Tag Archives: Prayer

30 second prayer lesson

Here’s the lesson: learn what God calls true blessing, and ask for that.

An example from inside the Old Testament. Early on, while Moses is still alive, the Lord tells Moses to pass on a message to the priests.

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you:
the LORD lift up his face upon you and give you peace.”‘
(Numbers 6:23-26)

Later on, Psalm 67 takes this instruction and makes it a prayer.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all generations.

The psalm is not word for word – it’s not a magic incantation! But the blessing from Numbers is definitely in the mind of the psalmist.

If God says something is true blessing, we can be sure he wants to give it – and that he wants us to ask for it. Give it go in your prayers.

 


 

2 Thessalonians prayer book

When starting our church sermon series on 2 Thessalonians, I already knew there would be ‘interesting’ material about Jesus’ return, the man of lawlessness, and other apocalyptic content.

I did not know how much prayer and thanksgiving this little letter contains. So here I’ve assembled the relevant verses, as a kind of guide and instruction towards prayer. I hope it helps you as well as me. (Each quotation is from the ESV, followed by chapter and verse.)

Thanks

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 1:3

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  2:13

Requests

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:2

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ 1:11-12

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2:16-17

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3:1-2

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 3:5

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.  3:16

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. 3:18

Amen!

 


 

Ten laws of prayer, and one instruction

  1. Distraction was not invented by social media, but by a mind trying to pray
  2. The day you really can concentrate on morning prayer is also the day the fascinating colourful birds frolic outside the window
  3. The invisible cafe worker collects amazingly loud crockery the instant you pray with your friend
  4. Eyes closed for prayer causes amnesia for names, starting with people in the same room
  5. The quietest person when sharing prayer points has the loudest tummy rumbles in prayer time
  6. The moment for prayer is also the moment for long-lost friends to call or to send a text message – and the phone volume setting is 100%
  7. Our most accurate and complete shopping lists are assembled during prayer
  8. While finding the perfect Bible verse to pray for a friend, the copyright notice becomes strangely compelling reading
  9. We know exactly how many times he said “yeah, Lord”, but have no memory of what he asked God
  10. Everyone else sounds so heartfelt, and they never stumble in their words

So, says Jesus, stick at prayer!

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

The parable is in Luke 18:1-8.

 


 

Performance prayer

It was a surprising realisation to me: that it’s good to think of public prayer as a performance.

It came from reading the apostle Paul’s letter to Corinth. In Corinth, church members used their gifts. Wonderful!

Not wonderful, according to Paul. The trouble was that they used gifts selfishly, for their own benefit. Gifts without love are a waste of time (1 Cor 13:1-3). Speaking to oneself is nothing like speaking to build up someone else (1 Cor 14:19). It seems the church in Corinth had it upside-down: they rejoiced in selfish solo prayer, they exalted gibberish in public talk.

Paul employed a musical image to show how wrong they were:

If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor 14:7-8)

 

flickr user geoff1947

flickr user geoff1947

These three instruments are for public performance. Muddy sound and unclear notes spoil the music. On a battle field, an indistinct bugle is dangerous. ‘Was that the signal to attack, or to run away really fast?’ How much more confusing it is when words are unintelligible!

So when we speak in church – including words of prayer – God wants us to perform well. To be clear is to love our listeners. To be clear is required to build up our listeners.

I admit once more my surprise: I did not expect that God would promote the idea of public prayer as, at least partly, a performance.

Why? Because performance often conveys the feel of being self-absorbed. It carries the faint aroma of look at me! The startling truth is that non-performance is more likely to be selfish in Christian settings. I choose not ‘to perform’ because: I am not worthy (please praise my false humility); it would be selfish (please note my false piety); it distracts from my personal walk with God (be impressed by my spirituality).

The great advantage of thinking of prayer as performance is that I – a redeemed sinner – am forced to consider your needs. I have to plan for what helps them, instead of what helps myself. It’s for your sake that I use the PA system. It’s for the benefit of others that I eliminate prayer’s annoying verbal tics: we do pray; yeah, Lord, like …; I just ask; inJesus’name&forhisgloryAmen.

A well-performed prayer is communal. It is fellowship in the grace of God, the joyous privilege of drawing near to our Father as his children. It’s not too obvious to say that doing good job in leading prayer is, yes, good.

 


 

Lord’s prayer: family devotions

Lurid Lord's prayerBelieve it or not, this is the Lord’s prayer – the form for prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. In this image, it kind of looks familiar and kind of draws attention but we kind of don’t really get what it’s about.

And perhaps that’s just like prayer: as easy as speaking to our Father, mentioned in so many Christian conversations, but not something in which we ever feel mastery.

I decided we’d look at prayer in our family Bible reading. Using the Lord’s prayer, as recorded by Matthew. Here’s how we did it.

Method

Each evening, after dinner (that’s our usual time), I read Matthew 6:9-13. We then discussed one line of the prayer. Then we prayed it together by reading the Bible passage. The next night the pattern was repeated as we moved to the next line of the prayer. By the end, even our youngest non-reader was making a stab at saying the words of this prayer.

To finish the sequence of prayer devotions, we read Matthew 6:5-8 to hear Jesus’ warning about using prayer as a pathway to pride. By this stage we knew the words of the prayer … well, perhaps our five and seven year olds had less accurate recitation!

Content

Here, as far as I can recall, is what I highlighted for each line of the Lord’s prayer. It’s not written in the conversational dinner-time style, but the points are what we talked about.

Our Father in heaven
Prayer starts with God, the Father. We speak to him – we don’t send him a memo or an invoice. He’s Father! What’s more, all who trust him do this, God is our Father. Prayer, then, is a kind of family activity in which the children seek out the Father who is the giver of life. This is very worthwhile, because he is our Father in heaven, the place of real authority –  he is the power above all.

Hallowed be your name
What’s in a name? A person’s character and reputation, that’s what. The name is the whole message and expression of God. And because it’s a word, it is communication. God’s name is spoken to people and received by people. When God’s name is spoken truly, people know God properly. God’s name, in a sense, is all of creation rightly listening to him. That is, God is hallowed, known as holy. That’s exactly what we want to see. So we ask for it.

Your kingdom come
God’s kingdom is not a space on a map. It is God’s rule, unchallenged and right. This line reminds us that God is the only ruler – I am not the king! It’s important to see that these two requests follow on from ‘Our Father in heaven.’ The Father, in the Bible, is responsible for the family. Sometimes even kings are called ‘father’ of their nation. And the kind of king/father we have is holy, because he’s in heaven.

In other words, to pray ‘Our Father in heaven’ is automatically to pray ‘Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
There’s a third prayer request for something about God. What should we pray for as of first priority? For God’s rule and will and ways. The first good thing about prayer is that it rejoices in God’s name, kingdom and will.

Yet there’s a shadow in this prayer. To make these three requests is a reminder: God’s name is treated as mud, his king is ignored, and his will is flouted. This world is not right. So sad! What can be done!? Major news: Jesus shows that God uses prayer as he fixes this world. It’s a mystery how God does this. But we know what we need to know – that prayer, like the Lord’s prayer, is good in a world that does not yet do God’s will.

We can be confident in all these prayers, because Jesus prayed the same thing – three times! (Matthew 26:36-45) And God answered this prayer, through the cross of Jesus. God’s will was that the death of Jesus forgive us of sin. Certainly now God will hear our prayers, for we are his children.

Give us this day our daily bread
God loves us, because he’s our Father. No detail is beneath him. Our bread is a day by day need. Our bread is also a day by day prayer point. At the same time, this is a prayer that skewers greed. Instead of asking to own 1000s of bakeries, we ask for the day’s food. That’s plenty, for we will let tomorrow worry about itself.

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors
Debts are what we owe. They’re expensive, and it’s right to pay. The trouble is, we cannot pay our debt to God because our wrongs are so many. All we can do is ask for God to wipe away the debt.

But there’s more! We ask for forgiveness as we also forgive. Forgiveness, we see, is central to God’s kingdom. Everyone in God’s kingdom is a person of forgiveness: we love it. We love forgiveness from God, we love to show forgiveness to people, we love to encourage forgiveness between others. Everyone who loves God’s kingdom loves forgiveness.

Now look at when we ask for forgiveness: it’s after we speak to God as Father. We were already God’s children, as disciples of Jesus. We do not flip-flop into God’s family and out of it depending on ‘sins.’ When we trust Jesus, we are always in God’s family – always – though we will have to keep coming to God for help with our debts.

Lord's prayer

 

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
After prayer, we keep living. As we live, we face temptation. It’s not bad to be tempted – what are some of your temptations or tests? The bad comes from within us, as we follow temptation and take pleasure in evil (or in the evil one). Since we do not want to dishonour God like this, we ask for his help. ‘Please don’t lead me that dangerous way, but help me go this good way.’

We see that prayer for the whole world is also prayer for me and for us. We will be changed by God, as we pray in the manner Jesus taught us.

 


 

We’re a mixed up bunch

In Albury-Wodonga, the weekly free newspapers used to include a column of reflections. They were written by local  ministers, or similar (authors included a local Baha’i leader, as well as someone from the local humanist society branch). I don’t know why they stopped. Equally, I don’t know if they achieved anything!

Cleaning up my computer, I found a few of mine. In the interests of recycling, I will re-release them on this blog.

July does the same thing every year. The weather makes it less appealing to ride my bike. The TV makes it more inviting to watch others ride their bikes. Yes – I’m addicted to the Tour de France.

Each year I again fall for the helicopter shots of tourist sites, for the speed of fast flat racing, for the pain of riding up ridiculously long mountain roads. There’s a lot to see: fanatical fans; beautiful country; selfless teamwork; athleticism.

This year there was even the chance of an Australian winner. I hope I’m not crazy, but I tried to support Cadel Evans by riding my bike down Cadell St in Albury a few times.

Yet cycling has a problem. Drugs. Again in 2007 there were accusations of cheating and lying. Some cyclists were caught, some teams were kicked out.

There’s no excuse for cheating, but I am not surprised that people try.

These ups and downs are simply an expression of what people are like. We’re a mixed-up bunch, both wonderful and awful at the same time. I started with the Tour de France, so here’s a famous French thinker. Blaise Pascal called people ‘the glory and the shame of the universe.’

If there’s a shadow over cycling it is because there is a shadow over humanity.

Jesus also knew that we’re a mixed-up bunch. Talking about families in Luke’s gospel chapter 11, Jesus pointed out that we don’t give our children scorpions if they ask for food. Yet we are far from perfect. He said that we who are evil know how to give good gifts.

That’s certainly confused. Is there any solution?

It’s no solution to pretend everything is alright. There are drugs in pro sport. And there is failure in our lives.

It’s no solution to give up. Drug testing should continue. And we still admire those able to say sorry.

Jesus’ words point us to the real solution, prayer to God our Father. He’s the one who gives the good gifts of life and forgiveness.
August 2007

 


 

A prayer for the new year

Here’s a prayer that I put in our church bulletin for January. I hope you may find it useful.

Dear God our Father,

We praise you that our times are in your hands. From the start of life til its end, you remain as Lord.

We ask you for bold faith for the year ahead. Help us cling to you in challenges. Keep us humble & thankful in success.

May we know Christ & the power of his resurrection in every facet of life.

Give us the joy of true service: with love for you, Father, as well as love for each other.

We also pray you draw many more children into your family, in Australia & worldwide.

Please hear our prayer, for the sake of Jesus our saviour. Amen

 


 

A prayer, based on 1 Timothy

Church is going to start a series of Bible talks on 1 Timothy, the letter Paul wrote to his lieutenant. Timothy was sent to help a church in trouble, in Ephesus.

To help us as a church, I put together a prayer that touches on some of the things we learn in this part of God’s word. Here it is.

We praise you, Father, for Jesus.

We know Jesus came to save sinners like us. Jesus is the ransom for all, the one mediator between humanity and God. Jesus is now proclaimed Saviour in all nations, and his grace continues to overflow in great mercy.

We admit our own sins: living against God’s law, love of division, greed and the like. Thank you that faith in Christ is the way to forgiveness and to godliness.

Thank you also for the church, the household of God and buttress of truth. We ask that you help us serve and love the church, because we are your family. Help us all to fight the good fight of faith.

Please hear us, for the sake of the glory of Jesus, Amen.

Group prayer

“I’m encouraged!”

It’s our church mission prayer month (June 2011). After prayer meetings I say to myself, “I’m encouraged!”

It’s always wonderful to pray with fellow Christians. It could be when someone leads up front at church, in small groups at the end of Bible study, with the family around the dinner table, even one-to-one after sharing sad news. It’s always a joy to call on God in faith.

And there are things to remember to help us in group prayer. There are matters of being in a group that effect the dynamic. I think the following tips will help any Christian make the most of group prayer. I have made every one of these mistakes, and will continue to do so. In other words, they’re mainly tips to myself.

  • We, not I
    Jesus taught the disciples to pray Our Father, rather than My Father. I think group prayer is most inclusive when the one speaking uses we pray more than I pray
  • Who are you talking to?
    Use the address to God to mean something. Address him as Father, or Saviour, or Lord of all, or Creator. They’re more than mere labels, but speak of God’s character. These titles directly lead to prayer points (for instance, God’s Fatherhood leads to prayer for his children gathered in church)
  • Try to make sense
    Prayers are sometimes confused. It doesn’t stop God hearing and answering! But it can confuse me as a listener, and distract me from joining in with a hearty Amen. When you say, ‘Dear Father, we thank you for your death on the cross to give us life …’ my mind will immediately depart the room of prayer. I’m thinking, ‘I’m sure it was the Son who died …’
  • Know your habits
    We all have verbal habits. Mostly, that’s OK. Yet, in prayer, some habits add nothing but distraction. I want to follow your prayer lead, but some of these thrown me off the scent
    ~ ‘We wanna pray this, & we wanna pray that, …
    Just go ahead and pray it then! Ask God, don’t tell him you’re considering asking
    ~  ‘We do pray … We do ask …
    I know we do. ‘Do’ in a sentence can emphasise a point (likewise with really). My difficulty is when it’s in every sentence. Use sparingly
    ~ Ending every pause with ‘… yeah’
    This is irritating. Oddly, ‘yeah’ is usually twice as loud as the rest of the words. ‘We pray for … YEAH Fred’s work problems.‘ If you pause to think, or to slow things down, great. End the pause with a real word and something to say
    ~ ‘We just pray for Freda to move from death to life
    Christians are justified, love justice, and feel strangely compelled to say ‘just’ in prayers. ‘Just’ might work, if praying for one thing – say your point, then Amen. Usually, there are many things we just ask for.  ‘Just’ is thrown in so we don’t sound greedy. But wait a minute, we’re asking the God of the universe to open blind eyes and call the dead to live in Christ! There’s nothing ‘just’ (on ‘only’) about that

Why work on praying better in public? It doesn’t impress God and thus force him to answer. But it loves me, through assisting me to participate in prayer with you. And I do wanna pray with you … YEAH!

Any other helpful advice?

 


 

Prayers at a death

I got asked a question at church. What is appropriate to pray when someone has died?

Good question. Here’s part of the answer I gave.

A couple of thoughts …

Firstly, we want to keep on honouring Jesus. Obviously! In this case, we know that the gospel of Jesus saves, and we are called to respond in repentance and faith. Beyond death that is no longer possible (it is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement, Hebrews 9:27). So we can’t pray in a way that suggests there’s ‘another chance’ beyond the grave. And certainly not that anyone else can effect a difference (Mary, the Saints, the prayers of a minister, …).

So when someone has died, I like to give thanks for them – their character and gifts, achievements, the love they showed and experienced, etc. All these good things were from God, so thanksgiving fits. With regard to the asking side of prayer, I ask for God to intercede in the lives of us. That’s family, friends, mourners. It’s good to ask God to comfort, especially to comfort by granting us faith in Jesus who has conquered death.

Secondly, it’s essential to be aware of the pastoral situation. What if a distraught parent weeping at the sudden death of a child says, ‘Please pray for her’? It’s not the time to have subtle theological discussion. Just say yes, and pray. In my case, I’d still pray along the lines sketched out above.

I did not realise this until now, but I guess the two parts of this answer are: love God, love your neighbour.

Any further ideas and reflections?