“We need someone to pray!”

That was one of the many phrases that scared the devil out of me as a kid. To be completely honest, it scared me all the way into my teenage and young adult life.

“Lets see, Zak! How would you like to say the prayer?”

My stomach hit my throat, my pulse intensified, my palms began to sweat, and I could literally feel myself about to get sick. I even attempted to find excuses as to why I needed to step out of the room and go hide.

You may be thinking, “Zak you’re crazy! All you were asked to do was pray. Why are you getting physically sick?”

I could then argue to you that you don’t need me to give you an answer, but rather ask the guy on the second to last row of your church to pray. Ask the lady who keeps your kids. Or maybe just ask the person you randomly run into at a restaurant to pray. What will they say? How will they really feel?

Over my years of experience, which is really short, I have learned that prayer is often scary to many people. They don’t know what to say, what to pray for or even understand the concept of prayer in general. Prayer, especially in front of our peers, brings a lot of fear, uncertainties and confusion.

What is prayer exactly? What is its purpose?

I was given a single verse of scripture in college that changed my entire outlook on prayer. It comes from Philippians 4:6-7. It reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Those verses place a lot on the table. It tells us to be anxious about nothing, which you may be thinking is impossible. However, that’s where the prayer comes in. These verses give us an outline of how to pray and its purpose. Understand that the Bible does not command us without empowering us.

First, it says “but in everything by prayer…” How do you talk to your friends, family or coworkers? That is literally how you can talk to God.

People often want to make it poetic, beautiful, with big words, which leads to preconceived notions that all prayers have to be that way. It is not. God does not care about your vocabulary; he cares about your voice. God does not care about time limits; he cares about your thoughts. Don’t talk to God about what you think you should talk to God about, talk to God about what you really want to talk about.

Second, the verses tell us about supplication. What in the world is supplication? The original Hebrew language speaks to this word in a picture of a mother pleading for the life of her child. It is intense type of prayer.

So not only can you have an everyday conversation with God, but you can pray about specific things. The improved health of a loved one, a job promotion, more patience, a new child, national peace or even for your church to grow are all things that could be supplicated to God.

Finally, we come to thanksgiving. Not the turkey day, but just telling God thanks. You would be surprised at how great you feel after just telling God thank you for waking you up, for allowing you another opportunity at life, for having friends, family and people who care about you. Ultimately we have to be thankful for Jesus.

Many people deal with prayer like stepping on eggshells. They are afraid they will say something incorrect. They are mad, so they may not even pray at all, or they are unsure if God is even listening, so prayer either becomes nonexistent or a distant concept that only happens when they desperately need something. The last few sections of these verses from Philippians are so important in terms of prayer.

It says, “Let your request be known to God.”

If you are reading these words, and you are walking on eggshells with God, my prayer is that you throw away the previous thinking and just talk to God. If you are mad at God, go to him and yell. If you do not understand why things are going on in your life, go to God and explain it like you would to your family or friends. If you can’t put into words what is going on in your mind, understand that you are in a powerful place.

Prayer is not for God, it is for you.

Scripture says that the Lord knows our thoughts and everything about us (Psalm 139:4).

So before you pray for it, or before you can find the words, God already knows. He still want to hear from you because he wants to partner with you. When you pray, it leads to the final part of Philippians 4:6-7. Your prayers begin to tell the negative emotions “no!” The words coming out of your brain, your mouth and your heart go directly to the feet of God. You will begin to have the peace of God. You will sense that God is now guarding you, caring for you and growing a relationship with you.

Prayer is vital. It is not only a form of communication and relationship with our Creator but also worship.

Understand that our anxieties force us to worship the problem, but prayer reminds you there is a God in heaven that sits on a throne, and the entire earth answers to Him. He cares for you, your situation, your family, your job and your entire life, but he wants so desperately to hear from you in prayer.

If 2018 showed us anything: it is that this world is messed up. Things are not right. However, I pray that we remember that change does not start in the White House. Change starts in your house.

Prayer and relationship with Jesus Christ are the only things that can do that.

“Well Zak, I’m not sure I even believe in Jesus, what do I do?”

My answer is simple, talk to God about it. Ask him to show up in your life, ask him to be real, ask him to reveal himself, because I could make the argument that if you don’t know Jesus you should talk to God more than those who do.

So I pray that we all talk to God more this year.

Zak Ford is pastor of First Baptist Church of Republican Grove in Nathalie.