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Learning to Pray

This lesson is available to read online or if you prefer, you may download a notepad file to review and print at your convenience.

To begin this course you need the following supplies:

1.      A journal (fancy or plain isn’t important, so long as it’s something you enjoy writing in.)

2.      A pen or pencil that is comfortable for you to use.

3.      If you prefer not to write, use a word processing program on your computer to journal, or one of the available diary software programs.

4.      An open heart and mind.

5.      A strong desire to please God!  

Lesson 1—Cleaning House


Our first lesson involves making sure your heart is pure, and prepared to pray for yourself and others by confessing sin in our lives.  See the following verses from 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  (ASV)  We all have sins to confess, so don’t be discouraged when you realize there is sin in your life!  We all have made mistakes—it’s what we do when we see the sin that is even more important than actually committing the sin.  The good news is when we repent for our sins, they are forgiven.  They also lose their power when they are confessed.  


Not sure where to begin?  Here are some examples of what I think of as “sneaky sins.”  No, you won't find these on the list of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1—17), but they are sin nonetheless, and need to be addressed:

bulletTreating others poorly.  How well do you treat other people?  If you are rude, selfish, inconsiderate or generally not loving, it can affect your prayers.  (Ask God to help you love people with the same love He loves them.  Think of things from the perspective of others, not just your own point of view.)

1 Peter 3:7, “Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with (your wives) according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.”  ASV

bulletWrong motives.  Such as praying for someone to change for your benefit instead of theirs, or involvement in this study to impress others.  (Ask God to soften your heart, and change your motives into ones He approves of). 

Mark 7:6, “And he said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, But their heart is far from me.”  ASV

bulletHarboring unforgiveness towards anyone, including yourself.  Has someone hurt you, and you can’t seem to let go of the anger and hurt?  While it may be true that you have a right to feel what you feel, is it really productive?  Is it accomplishing anything?  The answer is no.  All that is being accomplished is you are hurting and miserable.  Release the negative feelings—forgive!  Whether the other person deserves your forgiveness or not isn’t the point.  Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  It releases you from the pent up negative emotions, which can be so detrimental to one’s health.  Unforgiveness can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney problems, migraines and other ailments.  (Ask God for help forgiving.  Try to see the situation through the eyes of the person who hurt you—why did they do what they did?  Out of meanness?  Insecurity?  Ignorance?  Is that person a wounded person, simply lashing out at the nearest target, you?  Understanding motives helps us to release anger and let forgiveness enter our hearts.  Also, ask God, “I felt *fill in the blank* when that person did what they did…is that true?  Am I that way?  Speak Your truth to me, and fill me with Your love!”  Simply listen to the truth God speaks to you at this time—it will speak forgiveness into your heart, and enable you to release the negative emotions to Him.)

Mark 11:25, “And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  ASV

bulletPride.  Thinking you are better than others because of your race, religion, financial status, etc. is wrong.  No one is better than anyone else—God loves us all equally.  You are no better than anyone else, nor is anyone else better than you.  Anyone who has a humble heart, God will acknowledge: 

Matthew 23:12,  “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.”  ASV

Psalm 10:17, “LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:”  KJV

bulletJudgment.  Judging the actions, lifestyles and deeds of others is wrong.  God is the only one righteous enough to judge!  He disapproves of people judging each other.  

Matthew 7:1-5, “1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.  2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.  3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye?  5 Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”  Also see Luke 6:37, “And judge not: and you shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released:”  ASV


          If none of the above apply to you, and you can’t think of any sins, ask God to reveal any sin in your life.  He may remind you of when you “accidentally” forgot to pay for the bag of dog food on the bottom of your grocery cart, or when you constantly cut off other drivers in traffic, or other seemingly insignificant things.  Don’t just dismiss them!  If He is bringing them to your mind, they must be important to God! There aren’t different levels of sin—sin is sin.  Repent for stealing that dog food or thinking you are more important than those other drivers you cut off, or whatever the case is. Do anything the Father may tell you to do to resolve the sin—apologize to someone you have mistreated, pay for the stolen dog food, or whatever!  Remember, we are cleaning out your heart to prepare you to be an effective pray—er!  This is the first step, and possibly the most important.

The next step is to pray, asking God to give you a spirit prepared and eager to do His will.  Read this beautiful prayer of King David in Psalms 51:10-13, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”  (ASV)  I highly recommend you pray this prayer, if you are at a loss for your own words.

You may decide to journal the experience of confessing your sins, as it is a good way to remind yourself to keep your heart pure.  Or, you may not journal the experience.  But, I am a firm believer in the benefits of keeping a journal, so I highly recommend it!


download the notepad version here

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