Prayer

Praying Scripture

Could you use a little change up in your prayer routine?

Sometimes, when I’ve been praying for months on end about certain situations – a loved one’s salvation, a stagnant circumstance that just won’t resolve itself, a need that God hasn’t yet provided – I feel like my daily time of prayer is stuck in a rut. Like I’m praying all the exact same things every day.

That doesn’t bother God, of course, and we are to be persistent and fervent with our requests, but every now and then I need a break from petitioning to focus on another aspect of prayer. And one of the ways I like to do that is to pray Scripture back to God.

Occasionally, I’ll sit down with my Bible and pray through a Psalm, but I usually have my prayer time while I’m out walking, so I have to rely on the Scriptures that are hidden in my heart. I was praying this way the other day, and it occurred to me that maybe you’d like to pray Scripture too. So I thought I’d share with you some of the Scriptures I pray and how I pray them.

and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:10

Lord, help me today to discern what is pleasing to You, and do it.

 

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

Father, help me to keep my mouth shut when it needs to be shut, and to speak up when I need to speak up.

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let everything I think, say, and do bring  honor and glory to You.

 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Please show me how to obey your Word, Lord, not just hear it.

 

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

Father, would you please answer Jesus’ prayer to sanctify me in the truth of Your Word.

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12

Please cleanse me and forgive me for my sin, and give me a fresh start with a clean heart and a right spirit. Thank You that because of the blood of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit, You will never cast me out or take Your Spirit from me. Thank You for giving me back the joy of unhindered fellowship with You.

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Proverbs 4:7

Father thank You that You generously give wisdom to those who ask. Please give me wisdom and help me to pursue wisdom and understanding.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7

Lord, help me to trust You with all my heart – over and above what I can see with my eyes and understand with my mind. Let everything I think, say, and do bring glory and honor to You. Smooth my path before me. Let me not trust in my own wisdom and understanding, but grow in me a godly fear of You that turns me away from evil.

 

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Father, remind me that my life is a vapor. Help me to honor You with my time and steward my time well. Help me to get everything done today that You want me to get done.

 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! Psalm 139:1

Thank You that You know me inside and out. That I can come to You in prayer, and I don’t have to explain everything, and make sure You understand correctly, because You already know. That You know everything about me and You still choose to love me.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Thank You for creating me. I stand in awe at the magnificence of Your creation in the human body: You can read every strand of DNA in my body. You not only understand the difference between meiosis and mitosis (which I was never able to master in biology class), You created each of those processes. You keep my heart beating, my cells reproducing, my lungs filled with air, my synapses synapsing.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

Examine my heart, God, and whatever is in me that is displeasing to You, get rid of it.

 

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to die for me while I was still Your enemy. Thank You, Jesus for being willing to die for me, a sinner. Thank You for turning me from Your enemy into Your friend.

 

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:4b-5

Lord, I will never understand why You would choose someone like me to be Your child, because there is nothing good in me, but I’m so glad and so grateful that You did.

 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Father, thank You that You are smarter than I am, that You know the best way to handle every situation, and that You are powerful enough to work everything out for Your glory and my good. Thank You for the comfort and rest it brings me to know that You have everything under control.

 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Lord, help me to truly delight myself in You- so much so that You are putting Your desires into my heart. I want to want what You want.

 

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13

God, thank You that You see me – that You haven’t forgotten or forsaken me. Thank You that You are a God who sees and rewards our good works done in secret. Thank You that because You are a God of seeing, there are no unsolved crimes or unpunished evil with You. Nothing escapes Your notice, and no one gets away with anything. Thank You that when earthly justice systems fail, You bring ultimate justice. Thank You that You will one day vindicate Your servants.

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more….“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1, 3b-4

Lord God, thank You that the sin, pain, and separation of this life is temporary. Thank You that one day You will make everything right. Thank You that, through Christ, You have made a way for me to live with You forever.

 

As you’re choosing Scriptures to pray back to God, it’s a good idea to study those passages in context and make sure you’re understanding and handling His Word correctly as you pray. Claiming biblical promises that don’t apply to you, for example, will only set you up for frustration and disappointment. And you certainly don’t need that standing in the way of your prayer time or hindering your fellowship with the Lord.

If your prayer life needs a breath of fresh air, I encourage you to try praying God’s own words back to Him. There’s no better way to be sure your prayer is pleasing to Him and that you’re praying within His will.

What are some of your favorite
Scriptures to pray back to God?

Politics, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ A Prayer for the President

Note- this article was originally published on Inauguration Day 2009, when President Obama was sworn into office. God desires that we pray for our President no matter who he is, so these principles still apply today to our current President. FYI- Political comments, and comments idolizing or demonizing President Trump will not be published.
Please pour your energy into praying for him instead.

Originally published January 20, 2009

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2:1-4

Today, we, the people of the United States, will inaugurate a new President. As President Obama begins his tenure in the White House, God desires that we pray for him.

Pray for the President’s salvation- No one knows our hearts except God alone, but knowing how narrow the way is that leads to salvation (Matthew 7:13-14) and taking into consideration the President’s words and actions, it seems likely that he is not saved. Our burden for his salvation should be two-fold, first, for his own soul and the salvation of his family, and second, that his salvation will enable him to be a Godly leader.

Pray for the President’s, and his family’s, safety and protection- His wife needs her husband, those two little girls need their daddy, and our nation needs a leader.

Pray that God will help the President to be a godly husband and father- The presidency is a job that leaves little time for anything or anyone else. Pray that the President will have the time to spend with his family, leading them to godliness.

Pray that God will surround the President with wise and godly counsel- Proverbs 1:5 says: “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel”.

Pray that God will direct the President’s decisions- Proverbs 21:1 tells us: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Pray that, whatever the actions of the President, the gospel will spread and we will become a more godly nation- “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

May God bless our new President, and may God bless the United States of America.

Mailbag, Prayer

The Mailbag: Help! Our ladies’ prayer meeting is a disaster!

 

I am married to a pastor of a small SBC church. Every Sunday evening I have a 30-minute prayer time for the ladies of the church. It feels like a disaster! Women ramble on and on with “prayer requests” that really seem to be either gossip or current news events. When it comes time to actually pray, I’m the one who is praying and everyone else is completely silent. Recently, the women were so out of control with talking that they didn’t even notice when I said it was time to pray, so I canceled the prayer meeting until further notice.

I know praying together as sisters couldn’t be a bad thing, but what do I do if it seems like no one else is actually praying? Am I giving up too soon? And just to be clear I’ve tried different “formulas” for the meeting (having specific scriptures that we pray, having a specific theme for the prayer, etc.).

Oh dear sister, I’m so sorry for your frustration! I have led a few ladies’ prayer groups myself, and I know it isn’t easy. If I could offer you one word of encouragement, though – your ladies are showing up! One of my dilemmas was having ladies who didn’t see prayer as important enough to even come to a prayer meeting. You’ve got them there – that’s a huge hurdle that’s out of your way.

But once you’ve got them there, what do you do with this gaggle of gals? Let’s see if we can figure that out together.

A few things I’m surmising from your e-mail:

First, I’m guessing you’re a sweet, younger lady and that at least some of the ladies in your group are 10+ years older than you are. (Even if I’m wrong, I’m going to go with this for a minute because there are probably some ladies reading this who are in that dynamic.)

Trying to lead ladies who are older than you are can be intimidating, especially when you have the added pressure of your husband being the pastor – you want to reflect well upon him and not be the cause of any issues he would have to deal with. If your personality is very easy going and less assertive, that’s going to add to the challenge and result in things like the ladies ignoring you when you say it’s time to start praying.

Another dynamic that’s probably affecting your group is that at least some of the ladies are there mainly because you’re the pastor’s wife, and they either feel a sense of duty to be there or they want to support you with their presence because they love you, or both. Neither of which are bad things, because it’s getting them to show up (and, hey, a little love and support never hurts, right?). But it may mean that prayer isn’t the primary reason some of them are there.

The way you describe the ladies’ talking, behavior, and “prayer requests” leads me to believe that they probably don’t know how to pray in a corporate prayer meeting, especially one that’s not an “organ recital” (all the prayer requests revolve around people who are sick, having surgery, etc.). Sadly, this is pretty typical for SBC churches in my experience.

The extensive conversing may also signal that these ladies are starved for meaningful fellowship with one another.

So taking all of that into consideration, here are a few thoughts I had:

🙏 I think taking a hiatus was a good idea. It will give you time to regroup and reorganize your approach. My counsel would be that as long as you have ladies who are willing to attend, it’s too soon to give up (assuming, of course, that your husband is in agreement with that).

🙏 Set aside a block of time to talk this through with your husband and ask his advice. Just by virtue of being a man, he has a different perspective than you do, and probably has some helpful ideas and suggestions. As your pastor, he likely has additional insight on the ladies in your group, as well as some leadership strategies and experiences that could be beneficial to you.

🙏 When you start the group up again, you might want to consider, if it’s possible, having your husband lead for a couple of months. It’s just a fact of life that people act differently around pastors than they do around others. My guess is that your ladies will sit quietly and attentively for your husband. If you can develop that habit in them over the course of a couple of months, it will be easier for you to step in with more confidence and assertiveness when you resume leading the group.

🙏 Find an older godly lady who has experience teaching and leading women’s classes and ask her to mentor you. 

🙏 If that older godly lady is one of your church members, and you and she are both willing, maybe it would work for her to lead the group for, say, six months to a year while you attend as a participant. That could be helpful in two ways: a) You could learn by observing her leadership, and, b) You could model for the other ladies what it should look like to be a participant in this group, and they could learn from your example.

🙏 It sounds like these ladies need to be discipled regarding what prayer is and how to do it. Instead of immediately diving back into praying when you start the group back up, consider taking a few months to study prayer together first. The day I received your e-mail, 9Marks introduced their new book on prayer called Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church. I haven’t read it (it’s in pre-release right now), but from the description, it sounds like it could be a good book to go through with your ladies. You’re also welcome to use any of my articles on prayer (I’d recommend this one and this one in particular.) And be sure to check the bookstores at GTY and Ligonier.

🙏 It also sounds like your ladies need more structure and guidance. One thing you might want to do is dispense with the verbal sharing of prayer requests as it’s traditionally done and restructure that aspect of the meeting. There are several different ways you can do this:

⇒ You decide the prayer focus (praying for the lost, missionaries, revival, an upcoming church event, etc.) for each week. Write down specific things to pray for – nearly verbatim, if you have to – on an index card or piece of paper and hand one to each lady as she comes in. For example, if you’re praying for missionaries, give the name of the missionary and a few needs he has.

⇒ Homework assignments. At the end of each meeting, tell the ladies what the prayer focus will be for the next week, give each one a card with a different aspect of that topic, ask her to be praying about it during the week and to come prepared to pray aloud about it at the next meeting. For example, if you’re going to be praying about VBS next week, the cards might say things like leaders, teachers, students, gospel presentation, safety, etc.

⇒ “Conversation prayer“. This works really well with children and people who are inexperienced with corporate prayer. Basically, what you’re doing is replacing prayer request time with praying for the request as it’s mentioned. You open with a brief prayer. After that, the floor is open for anyone to pray about anything they would ordinarily have mentioned as a prayer request. The only catch is, they have to keep it to three sentences, max (You’ll want to stress this rule and remind them of it often). This keeps the prayer time from being dominated by long-winded people, and it introduces an idea others can build on in prayer which encourages more people to participate. Additionally, it takes the pressure off of those who are nervous about praying out loud. For example, one person might pray, “Lord, please comfort and strengthen Sally in the death of her husband,” which might prompt the next person to pray, “Please provide for her material needs now that she’s without George’s income,” and the next: “Please show us ways we can minister to Sally.” There are going to be long silences at first. That’s OK. Wait it out. When it’s time to wrap up, you lead the closing prayer.

⇒ Guided conversation prayer. Same as conversation prayer, but more structured. You choose a few areas of prayer focus and let the ladies know what they are before the prayer time begins. Open in prayer, introducing the first topic. The floor is now open for anyone to pray up to three sentences on that topic (and, of course, people can pray more than once if they want to, but only three sentences at a time). When it’s time to move on, announce the next topic or pray a brief prayer introducing it.

⇒ Small group prayer. If you have enough people, break them into groups of 2-4, and assign each group a topic to pray about. When the groups start getting quiet, hand them another topic to pray about. (Be sure you’re giving them plenty of time to pray, though. I’ve been in prayer meetings using this method where the leader hops from one topic to the next so fast that the first person in the group doesn’t even finish praying before the topic is changed.) For a 30 minute meeting and groups of 2-4, I’d recommend no more than 3-4 topics for each group.

🙏 If you think lack of fellowship might be a factor in the ladies’ behavior, there is nothing wrong with making the last “prayer meeting” of each month a low key fellowship – a “three weeks on, one week off” kind of thing – where they have the unprogrammed space to just sit and talk (and snack – gotta have snacks!). Fellowship is vital to the life of the church, and, believe me, as they get to know each other better and bear one another’s burdens, they will bring more things to the table to pray about during the three weeks of prayer meetings.

🙏 Most importantly, you pray. Pray for patience and confidence as you lead. Pray for each of the ladies in your group. Pray that God will grow them in maturity in prayer. Pray that He will help everyone stay focused. Pray that those who are timid will be emboldened and that God will rein in those who have a tendency to dominate. Prayer is an area of spiritual growth, and only God can produce that growth. Ask Him to.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Prayer, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ After This Manner Therefore Pray

Originally published March 29, 2015manner-pray-e1432429425730

Prayer. It seems so simple- just talk to God. But when it’s time to actually do it, there can be a million questions. What should I pray about? How long should I pray? Do I have to say “Thee” and “Thou”? Eyes opened or closed? Do I have to be on my knees? Should I speak aloud or pray silently?

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The disciples lived with Jesus. Heard Him pray. Watched Him pray. And they still had to ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus graciously answered their request with what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Model Prayer.” There’s one version of it in Luke where Jesus teaches the disciples personally, and another, expanded version in Matthew 6:9-13 in the Sermon on the Mount, the version we’ll be looking at today.

Even after all these years, and after hundreds of books and sermons on prayer, Jesus’ simple teaching is still the best way to make sure we’re “doing prayer right.” When we submit the way we pray to His instruction, we can be sure we’re praying the way He wants us to pray. So how can we follow the Lord’s Prayer in our own prayer lives? Let’s take a look.

Pray then like this:

This may not seem like a very important phrase – after all, it’s not even in the body of the Lord’s Prayer – but it’s actually vital to our understanding of modeling our prayers after the Lord’s Prayer. Notice Jesus didn’t say, “repeat after Me” or “recite these exact words.” He said “pray like this.” The NASB renders this phrase as, “Pray, then, in this way.” KJV says, “After this manner therefore pray.” And the NIV has, “This, then, is how you should pray.”

The point? Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as an outline for prayer or as a sample prayer, not a specific set of words to recite every time you pray. While it’s fine to sincerely pray – and mean – the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer, we must guard against the “vain repetition” of “empty phrases” Jesus had warned the disciples about just two verses earlier. Mindlessly rattling off the words of the Lord’s Prayer out of habit or so you can check prayer off your daily “to do” list is not prayer. Instead, try using each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to how you should approach Him in prayer.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Take some time to worship God and praise Him just for being Him. Contemplate how high and holy He is and how lowly you are in comparison. Think about, and thank Him for some of His attributes that we find in Scripture- His goodness, justice, compassion, omnipotence, wrath, mercy, and grace. You might even want to sing a hymn or song – like “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “God Is So Good” –  that focuses on God’s holiness or other attributes.

Your kingdom come,

Do you long for Christ to return? It’s OK to tell Him that and to take some time to focus on the joy that will be ours in eternity. Christ is coming back (hopefully today!) to gather His people, weary of this sin sick world, to Himself. But remember, He will ONLY be taking people who know Him as Savior and Lord. Is there someone you need to share the gospel with? Someone you desperately desire to see saved? This is a great time to pray for that person and ask God to give you the opportunity, and the right words, to share with her.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In Heaven, God is always glorified, always praised, and always obeyed. Wouldn’t it be great if that were the case on earth? Well, it’s not, because of sin. Is there an area of obedience you’re struggling with? Ask God to help you with it. Pray that God will help your children to be obedient to you and your husband. Pray that God will strengthen your husband’s obedience to Him in his areas of weakness. Pray that your loved ones, boss, and elected officials will make the decisions God wants them to make. Ask God to guide your pastor, elders, and church members, and pray that they will be obedient to His word and His leading.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Here, we recognize and thank God that He is our provider. Even the smallest things in life, like a simple loaf of bread, only come to us because God provides them. He wants us to put our trust in Him, not a paycheck, for our needs. A great passage to go along with this verse is Philippians 4:6-7:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God doesn’t want us to worry about the things we need. He wants us to trust Him. When we take our needs to Him in prayer, we are declaring our trust in Him to take care of us – in His way and in His time – and that is where our peace comes from.

Notice, too, the words “this day” and “daily” in this verse. They show us that prayer is an all day, every day affair. God wants us to keep coming back to Him in prayer again and again. It helps us recognize our dependence on Him.

These words also help us to focus our prayers on what we need today. It’s OK to pray about future events, but sometimes focusing on future “what ifs” can tempt us to worry, and, as Jesus says later in Matthew 6, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (34)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Repentance time. Did you notice that this verse (12) is the culmination of a sentence that began in the previous verse (11)?  “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us…” Repentance for our sin and asking God to forgive us is also also an all day, every day affair. But, praise God, so is His mercy to forgive! Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Take this time to confess your sin and ask God to cleanse you and forgive you. And be sure to ask Him to show you any bitterness you may be harboring in your heart against someone. Forgive that person and ask God to help you make things right with her. Consider the magnitude of your sin against God. If God has forgiven you of your sin against Him, who are you to hold a grudge against someone who has sinned against you?

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Sin. It’s always lurking around just waiting to ensnare us again, isn’t it? Think about the sins you struggle with. Ask God to show if there are any changes you can make in your life to stay away from temptation to those sins. Pray that He will strengthen you to be obedient to Him when you can’t avoid tempting circumstances, and ask Him to show you the godly way out of every situation, which He has promised to provide. Pray for God’s protection from evil people or circumstances and ask Him to protect your family and  church.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The KJV includes this phrase at the end of the Lord’s prayer, but it isn’t in the earliest and most reliable biblical manuscripts (from which modern versions such as the ESV are translated). But since its meaning and intent is thoroughly supported by other Scriptures, there’s certainly no harm in including it as part of the model for your prayer time.

Acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty over all things, His power, His glory, and His eteranlity. Ask Him to help you live in such a way that others will see these attributes of His. Submit yourself to Christ and pray that God will help you to follow Him humbly and honorably.

 

Eyes open or closed? On our knees or not? Jesus didn’t address those kinds of things, so we have a certain amount of liberty in those secondary issues. Jesus’ desire is that we stay in constant communion with Him in prayer, humbly honoring Him, praising Him, thanking Him, repenting of sin, and depending on Him for our every need. So, let’s pray then, like this.


This article was originally published at SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ “Can We Talk?”

Originally published, February 9, 2012

“Thanks for meeting with me, today, Dad,” said the tow-headed six year old as he strode across the study, arm extended for a firm handshake.

Smiling, the father grasped the child’s hand, assuming a hug would follow. When none did, he stood, somewhat dismayed, as his son took the chair opposite the imposing mahogany desk and motioned for him to take his accustomed place behind it.

Oh. This was going to be one of those conversations.

“I only have about five minutes,” said the boy, briskly, as he clicked open the latches on his caramel brown leather brief case and withdrew two copies of a neatly typed agenda, “so let’s get down to business.”

“First, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’d like you to get me that big shiny motorcycle I’ve been wanting. And would you please hurry up about it? I’ve been asking for that bike for a long time, and I don’t understand why you haven’t given it to me yet.”

Again with the motorcycle? Doesn’t this kid get that he’s six? There’s no way he could handle a bike that large and powerful, and I love him too much to see his guts splattered all over the pavement. Yeah, that’s gonna be a big, fat “no.”

“Next,” the boy hurried on, “I’m kinda in a jam. You see, there’s this big spelling test tomorrow, and I haven’t had time to study for it. Could you sit by me in class tomorrow and give me all the answers?”

Haven’t had time? Yesterday he played video games for two hours, and the day before that I heard him throwing a tennis ball up against the side of the house all afternoon!

“And finally, Sparky seems to be limping around lately. Could you take a look at his paw and fix it up with some of that special cream?”

Well…sure. You know I’m always glad to help, but…

“Thanks for everything, Dad,” the boy chirped as he hopped off his chair and headed for the door, “I’ve got to run. See you later!”

Bye…Son.

 

I can just see that Dad standing there, forlorn, missing his son. The son who lives under the same roof with him. The son he watches play ball, play with his friends, and achieve the great feats of six year olds. The son who never really talks to him.

The father longs to have an intimate, “Daddy’s home!” relationship with his child. To have his son run up, give him a hug, and jump in his lap to tell Dad all about his day. He wants to share his child’s joys and sorrows. He wants to hear his heart.

And if the child really thought about it—or even knew such a relationship could exist—he’d want the same thing.

We can have that kind of joyous relationship with our Heavenly Father. It really is possible.

But how?

Well, think about how you relate to the person you love the most in the world. Because you love that person, you want to spend time with him. You’re relaxed around each other. You enjoy being together. You share everything—your deepest secrets, your regrets, your hopes for the future, your concerns for others, your frustrations, your joys, your sorrows, even the mundane, day to day happenings of life.

You’ve probably never read a book, taken a class, or attended a lecture on how to talk to that special someone. And you’ve probably never made a list of conversation topics for your next get-together with him. This is a friendship, not a business meeting.

Now think about how our connection to God is illustrated in Scripture. He’s called our Father (Matthew 6:9); Jesus is our brother (Matthew 12:50) and our friend (John 15:14); the church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). These are the most intimate relationships we know, and they’re used to describe a bond of love and friendship with God.

So, why do we have so much trouble talking to Him? Why is it that, so often, what’s supposed to be a heartfelt conversation with God feels like a one-sided recitation of a laundry list of prayer requests?

In some ways, we’ve done it to ourselves. There are thousands of books, Bible studies, and other materials on how to pray. Preachers preach on it. Teachers teach on it. There are acronyms you can follow, lists you can make, prayer calendars, even apps and on-line prayer organizers. None of these things are inherently bad, in fact, some are excellent—I’ve used and recommended some of them, myself.

But, I think that, sometimes, when faced with all of these resources and methodologies, one of two things can happen. First, you can become paralyzed by all the choices, not know which one to choose, and give up on prayer because you think it’s too complicated. Or, you might try to use too many prayer resources and become overwhelmed because they don’t work for you or you can’t keep up with all of them. Second, you can fall into the trap of thinking you have to use some sort of prayer resource or methodology. You can become enslaved to the structure, and that stands between you and intimacy with God like a brick wall.

May I make a suggestion here?

Throw out the lists. Put away the prayer calendar. Turn off the app.

Just talk to your Father. Talk to Him like He’s the person you love most in the world. Pour out what’s on your heart to Him.

If you’re not sure how to do that or what to say or whether you might be doing it wrong, tell Him about that, and ask Him to help you. It’s OK to ask God to show you how to talk to Him. The disciples did, and Jesus gladly obliged (Luke 11:1-13).

Don’t become paralyzed by the number of prayer requests you think you have to keep up with, either. I know that some churches have prayer lists a mile long, plus prayer calendars for missionaries, and you have friends and relatives asking you to pray for certain things. Sometimes, our prayer time can feel like we’re the office flunky armed with a long list of orders being sent out to pick up lunch for everybody. “Get those orders right! Don’t forget anything!” But prayer is not about completing a checklist of everyone else’s concerns. It’s about you and God, and it should be governed by God, not ruled by a list.

Wait a minute. This is starting to sound selfish. Aren’t we supposed to pray for others? Well, yes…and, no. What we’re supposed to do is to submit ourselves and our prayer time to God’s word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

That sounds great, but what does it mean in practical terms?

  • Study God’s word before you pray. As you do, He’ll begin leading you to the things He wants you to pray about.
  • Ask God what to pray about. Often, I’ll open a prayer meeting by praying that God will lead our prayer time and that He will put all the things on our hearts that He wants us to pray about.
  • Resist the list. Trust God to lead you to the things He wants you to pray about, and let your conversation with Him flow freely from your heart. Don’t worry about forgetting something on your prayer list.
  • Prayer time isn’t self-contained. Usually, my praying for others is done throughout the day rather than during my set prayer time. When someone asks me to pray for something, I’ll stop right then and do it. There are certain missionaries and other Christian ministries that I pray for when I receive an e-mail or Facebook update from them. Most of the time, unless God lays something on my heart during my personal prayer time, I only pray for requests on the church prayer list during the prayer meeting in which I receive them.

Relax. Just talk to Him.

“…the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Proverbs 15:8