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Lord, Teach Us to Pray

January 28, 2023

I Don’t Know How to Pray
 
Over the years of my ministry, I’ve come up with a Top Ten List of most often asked questions or issues folks struggle with the most. And without question, the area I get most often asked about is prayer. It’s not so much the philosophical, “If God already knows what we’re going to say or what we need… then why pray?” I sometimes hear that. It’s much more on a practical level: I don’t know how to pray.
 
Many Reasons to Pray
 
There are many kinds of prayers. My 16-year-old son just got his driver’s license. Thus, my wife and I have spent much time with the Lord on that topic. Trust me. There are many circumstantial reasons that drive us to prayer.
 
Maybe you’re trying to get a loan, a new job, trying to make a team, or about to take final exams. Or maybe someone you dearly love is very ill. Those sorts of things will certainly direct your attention to prayer. But we don’t restrict those prayers to an “official prayer time.” We pray about them whenever we think of them. And we should.
 
What I’m focusing on here is that set apart prayer time when it’s just you and God. We sometimes call this our “quiet time.”
 
Obstacles to Prayer
 
Many folks have come to me over the years and said something along these lines: “I thank God for the day. I ask God for his blessings for the day. I ask God to bless my family. Maybe heal a sick loved one. And then I’m done. I run out of things to say.”
 
Can you relate to that?
 
Or maybe you have another issue: distraction.
 
When my wife has the opportunity to share how her prayer-life sometimes looks, she humorously points out that she begins with the best intentions. Perhaps she focuses on the day ahead, when suddenly she remembers one of our children’s doctor’s appointments. She then begins thinking about the appointment when she realizes the gas tank in her van is sitting on empty. Before she knows it, she’s putting together a grocery list, “miles away” from where she was when she started out in prayer.
 
Can you relate to that?
 
Many of us need help in our prayer lives. Our prayer lives are one dimensional, and if we’re honest, pretty self-centered.
 
I want to begin by briefly answering the question: Why pray? Then, I want to give you a model of prayer that you may already be familiar with. Whether you are or not, my hope is that it will encourage and guide you as you revive your prayer life.
 
Why Pray?
 
One of my favorite writers is C.S. Lewis. He wrote, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Mere Christianity,” and Screwtape Letters,” just to name a few.
 
A little over 20 years ago, a movie called “Shadowlands” came out about his life. The movie focused on Lewis and his wife, Joy, and how they dealt with her approaching death, due to her cancer. One scene that really stood out to me took place right after Lewis learned his wife’s cancer had gone into remission. His friend, who was a priest, walked up to Lewis after learning the good news and said,
 
“I know how hard you’ve been praying, and now God is answering your prayer.”
 
Lewis responded in very memorable way. He said,
 
“That’s not why I pray Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because… I pray because the need flows out of me all the time… waking and sleeping.”
 
I love that imagery. Lewis paints a picture of being inwardly compelled to pray. Desire and dependence compelled him be a man of prayer. And from the biographies I’ve read about Lewis, he was a man of great prayer.
 
What motivated Lewis to pray as he did, ought to drive us to do the same.
 
Our Father
 
In verse 1, Jesus taught that when we pray, we should address God as, “Father.” Jesus uses “Father” eight times in the parallel passage in Matthew 6. We’re instructed and encouraged to enter into a relationship with One who loves and cares for us more than any other person in the entire universe – Our Heavenly Father.
 
He’s not the god of the deists who wound up the universe like a giant watch and then left town, unconcerned about his creation. No! He’s the loving Father of the prodigal son who came running to greet and hug his returning son, restoring him and throwing him a party.
 
In prayer, we’re invited to commune with our loving Father. We’re encouraged to speak to him, listen to him, and bask in his presence.
 
We listen to God through his Word and reflect on it in meditative silence, but our struggle usually is, what to say to God.
 
I want to share an Acronym, ACTS, that you may already know about, but again, hopefully it will encourage you to revive your prayer life if it needs reviving.
 
A – Adoration
 
Adoration is simply a time to praise God for who he is. Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer with “hallowed be your name.” Jesus is teaching us we should pray that God’s name be exalted as holy throughout all the world. Again, Jesus isn’t being comprehensive here, he’s giving us a model.
 
The first thing he wants us to know is we’re praying to the One who loves us as our Father. Second, we ought to praise, honor, and esteem God for who he is.
 
What does that look like? It’s as simple as offering a brief word of praise to God for one or more of his attributes. Praise God for his love and holiness. Praise him for his grace and righteousness. Praise him for his mercy and strength.
 
Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer has provided me a great help in doing this. Boa’s book takes Scriptural references and turns them into first person prayers to God.
 
Here’s an example from Psalm 86:12-13,
 
“I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me,
And you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.”

 
Then Boa has a prayer prompt below the Scripture that says, “Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.” This is your time to “camp out” with the particular Scripture and “pray back” to God the Scriptural references. In this case, praise God for his great name and love.
 
There’s no formula here. Let these things be a servant to you to help and encourage you in your prayer life, but don’t let them be a master over you. This is not a magical formula.
 
C – Confession
 
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says, “and forgive us our sins.”
 
To confess your sin is to recognize the sin in your life and admit it to God. This shows we take seriously our sins and shortcomings.
 
Now here’s the really painful part: Be specific. A casual, “And God, forgive me for my sins” may show you’re not taking your sin seriously. When you name your sin before God, it can hurt. It’s hard to be proud when you’re confessing specific sins to God. But when we confess our sins before God, we’re also asking to be forgiven for them. And God tells us we are forgiven.
 
Read this comforting promise from 1 John…
 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
 
Confession of our sin leads us to affirm the good news of the Gospel.
 
T – Thanksgiving
 
This is simply the act of expressed appreciation. I highlight the word, “expressed” because, so often, we may be grateful, but don’t express it. Have you ever prayed and prayed for something, got what you prayed for, but then forgot to thank God. I have. Of course, that sends me back to confession. Ugh.
 
I think thanksgiving naturally flows out of spending time adoring and praising God for who he is, and the great work he’s done in your life. It also flows out of knowing you’re forgiven for the sin you just confessed to God. Our relationship with God is deepened when we thank him.
 
If you remember the story of the 10 Lepers, you know Jesus cleansed 10 men from their awful leprosy. Besides the horrible disease, which was bad enough by itself, this disease and deformity also made the person an extreme social outcast. If you saw the movie, Ben Hur, you remember the Lepers had to leave their homes and live in faraway places with other lepers. It was a terrible disease in many ways.
 
The day Jesus healed the 10 Lepers, he approached them, which people didn’t do. He treated them with love and dignity. He even touched them. And he healed them.
 
There’s little doubt they were all grateful. They were no longer diseased. They could return to their families once again. You know they were grateful. But what happened? Only one of the men stayed to express his thanks for what Jesus had done.
 
We also need to express our thanksgiving to God for our many blessings.
 
S – Supplication
 
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:5-6,
 
The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Supplication is when we bring not only our needs, fears, concerns, and desires to God, but those of others as well.
 
We naturally gravitate to this, so I won’t spend a lot of time here. But I do want to say this: God may already know our needs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend time with him, in his presence. Just as children do with their parents, we need to bring our needs, fears, concerns, and desires to our loving Father. There’s comfort and encouragement in the relationship. In being with him. Listening to him. Getting things off our chests. And I would add that there’s no greater ministry than interceding in prayer on behalf of others.
 
So there you have it…
 
A – Adoration
C – Confession
T – Thanksgiving
S – Supplication
 
Let this acronym serve you in your prayer life to help it grow and flourish. But don’t become so focused on the order and form that you forget the main part of prayer, which is to spend time with your heavenly Father.
 
Walking Points

  • What does your prayer life ordinarily look like? What sorts of things do you usually focus on the most?
  • Can you see how using the ACTS model can enhance your prayer life?
  • Beginning today, start using this model with the assistance of this prayer journal. It may feel awkward at first, but the more you pray this way, the more natural it will become.

Prayer Journal: Week 4

January 22, 2023

At the profoundest depths in life, men talk not about God but with him. (D. Elton Trueblood)

Prayer Journal: Week 3

January 15, 2023

As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray. (Martin Luther)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15
·         Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
·         1 Timothy 6:6-19
·         Luke 16:19-31

Adoration

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”


Come, Thou Almighty King
 (verse 1)

Come, thou almighty King, help us thy
name to sing, help us to praise! Father all
glorious, o’er all victorious,
come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!

(Anonymous)

(Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.)
 
 
Confession

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing thou has made, and doest forgive the sins of those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, truly lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965)

(Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness. Ken Boa)
 
 
Thanksgiving

Help us to pray always and not to faint, in everything giving thanks, offering up the sacrifices of praise continually, possessing our souls in patience, and learning in whatsoever state we are therewith to be content; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. (Fielding Ould)

(Ask the Spirit to search your heart and mind and then spend some time thanking God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.)
 
 
Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Spiritual Insight
o   Understanding and insight into the word
o   Understanding my identity in Christ
§  Who I am
§  Where I came from
§  Where I am going
o   Understanding God’s purpose for my life
o   My activities for this day
o   Special concerns

(From Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer)
 
 
Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My family
·         Believers
o   Personal friends
o   Those in ministry
o   Those who are oppressed and in need
o   Special concerns

(From Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer)
 
 
My God… Thou art all my good in times of peace, my only support in days of trouble, my one sufficiency when life shall end. Help me to see how good thy will is in all, and even when it crosses mine teach me to be pleased with it. Thou bottomless fountain of all good, I give myself to thee out of love, for all I have or own is thine, my goods, family, church, self, to do with as thou wilt. (from The Valley of Vision)

Prayer Journal: Week 2

January 08, 2023

Lord, we beseech thee, give ear to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitation lighten the darkness of our heart, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Thomas Cranmer)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1
·         Psalm 79:1-9 or Psalm 4
·         1 Timothy 2:1-7
·         Luke 16:1-13

Adoration

Psalm 79:9

Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake!

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (verse 1)

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise
.
(Walter Chalmers Smith)

(Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.)


Confession

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Loving and devoted God, we confess that, more often than not, we act like rebellious children in the face of your unconditional love, and fail miserably to treat you as the loving Father that you are. Forgive us, we pray, and make us sensitive and responsive at long last to your gracious initiatives. Make us worthy recipients and channels of love, and thus true brothers and sisters of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen. (Paul A. Laughlin)

(Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness. Ken Boa)


Thanksgiving

O Thou, Who art the hope of all the ends of the earth, and on Whom the eyes of all do wait, Who crownest the year with Thy goodness, and openest Thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: every day we give thanks unto Thee, and praise Thy Name for ever and ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (William A. Knight)

(Ask the Spirit to search your heart and mind and then spend some time thanking God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.)


Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Growth in Wisdom
o   Developing an eternal perspective
o   Renewing my mind with truth
o   Greater skill in each area of my life
·         My activities for this day
·         Special concerns

(From Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer)


Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My Family
o   My immediate family
o   My relatives
o   Spiritual concerns
o   Emotional and physical concerns
o   Other concerns

(From Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer)


O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth: for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. (Psalm 96:1, 13)

Advent 2022: Day 4

November 30, 2022

Advent 2022: Day 4

Page 1 of 16

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