Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Should We Pray?

I have a confession to make; I have always felt a little bit uncomfortable in the way that I have prayed.
My prayers, and the group prayers that I have been part of, always seem to consist of just one major part; asking God for help. While there is obviously nothing wrong with doing this, I always felt as though I was praying to God as though he is a genie-in-a-bottle. This left me feeling rather guilty, as though I am just using Him.

It occurred to me that maybe we are doing prayer totally wrong. So I started looking in the Bible for examples of prayer, and I started to notice that back in the biblical days the people used to pray a lot differently to how we do now. Yes, they certainly asked God for help when faced with concerns or trouble, but there were a few other aspects to how they prayed that were actually more important than just asking God to miraculously intervene.

What I found was that God’s Word teaches us to pray by following five important steps.

1) We are to honour God

 We are to acknowledge God as the King of kings, whom nobody is above, our awesome and almighty creator and saviour. God is worthy of praise regardless of whether we are having a good or bad day!

Nehemiah gives a perfect example to start his prayer: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God” Nehemiah 1:5

2) Acknowledge what God has already done for us, and give thanks for the prayers that have been answered.

Imagine if you always gave a gift to someone but they never thanked you for it, you would eventually get a little annoyed! So be sure to thank God for what He has done, and not just use prayer as a never ending ‘wishlist’. Remember that God does not answer our prayers because He has to, but He does it because He has infinite love for us.

This is Solomon’s acknowledgment of what God has done for him; “LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.  You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.  [….] And now, LORD, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true. ” 2 Chronicles 14-17

3) Confess your sins to God

We all sin, and we do it all the time. In fact we are so sinful that God the Father can not even hear our prayers directly, they have to be purified and delivered through Jesus, John 14:6.

So before asking God for a favour, be sure to come clean with Him, confide in Him your sins. He loves you, and He just wants to put peace into your heart. By His love and mercy your sins are forgiven.

This is Daniels confession of sin in his prayer on behalf of Israel; “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel [….]are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;  we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.  All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you” Daniel 9:5-16

4) Prayer to God for help.

This is when you ask God to help you, or to intercede in your life. Notice that it is only after you do the three steps above that it is appropriate to make your requests to Him.

5) Praise God

Praise Him, because He is truly worthy of all praise, whether or not He answers specific aspects of your prayer, He has your best interests at heart. Think about all the things God has done for you, think about the wondrous world that He created for us, the undying love and compassion He has. Whether we are having a good or bad day, God is truly worthy of infinite praise!!!

This is the praise that Habakkuk said at the end of His prayer; “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour. The sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:18-19

Take note that these steps occur in order of the most important to the least important. The order should not be altered.

First, honouring God is the most important simply because He is worthy regardless of anything else. Second, God has done great things for us, and has answered our prayers in the past, we need to enthusiastically thank Him for these. Third, we are hopeless sinners, we should not continue to ask for God’s help until we humble ourselves before Him and admit what we have done wrong. Fourthly, it is only now that our requests of God are worth giving to Him.

If you want to take a closer look at this structure of prayer that I am outlining, read the corresponding post on my other Blog which goes into far more detail: