As Pastor John preached on this past Sunday, there are few disciplines that we miss the mark on as we do in prayer. Whether it is treating prayer as some ritual to check off our to-do list, or rubbing a magic lamp to get what we want, it can be easy to miss the point of prayer.
Prayer is about communion with God…
Prayer is about communion with God. It is about connecting with Him and communicating with Him. He knows everything about us, but He desires for us to know Him. Think about that for a minute… the Creator of the universe wants a relationship with you! The Author of life wants to spend time with you! And day after day so many miss out on what God has for them because of their failure to communicate.
As Jesus mentioned in Luke 11:5-13, God desires to give us good gifts, for He is the Good Father. Yet, have we even communicated what we want, and do we want with the right motives (for the right reasons). God says in the epistle of James…
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”James 4:2-3 NIV
And shouldn’t we look at the model that Jesus gave us on prayer? When we look at Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gives us the framework for prayer. It is found in the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This isn’t about just saying the Lord’s Prayer, but having a time of adoration (for there is nothing we should adore more than God), then confession (for we are sinful people), moving to thanksgiving for all the things He has done for us, and finally praying for ourselves and others (supplication).
So if God desires a relationship with us, and we desire to grow our relationship with Him, what are some practical steps to make this a reality? Well, we have been following Richard Foster’s book The Celebration of Discipline, and he has some great suggestions on how to apply the discipline of prayer into our lives (a few of which I’ve included here).
First, prayer is about spending time with God. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, wrote about how he communed with God every day, throughout the day. He did it during all aspects of his life, even while working. Make sure to understand that you are talking to God.
Second, as a triathlete, I shouldn’t start with an Ironman length race. I started with shorter distances and then built up. Unless God called you to make dramatic changes, it is best to make smaller changes and build up. Much like fasting, where we don’t start with a 40 day fast, start with adding in a small amount of dedicated time. Go through the ACTS acronym starting with 5 min (if you can get through it in only that time), and then try to build on it weekly.
Third, if prayer is communicating with God, then we need to make sure we have time to listen. When we pray, we want to pray that which is in the will of God. The only way we can know the will of God is to listen to Him (through Bible study and prayer).
“Listening to God is the necessary prelude to intercession. The work of intercession, sometimes called the prayer of faith, presupposes that the prayer of guidance is perpetually ascending to the Father. We must hear, know, and obey the will of God before we pray it into the lives of others. The prayer of guidance constantly precedes and surrounds the prayer of faith.”Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Disciplines, The Path to Spiritual Growth, Harper Collins Publishers; 1978, 1988, 1998; (New York, NY) p. 39
Fourth, we shouldn’t wait until we feel like praying. It is a skill that needs to be developed. It requires work. There are times I would rather sit and watch TV instead of training (both spiritually and physically), but if I desire to grow and become all that God has called me to be, sometimes I need to do what He calls me to do, even if I don’t feel like it at the time.
And finally, please pray for your pastors and leaders. As we prepare to lead, as we prepare to present God’s word to you (a humbling task), please pray for His strength in us, for His life to shine through us, and for His words to come out of our mouths.