If God had granted all the silly prayers I’ve made in my life, where should I be now?
- C.S. Lewis
In the short history of our once great nation, there has rarely been a more crucial time to be an actively praying Christian. There are many different books one can read on prayer, full of flowing language and scripture; things to pray for, words to use, specific prayers for specific people or situations. I have read a few and found some resonating in guidance, and others just simmer on the surface and leave me disconnected. Liturgical prayer simply lacks what the gospel begs of us. 1 Thessalonians tells us we should be praying “continually”, and that kind of intimacy calls for our own thought and free speech. Ultimately, prayer is a conversation between an individual, and the Heavenly Father, through the work of His Son and in the Holy Spirit. Some days prayer spills from our hearts and out our lips because we have particular needs that demand immediate attention, and it is simple. But prayer routine is challenging, tedious and sometimes elusive. It’s a habit that begs to be instilled, dear reader. In these troubling times, both on a personal and grand scale, prayer is a daily must. I was raised with a certain framework for prayer that guided me through the basics daily, and my conversations have grown from there. This prayer checklist, so to speak, has given me a road to follow for praying with intention. I was taught the art of prayer at a very young age. (I cannot express my gratitude to my mother for this elemental and precious gift at present, that topic demands its own separate essay.) My mother was taught by her mother and pastor from Texas, and the format in which I was instructed to use, is still the foundation of my prayers today. It has been a gift from God, and one I intend to share with you. The structure in itself is something systematic, easy to remember, and a stepping stone to conversations of true depth with our Creator in prayer. It is where I go when I feel I cannot pray, or when I am overwhelmed by my humanness and I do not feel inclined to seek God first. These steps are rooted in scripture, and by seeking divine guidance are a means to overcome prayer-block.
Confession: 1 John 1:9, Romans 3:23, Psalm 103:12 Sin is heavy and wearisome, we desperately desire to empty ourselves, of ourselves and our sin and be filled with Christ. To start the conversation, we must humble ourselves before the Lord, and relinquish the reins to the Holy Spirit. Then we must do this again, and again and again; for sin easily entangles. He will dictate the conversation once we have confessed our sins, for He is grieved when we disobey or ignore Him. Once our sins have been laid before the throne of God, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Here the point is not asking for forgiveness, He has already forgiven every transgression we could possibly think up and we all stand guilty before God, and forgiven in the blood of Christ. The essence of confession is humility, and reattaching our thoughts and actions to the Spirit within us, admitting that we “fall short of the glory of God” and that He is Lord of all. That confession removes the burden of sin and guilt from our lives, and “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us”. The key is accepting that forgiveness, beloved. When we sit established in God’s grace, again, how much easier is it to accept His sovereignty over everything, and bring all things to Him who loves you? As you continue your prayer out of submission and humility the fruits of the spirit will be evident in your further praise and beseeching of the Lord.
Praises and Thanksgiving: Colossians 3:17, Philippians 4:6-7, James 1:17
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Praises and thanksgiving bring about the strong and stable presence of God’s peace. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “...do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.” In no way to discredit the trials of life, no matter how challenging your situation is, there is always, always, something to be grateful for. Even our trials are blessings. Considering the great King David was a poor, and lonesome shepherd when he wrote his greatest Psalms and praises to the Lord, we too should be lifting high His name and speaking words of gratitude every day in the midst of our circumstances. One must always be on the lookout for God’s goodness in their life. Become a great detective of blessing and search for anything good; a working mind, a healthy body, a roof over our head, deliverance from evil, a friend, a beautiful sun set, and even if you don’t have a single one of those things on a dark day, we always have Jesus and the promise of heaven to be ever grateful for. Finding gratitude for God's blessings around us changes our mental attitude towards the situation and lifts our hearts to rejoice in His sovereignty, bringing us fruit of joy. His truth, justice and holiness beg our praises all day long and His presence will wash over us in waves of grace. For He is mighty and Lord of all, and I am eternally grateful to be counted in His Kingdom. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Others: Ephesians 6:18, Matthew 6:14-15, Romans 10:1, 1 Timothy 2:1, Mark 12:30-31 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
For where would I be without the tireless prayers of others in my life? I shudder to think. Fellowship and seeking God for one another is an essential part of Christian life and spiritual growth. As we begin the limitless dance of praying for those around us, we must chiefly pray God’s will over all situations to avoid instances where we may boast of ourselves. We must be proactive, observant, compassionate and responsive to those in our pastures while we supplicate on their behalf. To begin this practice, keep a running list in a journal of specific people, and specific needs to look back on and this helps to be consistent. Our relations, friends, leaders and fellow Christians need our constant prayer. I most commonly appeal to God for salvation, heavenly wisdom, health and safety for those on my list. Our God is limitless, our world ever changing, and there is no way one could concise a list of prayers. Petitioning for one and another in prayer builds stronger relationships, and connects you through Christ to do things for them that you could never do alone. Call to mind the scriptures above and stories from the Bible to help you pray for others within God's will. One of the earliest Biblical examples of prayer can be found when Abraham interceded for the city of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). Standing before the Lord, Abraham pleaded with Him to spare the immoral city based on the fact that some holy people lived there. We all know people who have turned away from God and live an immoral lifestyle. Abraham’s example reminds us that we should pray for their conversion and ask the Lord to be merciful. Mulling over the loves of my life and their many trials, sufferings or successes, I have again a refreshed perspective on my place in the flock; as just one of the Lord’s meek and humble sheep, in desperate need of His grace and ever seeking His face.
Self: Matthew 7:7, Mathew 26:39, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:19
As I come to the last, but not the least of these, I call upon God for my own personal needs. I pray for everything under the sun as a beggar seeks alms, but more often than not, the humbling process above keeps my bequests fairly succinct. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Mathew 7:7 God is omniscient; he knows what we need, what we yearn for, and what is suited for us. Let us never suppose our heavenly Father would tell us to pray, and then refuse to hear, or give us what would be hurtful. When we are walking in step with God all things are possible, and His will becomes our deepest desire. God is so generous, and eager to give us those fruits of the Spirit, which is what we all so earnestly crave at our core. The fruits and heavenly frame of mind, I have found, cover most of my worldly troubles. It is merely a constant refining of the soul that we endure here on earth as God tests and challenges us to trust and love Him ever more. In Philippians 4:19 Paul states, “And my God will supply every need of yours, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” In that verse comes peace. When I start to ask God for something, I earnestly search myself with these questions: If You, Father, supply every need, and I feel I am lacking something, where do I need correction in myself? How can I align myself to see my problems from a divine perspective? How may God be using this trial or situation to help me grow spiritually? How may God be using me or my situation for the growth of those around me?
My most standard prayer consists of my desire to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit, submit to God’s Will, to be a faithful disciple of God's word, remain humble and to gain and apply God’s wisdom in various trials. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His death, He gave us a perfect example of abandonment to God’s Will (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46). Even though it’s not always possible to know God’s Will with certainty, appending the phrase “but not as I will but as You will” to our petitions ensures that we are submitting to His Will.
In prayer our minds are put at ease, our battles are won and our path is made clear. Prayer is our tool by which we can navigate this fallen world. It is an intimate practice, and I hope this framework is as instrumental to you as it has been to me in the forming of the continual conversations with our Heavenly Father.
Jeslyn is a reverent student of the word. She lives to read, research and share God's wisdom. She is a dedicated wife and mother of two. Her husband, Jeremy, is a pilot for the Marine Corps so they are a family constantly on the move. This lifestyle has proved to provide fertile ground for witnessing and growing faith among friends. Homeschooling their children gives her ample opportunity to fill their days with study, outdoor adventures, baking, gardening, and reading all the books.
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