Sunday, April 29, 2007

How I Pray

Twice this week I was asked by friends about how I pray and what I do for my devotional reading. Though I'm obviously not "the standard" for how to pray, sometimes it's helpful to see how others pray and ask the Holy Spirit to challenge us. Having trusted my heart to Jesus more than thirty years ago, that's how I've come to my current-- yet evolving-- daily prayer time.

Devotional Time?
I'm not sure who coined the daily time with God as devotions, but it's a great term that I now own for my daily time with him. It's a time in my routine in which I choose to devote myself and my day to God. For me, I try to do this early in the day. Doing so, I find that it impacts my entire day.

I like to start my time by confessing my sins and transgressions so that I can start fresh with God. In my mind as I do this, I see sins as those things I intentionally chose to do which were displeasing to God, and transgressions as those which I unintentionally did or even that I'm not even aware of.

Sometimes I'm not aware of anything I've done since my previous devotional time, and so I simply ask God to forgive and cleanse me anew of any and all sins and transgressions in my life. However, when I am aware of any (more often than I want to admit), then I confess each by act or incident and underlying motive.

Now I'm Ready
Next I ask God for three categories of things, and some have subcategories.
  • "Please bless me and use me as you'd like." Here I'm asking God to do in and through my life as he'd like. I ask him not to be restricted by my shortcomings, weaknesses, or past. Rather, for all that he would like to do in me and through me, I'm giving him full reign. This is a little like Jabez' prayer in which he asked God to expand his borders, but is my adaptation that says I only want what God wants in my life. Not necessarily larger borders, though that'd be okay... but his will be done in and through me.
  • "Please be with me in all I say and do today." How could I possibly do what he wants me to do on my own strength? I ask specifically for:
    • Wisdom from his throne (see James 1:5).
    • Words that are appropriate in their circumstance (see Proverbs 25:11).
    • The manifestation in and through me of his fruit and gifts. While praying this I recognize that these are always for the purpose of building his church, not for self-promotion.
  • "Please keep evil far from me and remove the evil I've invited into my life." This is for my protection, the protection of those around me, and the protection of those whom he has entrusted to my care.
Once I've worked through these, I begin praying for specific individuals and groups, beginning with those I'm closest to and slowly working outward. I ask God for the same for them as I've prayed for myself along with any specific needs they may have that come to mind.

Finishing Up
At the conclusion of my prayer time I almost always pray that all I've asked is in Jesus name because he said in John 14:14 "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." I understand that to mean that it must be according to his purpose and for his glory... which is what I'm truly asking for.


1 comment:

Nick Nicholaou said...

A friend emailed me about this post. He said that he's been listening to Christian radio, and recently heard a preacher say that we shouldn't say "please" when we pray.

My guess is that the preacher was basing that on Hebrews 4:16 which says we should "approach the throne of grace with confidence" (NIV) The New Revised Standard Edition and the King James Version both use the word "boldly" in place of "confidence".

Of course I agree that we can approach God with confidence, believing that he will hear and answer our prayers. But I don't think this verse is saying to be impolite or disrespectful.

To get a picture of what the writer likely had in mind in this verse, consider Esther 4:11 which says, "All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death." (NIV)

I believe our confidence and boldness is that we can approach God on his throne and know that we will be welcomed. I don't believe it means we can demand of God anything we want.

Yet this seems contrary to what Jesus said in Mark 11:22-25. Specifically in verses 23 and 24 it appears that Jesus is saying that whatever we ask for will be given to us! But is that really what he said? I don't think so.

There were numerous times that Jesus was asked for something, and the request was denied. This is an example of not taking verses out of context. The Mark 11 passage was referring to praying in faith and included making certain you are right with God (see verse 25). That suggests a prayer offered *within* faith means that I am praying for things that are aligned with God's purposes.

I have seen God answer some pretty bold prayers. I have seen him alter the weather and cause people to do things they normally wouldn't within moments of the prayer! Those prayers were directly aligned with his purposes, and it was amazing to see him respond in that way.