I've been working on a system of prayer lately that will help me get into a routine of conversing with God. Prayer should be sacred, it should be entered into with a sense of piety. I read somewhere that the ancient Pharisees would spend two hours preparing for prayer. Think about it, if you were going before the Queen of England, wouldn't you spend some time getting prepared? How much greater is the creator of the universe than ole' Elizabeth? Hybels wrote a great book on prayer, and a lot of this post comes from that source.
But I've also stolen from a variety of different sources. People have been praying since time immemorial, so why reinvent the wheel? For me, prayer life is a work in progress and usually happens before bedtime.
1. RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF GOD. A gesture, lighting a candle or a moment of silence in front of the place where we will do the examination might express this. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, and as a result we've been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and a one way connection with the Almighty. This is awesome stuff, and a bit of reverence to kick off the occasion is appropriate. Before beginning, it's good to think about these questions. Are my relationships right with others (Matt. 5:24-25)? Are my motives pure (James 4:3)? Am I seeking to glorify and please God above all else (John 14:13-14)? Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's guidance? Am I ready to praise God however he chooses to answer my requests? (Rom. 8:28; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)
Now it's time to get to work.
2. ADORE AND WORSHIP GOD- Rev. 5:8-14
- God's person (who He is) - Isa. 6:3
- God's Works (what He has done) - Ps. 103
It's a good idea to begin prayer by getting our heart, soul, mind, and strength fully focused on our GREAT BIG GOD; our problems will soon look NOT very big in comparison. This is the Adoration stage and it invokes Jesus' command to "take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mat 6:31-33) The kingdom Jesus refers to here, is our heart's surrender to Him as King, ie., acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, Savior, our Good Shepherd (John 10:11, Ps 23:1), our faithful High Priest who continuously intercedes for us in heaven (Hbr 4:14-16, Rom 8:34), acknowledging His Father as our heavenly Father, "my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust" (Ps 18:2), etc. In other words, acknowledge God for EVERYTHING He is to us, and focus my thoughts on Him alone. By temporarily pushing my specific requests out of mind, and first focusing on God Himself, and my relationship to Him, I am comforted by His Holy Spirit, convinced us that He hears me, and that He is able and willing, to deal with the requests I am bringingg before Him-Mat 6:8. Beginning prayer with Praise and Adoration is a powerful way to get focused on God. A few minutes of quiet meditation in God's Word beforehand, will help tremendously, at this initial stage of Prayer.
3. CONFESSION - REVIEW OF THE DAY- 1 John 1:9
- Personal sins (in deed, thought, or word) - Ps. 32:5
- Family sins - Lev. 26:40
- Church body sins - Dan. 9:3-19
- National sins - Jonah 3:5-1
With the help of the Holy Spirit I go through the "anamnesis" of the day. Next element is the Confession stage, where I purposely seek the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin, so that I might ask God for forgiveness, and trust Him to cleanse me by the blood of Christ (1Jhn 1:9); I do this so that my prayers will not be hindered by sin. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]." (Ps 66:18) See also Ps 139:23-24, Mat 6:12, 2 Chr 7:14, Ps 51:17.
4. THANKSGIVING AND RECONCILIATION- Ps. 50:23, 103
- For trials - James 1:2-4
- For blessings - 1 Chron. 16:7-36
- For everything - 1 Thess. 5:18
In the review of the day necessarily I will see also my shortcomings and this moment gives occasion to reconcile and to ask forgiveness in a simple way. This is very important step for my relationship with God. I begin to feel strengthened in my relationship through everyday forgiveness and acceptance. I am fallen and I can't do it without His help. Knowing that I've acknowledged my weakness and further affirming that He delights in my fills my heart with Joy. The rule "never go to sleep without reconciliation" applies to our sins against God. I remember in the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father rushes out to meet his lost son on the road, his son says...'Father I have sinned against God and against you." God comes first, and it is only right to reconcile your sins with God before trying to make things right with anyone else. God is so wonderful, He is worthy of our praise and thankfulness.
5. SUPPLICATION (To Plead Humbly - for your needs and those of others.) Matt. 7:7-11
- For my family - Matt. 6:11
- For my local church - Col. 1:9-12
- For the church worldwide - Eph. 6:18-19
- For individual Christians - Acts 12:5
- For individual non-Christians - Matt. 5:44
- For my nation - 1 Tim. 2:1-2
- For myself - James 1:5
Pray specifically (Avoid "God bless so and so.” Get to know people in Christ’s body!) Pray expectfully (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray submissively (God ultimately knows best - Matthew 26:39). Often times, I remember saying that I'd pray for someone, but then will have completely forgotten the next time I see them. It's a good idea to keep a list, or even one of those prayer apps to help us remember other's needs. I certainly don't need a list for my own needs, they always seem to jump out to the forefront. In fact, if it were up to me, I'd begin my prayer with a list of things I needed. I find it appropriate that I don't get to 'what I want' until towards the end of my prayer. By that time, I often realize that I don't need for much.
Examples of Supplication from the Bible can be found in:
- Luke 1:13; 2:37; 5:33 2 Cor. 1:11; 9:14
- Eph. 1:16-19 Phil. 1:4-6, 9-11, 19
- Col. 1:9-11 Heb. 5:7
- James 5:15-16 1 Pet. 3:12
6. RESOLUTION. This point regards the future, to make a resolution about going on trusting God, loving and searching what is good. Again, it's OK to be specific about how you are going to resolve to do better tomorrow. Words are powerful, and hearing yourself commit to a change in behavior is an effective tool. Many professionals, from athletes to businessmen make a list of goals to help them achieve their aspirations. There have been a variety of studies comparing students that wrote down where they wanted to be in 10 years against those students that didn't. The results were staggering. There's no need to make oaths to God, but letting him know specifically what you are resolving to do better increases your chances of being transformed to His will.