rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgOne of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciple.” – Luke 11:10. Prayer is one of the oldest forms of devotion on this planet. Prayer is the greatest natural law of all religions.

It is a source of joy, comfort and uplift and the most effective means of connecting with God. And prayers that make a difference are grateful, specific and accepting of God’s will. The disciples ask Jesus, in the quotation above, “Lord, teach us to pray.” That request itself was a prayer. It made a big difference in the disciples’ lives and such prayers make a big difference in our lives. The request was, “Teach me what to say, what words to pray and how to say them.”

Gratitude opens us to receiving gifts and it triggers the laws of abundance and increase. When we express gratitude as we ought to and adjust to God’s will He blesses us bountifully.

In prayer, we should ask God’s help in being grateful for the words He gives us to pray, especially when they are truthful and sincere.

Prayer also should be personal, using both Christ’s name and the name of God. For instance, in Exodus 3:14, God told Moses to say to Pharaoh, when asked who sent him, “Tell him I AM that I AM sent me.”
Hannah, too, was personal in her prayer for a son. She confesses, in I Samuel 1:15, “I am a woman deeply troubled … I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.” Both Moses and Hannah asked God for help, were specific and grateful, both using the “I AM” formula in prayer, all in God’s name.

The more specific we are, the better God is able to answer us and the better able we are to understand His answers. If praying specifically for a house, a job or a car, include the specific details the cost, the type of job or the model and color of the car.

If you need a specific spiritual gift, such as compassion or generosity, take time to explain the nature of your problem to God. He already knows it but He wants to know that you do.Set aside a specific time and place to pray. A good routine gives your prayers structure and provides an efficiency which leads to greater prayer effectiveness.

Build a specific altar in the center of your heart. This is the prayer closet Jesus said we ought to pray in. There you can shut out the outside world as you enter the place where God wishes to dwell, inside your heart.

Ask God to line your words up with His will. There maybe many things we want and desire but we must remember God knows what is best. See God as an active doer in prayer, not just a passive listener. There is a divinity that resides in you and the flame of the Holy Spirit uses it to do the work of prayer.

For instance, in the scripture above, Jesus’ disciples come to Him as doers, not listeners. They came saying, “Teach us to pray.” He gives them a new prayer construct of petition and request. Back then, Jewish prayers were generally adorations, praises of God and doxologies.

But Jesus taught his disciples prayers filled with grateful specifics, laced with adoration and praise. The prayer is filled with daily dependence upon God for food, forgiveness and guidance away from temptation.

Let go of yourself and all selfishness. Selfless prayers increase the power of our prayers. Don’t be too attached to outcomes, either, and try not to dictate to God how to fulfill your desires.

Visualize what you think is God’s will for you. What you think about while you pray greatly affects your prayers. Negative thoughts create negative results; positive thoughts create positive results.

Jesus in the garden visualizes a “cup of suffering” from which He believes God wants Him to drink (Luke 22:14). But, in the end, He selflessly lets go of His own will and consents to drink from the cup. He rises to become the ultimate doer of God’s will, becoming the living sacrifice and symbol of God’s forgiveness of our sins.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or