When I was a little boy my dad and mom would gather our little family in our living room each evening for a brief time in the Scriptures and for prayer. Though this was over 40 years ago, I remember these moments as if it were yesterday. Significantly, I recall at least four habits that my mom either told us to implement, or, at least, modeled for us. Here they are:
Habit #1: “God, I love you.” When praying, always tell the Lord that you love him. I learned from my mother that the Lord treasures our love for him, and that telling him we love him is a meaningful way to visit with God. Of course, most of us find it encouraging and moving to be told we are loved. How much more would God value those heart-felt words! And Jesus underscores the power of this habit by telling the crowds that the greatest thing we can do in all of life is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). When you pray, take time to earnestly tell God that you love him!
Habit #2: “God, forgive me.” A second habit I learned from my mother was to ask the Lord to forgive my sins. Specifically, she and Dad would pray, “Lord, forgive us our sins, and help us not to do others.” To this day I still find myself offering those words to God. First John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all of our unrighteousness. Jesus’ death at the cross is the means by which the penitent sinner is forgiven his or her sins, for there Jesus paid in full the penalty of our sin. When we acknowledge we are sinners and by faith claim Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for our atrocities against God, then we can rest confidently that all of our sin—past, present, and future—is sufficiently covered. When you pray, take time to ask God to forgive you of your sins.
Habit #3: “God, I trust you.” A third habit picked up from those days in our living room was to always trust God in every circumstance life brings our way. No matter how big or small the matters of our lives were, we could trust God to take care of us. He never leaves us or forsakes us. We can count on him. The oft-said line from Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to lean into God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” God is all-powerful and all-wise. God is loving and never forgets his children. He is a good, good Father, and we can depend on him. When you pray, take time to tell him that you trust him. And then do it!
Habit #4: “God, I thank you.” One final habit I learned from my mother is to always thank God. God is so generous and good, and he meets our every need without fail. When I was in Kindergarten our home burned to the ground—likely caused by a lightning storm. We lost everything. But I will never forget my mom declaring before our neighbors the solemn words from Job 1:21: “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” With hearts of gratitude and trust I saw my parents navigate a very difficult season in our lives. So, when they thanked God in prayer I never doubted the integrity of their words. Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” We have so much for which to be grateful to God. When you pray, take time to thank God for the way he works and provides for you.
These are four simple habits regarding prayer that I picked up from my prayer-warrior mom. Perhaps you can begin to implement them in your life today.