How do you feel about your prayer life? Do you sense that you are in a rut – that every prayer seems to begin with “Lord, bless this” or “Lord, bless that”? Are your prayers becoming a spiritual grocery list – asking for things for yourself or for others? Do you notice that your prayers are more about your weakness than God’s greatness?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then maybe God is speaking to you. Maybe He’s saying, “It’s time to grow up in prayer!”
Hebrews 6:1 says, “So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ.” (The Message)
There is so much more to prayer than just asking God for things. But what are the deeper expressions of prayer? Here are some ideas on how to grow up in prayer:
1. Start with PRAISE! “Praise” is the missing gem of prayer. Praise is glorifying God for who He is. This is different than “thanksgiving” which focuses on what God does. Praise focuses on the characteristics of the Lord. For example: God is all-powerful, the Lord is the Creator of the Universe, Jesus is loving, etc. We praise God, not because He needs it, but because we need to remind ourselves how great His is – plus He deserves it! Praise also reminds us to whom we are talking (a rather sobering thought). Often our prayer requests are pitiful and short sighted because we have failed to factor in the “greatness of God” into our prayer equation. I encourage you to make a list of God’s characteristics to help you in your praise. As you read Scripture and learn more about God’s character, add to your list.
2. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, he gave them what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). Too often this prayer is used as some sort of repetitive incantation – which is exactly how Jesus does not want us to use it as (see Matt. 6:7). While the reciting of the prayer itself is helpful, I find that the Lord’s Prayer can also be utilized as an outline with six different sections: approaching God as Father, setting apart His name, aligning with God’s will, asking for daily provision, confession (forgiveness and forgiving others), asking for protection, and ending with praise and doxology. I believe the order of the prayer is important; notice how far down the list “asking” is (number 4).
3. Read and study the prayers of mature believers. Letty and I have read written out prayers on occasion. John Baillie’s Diary of Private Prayer is an excellent example.. These are powerful prayers that have helped give more substance to our prayer life. Here is an excerpt from the prayer we read the other morning:
Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin. Let me use disappointment as material for patience. Let me use success as material for thankfulness. Let me use suspense as material for perseverance. Let me use reproach as material for longsuffering. Let me use praise as material for humility …
Another great resource for prayer is Richard Foster’s, “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.” In this book, Foster explores the various types of prayer practiced by Christians throughout the centuries. We need to learn from those who have experienced life and the Lord in deep ways. One of the prayers that Foster mentions is “Silent” or “Contemplative” prayer. It is where I wait for the Lord’s presence in silence (while graciously dealing with distractions) for 10-20 minutes. It has been powerful and transforming for me in recent days (more on that topic in a later blog).
There’s so much more for us to experience in God through prayer than the elementary method of asking for things. Prayer is the act of “spiritual breathing” for a Whole Life Worshiper. Let’s be encouraged to grow deeper in our prayer life!