Lesson 10 How to Pray (Part 2)

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1 Lesson 10 How to Pray (Part 2) Christians living and working in the world are not expected to have the same kind of prayer life as cloistered monks who can devote themselves to prayer several hours per day. The Anglican Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer provides a balanced way for the average Christian to pray, read the Bible and join with other Christians in a consistent and regular order of prayer. However, once we move beyond the Daily Office, many Anglicans are unsure of what to pray for. After praying for family, friends and personal needs in five minutes or less, we run out of subject matter. The real problem is not a lack of things to pray about but a lack of understanding of the elements of prayer. There are six elements of prayer that every disciple of Jesus should use at one time or another. The first element of prayer is confession. It is no accident that the Order of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer begins with confession. Confession is the first element in prayer because the Bible says that if there is any sin in my life, the Lord doesn t hear my prayer (See Psalm 66:18). Confession renews our relationship with God. Receiving God s forgiveness and his salvation occurs at Baptism. It is at that point that our eternal relationship with God is established. That relationship will never change, but our fellowship with God can be broken. Prayer is the only way our fellowship with God can be maintained or restored if it is broken. Our relationship with God can never be broken. We are always God s child called into God s family and destined to enjoy his presence for forever. However our fellowship with God can be broken by sin. God does not cut us off from him, but we cut ourselves off from God by our sin. The way to restore fellowship is to confess our sins, knowing that God is always faithful to forgive us when we ask for pardon. Regardless of the severity and longevity of our sins, the unconditional promise of I John 1:9 is, If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, in confession we gain the assurance that we are: 1) forgiven, and 2) cleansed. Why cleansed? Because when we sin, we feel dirty. Confessions and God s forgiveness wipes us clean. The word confess simply means that we admit to God that we have done wrong and that we are truly sorry. To confess means to call a sin a sin admit our sins without giving excuses. It is our mea culpa or our recognition that the buck stops with us. Confession is designed to maintain our fellowship with God. There are serious consequences in neglecting confession that the Bible give us: 1

2 Psalm 51:12 We lose the joy of our salvation and begin to despair. Psalm 51:8 We lose our happiness in living and become depressed. Psalm 32: 3-4 We lose our enthusiasm for life and feel guilt and shame. Therefore, the consequences of neglecting confession are despair, depression, guilt and shame. Confession gives us the joy of salvation, which is the joy of being a forgiven sinner called into companion with Jesus. Just as with someone who admits his or her addiction, so the admission of sin is beginning of healing. The benefits of confession are: Psalm 32:1-2 We gain happiness because we are freed from the weight of us in our lives. Psalm 51: 13 We delight in witnessing because we know we are forgiven sinners. Psalm 51: Our lives begin to overflow with praise to God. Confession that is based on true repentance will result in a changed disposition, attitude and actions. Some of the greatest spiritual victories in the Christian s life come as a result of honest confession. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said there is no greater joy for the Christian than to know one is a forgiven sinner. that God wipes the slate clean and allows us to start over in our lives. The second element of prayer is adoration. The next step in prayer is to praise God for who he is. This is called adoration which is to praise God for being God. In the Anglican Order of Morning and Evening Prayer, we pray, O Lord, open thou our lips. And our mouth shall show forth thy praise. After confession, the Daily Office always begins with praise. Adoration should be one of the most important parts of prayer, but unfortunately it is one of the most neglected. In adoration you express your deep feelings toward God in response to knowing his attributes. One of the added benefits of adoration is that it makes us keenly aware of to whom we are talking and gives us confidence with the rest of our prayer. Here is a partial list of the attributes for which God should be praised: Psalm 104:1 & Psalm 145:3 God s greatness and majesty Psalm 104:24 God s creative power Isaiah 6:3 & I Peter 1:14-16 God s holiness Psalm 31:19 & 33:5 God s goodness Jeremiah 31:3 & John 3:16 God s love The third element of prayer is thanksgiving. Adoration is praising God for who he is, while thanksgiving is expressing gratitude to God for what he has done. In the Anglican Order of Morning and Evening Prayer, we end the office with the General Thanksgiving or some other prayer of gratitude for what God has done for us. Praise begins the Office and thanksgiving ends it. 2

3 Most of us spend too much time asking God and too little time thanking God for what he has already done. If our hearts are right in our prayer time, we will often be overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. What we should be thankful for the most (life and new life in Christ), we are often thankful for the least. As you grow in your prayer life, seek to express your deepest feelings concerning gratitude toward God. A good place to begin is by thanking God for those things in life we all take for granted families, jobs, homes, special people in our lives, material blessings, good health, answered prayer, adversities from which we have spiritually grown. Psalm 103: 1-5 lists three specific things for which every believer should be thankful: God forgives our sins. God heals and makes us whole. God redeems us and restores us to new life. The fourth element of prayer is intercession. Intercession is simply praying for the needs of others. It is not begging God, but praying with boldness and assurance for those needs. Though material needs can be prayed for in the lives of others, it should only be done after we have done everything we can to take care of those needs. We should never ask God or anyone else to do for someone what we can do ourselves. Therefore, the intercessory part of our prayer will usually focus on the spiritual needs of other Christians. We should not pray for the material needs of other people until we have done all we can to meet those needs ourselves. We should pray for what we ourselves cannot do but only God can do. Those needs tend to be spiritual. Ephesians 1: gives us some key insights about intercessory prayer. Paul prays for the Christians at Ephesus and asks for: The spirit of wisdom Knowledge and understanding of God That they would begin to see the great things God does through believers in Jesus. St. Paul rarely prays for material needs, even though many of the Christians in the churches were poor. He focuses on spiritual needs what only God can do. 3

4 Sometimes it is nice to write a note to people for whom we are praying. Intercessory prayer is always concerned with the needs of others. It is unselfish and seeks to meet the needs of others even at the expenses of personal sacrifice. Make a prayer list of parishioners and pray for every member of the parish by name each quarter. The fifth element of prayer is petition. Petition simply means asking God to meet certain needs in our own lives. There is nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs so long as you distinguish between your legitimate needs and your wants, which may or may not be legitimate. Jesus encouraged us to pray to God to meet our needs when he gave us the Lord s Prayer. In it we pray for our daily bread and deliverance from evil. According to I John 5: 14-15, Jesus put one limitation in praying to God to meet our needs: that we ask according to God s will. Jesus famous prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a model for us as we ask God to meet our needs. Jesus prayed, Father, take this cup from me, but not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:42). This prayer has three essential elements for all petitionary prayer: We direct our prayer to God Father. We make our request boldly and directly Take this cup from me. We submit ourselves to God s will Not my will but yours be done. In the end, with all prayers of petition, we must be prepared to praise God for yes, no, wait or something else. God will always give us the answer that is best for us, even if we cannot understand it at the time. The sixth element of prayer is meditation. Up to this point we have been doing all the talking in our prayers. Now it is time to listen to what God has to say to us. This element usually comes last after we have gone through the other elements. It is the time to be silent, to listen, and to make ourselves available to what God wants to say to us. A good way to begin this phase of one s prayer time is to pray, Speak Lord, your servants is listening (I Sam. 3:9). Jesus would often pray alone at night or early morning, asking God s strength and guidance for his ministry. He cultivated the discipline of listening to God rather than telling God what to do. We find in the ministry of Jesus the importance of silence, stillness and solitude. Prayer usually ends with Amen, which is the Hebrew word for So be it. In the end, we commit ourselves to God s will, whether it is what we want or not. As a prayer card of mine has it: God s will: Nothing less, Nothing more, Nothing else. 4

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