and turn them over to God. Turning your cares over to God is the very essence of prayer. And it is one of the basic elements in the life of a Christian.
It's easy to become intimidated by the prospect of prayer, particularly for a new Christian. You can mistakenly believe that prayer is about long periods of time spent on your knees, intensely crying out to God. Certainly, prayer can be like that, but it doesn't have to be.
The most effective prayers are usually the simple prayers. Prayers don't have to be eloquent or spoken in the "King James Version" with a bunch of "thees" and "thous." Prayer doesn't get better or more effective when it's longer. And prayer doesn't get better or more potent if it's louder or you're on your knees or closing your eyes with folded hands.
The danger, of course, is falling into the trap of trying to impress other people or God. By this I mean using language that we would never use anywhere else, wanting to sound or look "spiritual." And that's just silly.
Prayer is not about those outward "postures," and it's not about the length of time or the language or loudness of the voice. Simple, effective prayer is about the sincerity of the heart. It is prayer that's prayed with your whole heart.
Simple prayer isn't laborious. Prayer is supposed to come much more naturally than that…almost like breathing. You don't consciously think, "I've got to take a breath." You just do it. In the lifestyle of a Christian, prayer should be the same way.
Setting aside a special time for prayer each day is important. I believe it's important to pray first thing in the morning—dedicating yourself and your day to God. But to just pray in the morning and then forget about your relationship with Him for the rest of the day is like going to church on Sunday and forgetting about God for the rest of the week. Remember, God wants a relationship with us. And you build strong relationships by spending consistent, quality time together.
James 4:1-2 says, What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask (The Amplified Bible).
That whole passage is so good. But the main point I want to show you is the very last sentence: You do not have, because you do not ask. In so many cases, it's just that simple. You don't have because you don't ask. You don't have the kind of life you want because you are not asking God to be involved in any way. You are not allowing Him to be a very real, very vital part of your life.
Prayer—the best, most effective prayer—is simple conversation with God. It needs to be just you, sharing your life, your cares and concerns, your heartfelt desires and needs, with the God who knows you best and loves you most. When you begin to pray like that, it will become a natural part of your lifestyle...just like taking a breath.