How Should We Pray?


Several years ago, a pastor friend confided in me. He did not know how to pray.

He hated to admit it, but he could not sustain prayers longer than a few seconds. Sustained prayer was for him as foreign as Durian candy in a Michelin five star restaurant. It just wasn’t happening.

My friend wanted help, but who could he ask? How would he not be condemned by others for simply asking the question? Thankfully, he trusted me enough to ask for help. And he was not condemned. Hopefully, he was helped.

Now I am hoping you might be helped, too. If a pastor made it into ministry without understanding how to pray, then (it’s at least possible that) other Christians might need help. Others may also be afraid to ask for instructions. After all, what Christian wants to admit that he doesn’t know how to pray?

If you are one who wishes you could pray more confidently, then you’re in pretty good company! According to Luke 11:1, Jesus’s followers asked him to teach them how to pray. In the longer account in Matthew 6, the Lord’s Prayer is an introductory model for daily Christian prayer. If you’re struggling with your prayer life, consider following the Lord’s Prayer as a model.

Here it is from Matthew 6:9-13,Lords Prayer Process2

…“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

NOTE THE 7 MOVEMENTS OF THE LORD’S PRAYER

  1. Identity — Our Father

Begin your daily prayer with a reminder that you are a child of God. You know the living God as your Heavenly Father. Notice that the prayer begins with “Our” Father. Not only does the believer begin with his or her identity as a child of God, but the children of God also recognize their identity as belonging to one another. The Lord’s Prayer is for the church! Enter prayer as part of the family of God.

  1. Eternity — The One Who Is in Heaven

Jesus next instructs His family of followers on earth to remember Heaven. There is distance between God’s children and God, distance between earth and Heaven. And yet, there is a direct line of communication available from one realm to the other. Because our identity belongs to God, our earthly location is no hindrance to a heavenly audience with Him. And because He is God in Heaven, He has resources beyond earth and time to bring to bear for the good of His children.

  1. Holiness — Holy God

Third, confess the Holiness of God. He alone is the supreme one. This confession serves both as a confession of God’s greatness and a reminder of our own limits. You and I are not the central figures of the universe, and God knows that. This portion of the prayer helps each of us orient ourselves to God as the center. Our part is to serve Him. His part is not to serve us (though He freely and graciously does). Keeping God central is key to faithful praying.

  1. Kingdom — Heaven and Earth

Naturally, the fourth part flows directly from God’s holiness. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Here is a rich and fertile field for cultivating prayer concerns. Think of all the ways the earth is out of sorts—the evil, the injustice, the lack of love for others. Pray for earth to meet heaven and for Christ to bring the new Jerusalem to earth. Pray that a uniting of God’s peace and order would prevail upon the earth. At Christ’s return, a new heavens and a new earth will unite God with his people, and all will be right.

  1. Provision — Daily Bread

As God is accomplishing this cosmic mission on earth, the fifth part of prayer comes into play. Prayer begs that God would accomplish the simple small favor of feeding us as he does the beasts, the birds, and the creatures of the sea. Our plea is sustenance, not superabundance. Our prayer has already been for God’s will to be done—not ours. We ask him to remember our needs as he also supplies his own.

The prayer for daily bread is humbling when we already have a superabundance. Yet some Christians around the world are in prison for their faith. Others are suffering terribly on account of Christ. Maybe remember to pray here for persecuted and suffering members of the Christian family to receive daily bread. See www.prisoneralert.com

  1. Forgiveness — Receiving / Offering

Noting the significance of God’s kingdom mission throughout, we must pray to do our part in the redemption process. Redemption offers us forgiveness of sins. Confess and seek forgiveness for every sin that comes to mind. Trusting that you receive forgiveness from God, pray for grace so you can offer forgiveness gladly and freely to others. Whom do you need to forgive today? Tell your Father you forgive those people today. Tell those people also if you are able.

  1. Sanctification — Redemption/ Deliverance

Finally, as the Father continues to work His will on earth as it is in Heaven, you continue praying for your own will to be in tune with His. Pray for His leading. Pray against all your temptations. Pray for deliverance both from temptations and from sin (yours and others). Pray for others in danger of sin. Pray against their temptations. Pray for their deliverance, too. Sanctification follows such praying.

May the Lord encourage you to pray confidently each day.

(Feel free to share other methods of praying daily)

Prayer and Fasting 2


Fasting:

I had a friend once who was greatly confused by God’s inaction. My friend had fasted for 40 hours in relation to a job he was pursuing. At the end of the fast, he learned that someone else got the job.  His disbelief at another candidate being promoted turned into something of a crisis for this young man. He didn’t understand how he could be so zealous for God and have it come to nothing.

Yet, fasting is not about our proving to God how serious we are about life—or even about faith.  God doesn’t need for us to testify about what is in us because he already knows what is in us, and he knows it better than we do (John 2:24-25).  So, my friend was a little confused about the nature and purpose of Christian fasting.  Fasting is not a means by which we can obligate God to act on our behalf. Rather, fasting is a means given to us by God to subjugate the flesh so we will act on God’s behalf.  In other words, fasting does not prove our faith, it improves our faith.  Fasting does not turn God’s will toward us; rather, it turns our wills toward Him.

Think of Jesus’s remarks in Luke 18 concerning the manner in which God views the righteous Pharisee in contrast with the manner in which He receives the unrighteous tax collector.  On the one hand, the Pharisee didn’t simply fast every week, he fasted two times every week without fail. How would the tax collector compete with that level of righteousness?  He wouldn’t compete with Pharisaical righteousness.  All the tax collector could bring before God was his own sin and the desperate desire he had to be rid of it.  The Pharisee was glad that he wasn’t like the tax collector, but such gladness did nothing to endear him to God. Indeed, Jesus taught that the sinner went home justified, while the Pharisee went home a self-righteous sinner who fasted twice a week in vain.

Fasting does not improve God’s disposition toward us.  Instead, it is designed by God to improve our own disposition toward Him.  Fasting changes us, while God remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.  In Him, there is no variation or shifting shadow.  Instead of changing God, fasting is designed to change us.

More specifically, fasting is designed to change our desires and our appetites and our hunger.  When we fast, we come face to face with the power our flesh has over us.  If you have gone a day or two without eating, then you will know what I mean.  The first few hours after skipping breakfast, you still feel all right and think, “I’ve got this. No problem.”  Fasting even feels good at first because it gives you a sense of righteousness, knowing that you are doing the right thing and God must be pleased.

But then, all of a sudden, it seems that God must be turning on you because everything starts to go wrong.  Your head hurts. You have no sense of satisfaction.  Instead, a sense of near panic enters in, and you wonder why you are doing this.  Your body is crying out for sugar.  Your head is shouting for caffeine.  Your stomach and intestines are crying for nutrients.  Of course, God isn’t turning on you; everything inside of you is in rebellion against you.  You find out your body hates you, and it is screaming that you’d better find a solution to this problem quickly.

In the heat of the battle, you find God’s design for fasting—to bring your body into obedience to Christ.  When your body is screaming at you, you are ready for spiritual battle.  You pray that you will hunger for holiness the way your body hungers for food.  Even as Jesus taught, you begin to understand more clearly what it means that you are not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  So, you confess that you want your true food to be the word of God rather than that which goes into the stomach only to go out again.  You want to put in the word and feed upon it so that you are full of Godliness, not fleshly desires.

Fasting is an opportunity for you to focus both your body and your mind on the will of God.  It is designed to build into you an appetite for God the way that you obviously keep an appetite for food.

So, then, is it wrong to ask God for things while you are fasting?  No, it isn’t wrong, but your asking must fit in with the purpose of fasting.  What does that mean?

Well, think of it this way, when we pray for the lost, we aren’t saying, “God, I am really serious about this person being saved.  You see how I am fasting?  Then, surely, you must hear my prayer and save this person because I am really serious about seeing them saved.”  That kind of prayer would be more in line with the Pharisee than with the tax collector who went home justified.  Rather, the prayer that we would pray for the lost is, “Lord, I confess that I have never hungered for the souls of others to be saved the way I am hungry now for food. Oh, change me, Lord, that I might have the right desire to see Christ glorified in the salvation of sinners. Oh, bless me Lord with the right affections so that I might join all of Heaven as the shouts go out at the repentance of ___________.  Save him for Christ’s sake, O God, and let me have a part in it according to your will.”