Thursday, May 31, 2012

Praying, Plain and Simple

I am convinced, as many of you are aware, that Christian people want to pray. They believe that they should pray more than they do, but they feel ill-prepared and untrained for the task of prayer. Part of this is because of some false perceptions of prayer. For example, we often labor under the assumption that praying is about telling God what we want. We read or recite a list to him, and we think that our responsibility for prayer is complete. However, as we grow in faith, we come to learn that prayer is not about a 'wish list,' but a relationship. Being with God is more important than telling him what we need.

As we continue on this year-long journey of spiritual growth then, we should agree that the two most important steps to improving our prayer lives are simply, 1) learning to pray, and 2) just beginning to pray. What follows are some samples of ways that you can pray. These models of prayer include times for asking God to meet our needs, but there are other aspects of prayer as well. These patterns will help you get started.

The idea behind using patterns for your prayers is not to enforce a strict formula, but rather to suggest some topics that will enhance and strengthen your prayers. Use the following patterns to guide you to deeper levels of prayer, rather than to oppress you with rules and obligations.

  • ACTS- This is an acronym. The letters of ACTS give you a handy reminder of some areas for prayer. Use this to remind you to have a well-rounded prayer time. A- adoration: Praise and worship God for who he is. C- confession: Confess your sins and repent of your wrongdoing. T- thanksgiving: Thank God for all the blessings that he has provided for you. S- supplication: Ask God to meet your needs.
  • PRAY- This is another acronym. P- praise: Offer to God words of praise and adoration. R- repent: Repent of the things that you have done, as well as the things that you should have done, but have not. A- ask: This is where you ask God for the things that you need, and for the needs of others. Y- yield: When we yield to God we echo the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but yours.”
  • PATH- Yet one more acronym. P- praise: Give to God your allegiance and glory. A- ask: Again we ask God for the things that we need. T- thanksgiving: Thanking God for answers to prayer is essential. Don't forget to also thank him for the blessings he provides that you haven't specifically asked for. H- help: There are areas in which you need God's help that don't fit into any of the other categories. We need help making decisions, finding direction and forgiving others, among other things.

There are some suggestions. Now its time to start praying. Try praying in these patterns for the next month. You will find that you grow much closer to God.

Why Should You Pray More?

As we have been reflecting on spiritual growth this year, we have been focusing primarily on Bible reading and prayer. Those are two of what I call the Four Most Important Things. The Four Things, in no particular order are:
  • Bible Study
  • Prayer
  • Christian Fellowship
  • Ministry
Each of these elements lend themselves to the spirituality of the Christian believer. Be sure to participate regularly in each of those “disciplines” for your spiritual health.

In this article I would like for us to think about the question of prayer, and especially why it is valuable for us to spend more time in prayer. To that end, let us consider the following answers to the question of why we should pray more.
  • We should pray more because it will help us to know God better. Like a conversation with a friend, prayer will allow you to reveal things to God, and help you to gain deeper insights into his person and his will for your life.
  • We should pray more because it is gives an indication of our level of commitment to God and his ways. When we love him more, we will spend more time with him.
  • When we spend more time in prayer, we are able to pray for more needs. You can pray more specifically for more things; for missionaries, family members, lost loved ones, the ministries of the church, etc.
  • When we spend more time in prayer, we long to spend more time in prayer. It is intriguing how this works. The more time you spend with God, the more time you want to spend with God.
  • We should pray more because our conscience pricks us. We do not pray enough presently. For peace of mind, spend more time with God.
  • We should pray more because our spiritual growth depends on it. If you want to grow in your walk with the Lord, spend time in prayer.

There are more reasons than these to pray more. In fact, there are enough different reasons that each person reading this could have their own specific rationale for praying more. But the bottom line is this: The reason you pray more is insignificant. You need to pray more. Get started. Don't wait another day. Pray to the Lord as if your life depended on it- because it does.