A Way To Pray

I’m always cautious when writing or teaching on ‘how to pray’. I think most Bible teachers are. Most of the helpful lessons on ‘how to pray’ include how to pray Scripture, how to pray the promises of God, lectio divina, confessional prayer, prayer books (like Valley of Vision), praying the creeds, keeping a prayer journal, A.C.T.S.,  or even praying in tongues (not in this Baptist’s lessons!).

It’s a hard thing to write about, because once a man asked the God of the universe how to pray during their small group and got an answer.

And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4 ESV)

chinese-christians-1998Anything outside of that answer seems… less than. And yet we have hundreds of examples in the Scriptures of various types about prayer. Of course, it is nearly unanimously agreed upon that Jesus is giving us a guide for prayer, principles which we ought to follow in our prayer. This is not about rote memorization. It’s about who we are addressing, how we are to address him, and what sorts of things we ought to say.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer a rubric for prayer that I think is in accord with our Lord’s prayer. This isn’t a ‘these-are-the-things-you-have-to-cover-every-time’ list. It’s merely a guide I find helpful in guiding my prayer times. It’s good for individuals and groups. Because I am a Baptist, it’s in couples that start with the same letter. I can’t help myself.

Praise and Promises
Forgiveness and Family
Neighbors and Nations
Glory and Going

 

Praise and Promises

As we begin our prayers, we ought to remember the most important thing is who we are praying to. We are praying to the God who is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6-7). Everything he has said he will do, he has done or will do.

During this time, we ought to praise him. Praise God for his providence. What do we have that we did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7)? All things come from God. In all he is towards us, he is gracious and kind. Let us then return to him with thanksgiving (Col. 2:7, 4:2).

Having praised him for his goodness within himself and his goodness towards us, we trust in the promises of God. This is a time to turn to God for assurance. This is also a time to ask God for the things that we need. We do not pray promises for possessions or prosperity that do not belong to us. Rather we cling to the promise that God hears the prayers of his people. And whether we get what we ask or not, we pray to God because he hears. These prayers may include asking for the wisdom that he promises to provide (James 1:5), boldness that he eagerly gives (Eph. 6:19-20), comfort when doubting the grace given to us (Phil. 1:6), or the hope of redemption in distressing times (Romans 8:28). [More on praying God’s promises]

Forgiveness and Family

The Christian life is one of repentance. The Christian’s Father is one of forgiveness. 1 John 1:8-9 says that, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We sin every day and often. No true Christian would ever claim otherwise. We desperately need the grace of God. This is a time for asking for forgiveness as well as the power to fight sin in the future: “forgive us our sins…lead us not into temptation.”

At this point, prayers move outward from ourselves. Many of my prayer times are only praise, promises, and forgiveness. There’s certainly a time for those. But when most of us consider ourselves to have a weak or inconsistent prayer life it is because we fail to pray for others. In 1 Samuel 12:23, the prophet says, “…far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you…” That one stings to the heart. But far be it from any of us that we should sin against God by forgetting to pray for those we love. This is a time to pray for our family. We pray for their needs, their salvation if needed, their encouragement, our relationship with them, or whatever they have asked of us. Pray for your family.

Neighbors and Nations

These prayers aren’t so different from the prayers for family. These are the prayers of the Great Commission. Essentially it is the same prayer for different groups. One is microscopic and the  the other telescopic, but both are philanthropic. During this time we pray that God would save our neighbors and that he would save the nations. We pray that he would open their hearts.

“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” Psalm 67:4

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!'” 1 Chronicles 6:31

Indeed he does reign. Where we know the needs of our nations or our brothers and sisters among the nations, let us ask for God to provide. This is a time to pray for the poor, for the persecuted, for the populations in darkness. Where we do not know, we pray for salvation. We pray for God to send someone. We pray for organizations and individuals at work.

“Father, hallowed be your name…” in our neighborhoods and in the nations.

Glory and Going

Finally, we pray for two things that are deeply intertwined: the glory of God, and our going for his glory. When we pray for the glory of God, we pray for his glory throughout the earth. We have this promise in Habakkuk 2:14, “…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” During this time we ask that all we do would be to the glory of God. May he enable us to bring him glory. Not only that, we ask for God’s glory throughout the earth. Ultimately, we ask for his glory to cover the earth: we ask for his return. It is at the return of Christ that the New Heavens and New Earth will come forth and the glory of the Lord will shine forth in all things.

Until his return, we pray for our going. Will we be faithful at work to glorify him and witness to his glorious gospel? Will we be faithful to share the gospel with that service rep we see every week or that coworker he keeps sharing a lunch break with us or that lady who takes the same bus as us every morning to the same part of town for work? During this time, ask God to send us out as laborers into the harvest field (Luke 1o:2). Pray for your church body that it would send people out. Pray that we would always be ‘going’, living as a people who, whether we rest or run, know that we have been sent by our Lord to reach those around us and those far off. Pray for boldness. Pray for help. Pray for sustenance and rest. Pray for people to notice your good works and glorify God in heaven. Pray for humility. Pray for your going.

________________

I hope that for someone reading this that this has been helpful. The work of prayer truly is labor. Yet the God we worship is the only god who hears our prayers and answers them. He is the only source, the only hope, the only one from whom we have received all things. Let us turn then to our Father, and pray as Jesus taught us. Above all, let us ask all these things in Jesus’ name (Jn. 16:23), through whom we have gained  peace with God and access to God. I hope he answers your prayers and you are richly blessed.

 

Tagged , , ,

One thought on “A Way To Pray

  1. ntm14 says:

    Great article brotha. I believe this is what a lot of us need in times where we are really rusty and inconsistent, just as you mentioned. I’m very thankful for you and your time spent thinking through and writing this article.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: