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How to Pray When You Don’t Know How to Pray

This is being written the morning of September 12, 2001. There is still much that we don't know about the events that took place yesterday. However, we do know that God is still on His throne, His promises are still true and He is still sovereign. I've already heard many people express a sense of helplessness. While it's easy for us to focus on what we can't do, there is one thing that all of us CAN do that can make a huge difference. That one thing is for us to pray. God tells us to, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things . . .” (Jeremiah 33:3).

For 13 years we raised our three sons only a few miles from Columbine High School. When that tragedy struck, it forever changed the students who were there that day as well as the minds and hearts of hundreds of thousands who were touched by it. I've heard that the Chinese word for crisis is a combination of two different symbols. One symbol stands for danger and the other symbol stands for opportunity. Indeed, any crisis is a time of both danger and opportunity.

As Christians we have a unique opportunity to rise up and stand in the gap. Those who carried out this atrocious act had enough faith in their “god” to be willing to kill themselves and thousands of helpless and innocent people for what they believed in. This is the time for those of us who claim to be people of faith, who worship the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who sent his only begotten son to live and die a brutal, senseless death only to rise again victorious over death, to practice what we preach and to fall on our knees.

For several years I have subscribed to Pray! Magazine, a publication dedicated to encouraging a passion for prayer. The morning after the church shooting in Fort Worth that took place several years ago, the staff of Pray! Magazine gathered to pray. Like most of us today, they found it difficult to make sense of that tragedy and weren't sure exactly how to pray. Over time they found themselves praying some of the things listed below. Most of what I share with you here is taken from the article that appeared in the Nov/Dec 1999 issue titled, “Praying for ‘Senseless' Tragedies.” If you're not sure how to pray, here's a great place to start.


Praise God that He is sovereign, that he has ultimate control over all, and that nothing takes Him by surprise. (Isaiah 45:5-6)

Praise God that we can trust Him fully. He has proven Himself faithful in the past, and He can be trusted now.


Ask God to use this situation to bring unprecedented spiritual openness to people affected by the tragedy, and ask Him to show His face to them.

Ask God to bless the ministry that will be thrust upon the churches and communities around the world that are affected by the tragedy. Ask Him to empower them with a powerful witness when they are called upon to speak about or reflect on the situation.

Ask God to stand against the enemy's attempts to make families experience unresolved anger or guilt over the loss of loved ones or to express their fear, hurt and frustrations in ways that might only do more damage.

Ask God to bring comforters those who woke up this morning without a mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, or friend and that God will help us know the difference between giving simplistic answers and declaring a simple gospel.

Ask God to use this to expose the underside of those who follow the doctrines of the demons of darkness and help the world see the difference between the “god” of those who perpetrated this horror and the God of the Bible.

Ask God to equip leaders who will be called upon to mentor and minister to people in the aftermath of tragedy (Hebrews 13:20-21).


Thank God that the enemy has made a tactical error and that God can use for good what Satan has intended for harm (Genesis 50: 20-21).

Thank God for the people who will be drawn to seek God's face because of the overwhelming nature of the tragedy leaves them nowhere else to turn (Jonah 2:1-9).

Thank God for a vivid reminder of your own mortality and vulnerability, asking Him to prepare your heart and spirit for a faithful response when you are faced with tragedy.

Thank God that the resources we have in Jesus give us a unique opportunity to model strength, courage and hope. “Be strong and of good courage…Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-7,9).

Thank God that the message of Psalm 91:1 and Psalm 119:114 is still true.

In closing, remember that human events don't determine ultimate reality. The events of yesterday are a painful reminder that Satan is the prince and power of the air. At the same time, we serve a risen Savior who answers prayer. There are many more things that we can pray for . . . this is only a starting place. Please feel free to share this with friends and add to the list.

Prayer: A Holy Occupation

Oswald Chambers

THE JOB of every Christian is to pray. Plain and simple. Yet we want to do more than simply pray. We want to do something important for God; we want to be someone important to Him. We want to build; we want to mobilize; we want to show our strength and exert our influence. Prayer seems like such a small thing to do–next to nothing at all in fact.

But that's not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything; it's a duty as well as a privilege, a right as well as a responsibility.

We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but Jesus wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don't want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of “good time” is seldom in sync with ours.

And so we try to help God along. Many times we even try to answer our own prayers. We have the idea that more people will become Christians if we can make God look good to them. So we try to convince them of God's generosity by proving that He answers prayer. If we can just help God spruce up His image a little, we can get more people on His side. And that's what He wants us to do, right?

Wrong. He wants us to pray. Always and about everything. During times of joy as well as sorrow. He wants us to talk to Him, not about Him. He even wants us to talk to Him about unbelievers before we talk to unbelievers about Him.

Prayer is not just an exercise routine God has us on; it's our business, our only business. Prayer is our holy occupation. Plain and simple.

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