Teaching A Grandson About Daily Prayer — II

2706269640_2081136b7c_mDEAR GRANDSON:

I hope during the past week your life has been enriched by daily prayer. I now look back with you to ancient writings where prayer was often divided into five elements.

1. ADORATION. Jesus said to his disciples, “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Hallowed means sacred or consecrated. This calls our hearts out to adoration.

Adoration is prayer at its best. We praise God because he is God. God does not need our adorations but we need them because in pouring them forth we affirm a reality about life.

It’s good to take time in our morning prayers to ponder what we know about God, — he is merciful, loving, all-powerful. This prompts us to adore him, and adoration is like the porch by which we enter the grand cathedral of prayer.

2. CONFESSION. When we are converted to Jesus Christ, he delivers us from the life of habituated sinning. Paul said, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2). And John writes, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6). We dare not excuse known sin in our lives.

At the same time, Jesus recognized that in our frailty, carelessness or willfulness we transgress. That is why he said, “When you pray say: … forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:2). James also reminds Christians, “We all stumble in many ways,” referring primarily to sins of the tongue.

That is why we rejoice in the salvation that delivers us from the life of sin. We are acceptable before a holy God because of the offering of Christ’s shed blood on our behalf. But at the same time we make a place in our prayers to confess sins we may have knowingly or unknowingly committed – sinful thoughts, hurtful or deceptive words or shameful deeds.

3. PETITION. Our petitions bring personal needs before the Lord. Nothing is too insignificant to include in our prayers. God sees the sparrow fall. He promises, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8)

Yet there will be perplexities for us in pray. Sometimes the Lord’s answers amaze us. At other times, divine delays test our faith. Sometimes we don’t get the answers we want, and we may even be tempted at times to believe God doesn’t even hear our prayers.

Jesus taught us an important lesson on this matter. Praying in Gethsemane, he cried out for deliverance from a cruel, anguishing death. But he added, “Nevertheless, Not my will but thine be done.” Even in his great anguish he confessed that the Father rules over all.

Therefore, because we don’t know all that God is doing, we pray with fervor but add to our petitions these words, “thy will be done”. The Hebrew letter exhorts, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:27)

4. INTERCESSION. This word means to plead with God for the needs of others. Ezekiel wrote of a time when the walls of the city were broken down and the dwellers were in grave peril. God looked for someone who would build up the walls and stand before him in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30). That’s the picture of an intercessor.

We make intercession a regular part of our prayers, praying for our nation, our community, our church, for family needs and the salvation of loved ones and associates. Daily intercession keeps our prayers looking outward and upward.

5. THANKSGIVING. If adoration is the worship of God for who he is, thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of the blessings he bestows. Here’s my secret: I sometimes find that when my prayers seem to drag if I turn them into thanksgiving this restores the energy of prayer. It’s amazing what forgotten mercies the Lord brings to mind when we turn our thoughts to thanksgiving.

Well, Dear Grandson, I leave you with a thought from Frank Laubach: “Prayer is likely to be undervalued by all but wise people because it is so silent and so secret. We are often deceived into thinking that noise is more important than silence. War sounds far more important than the noiseless growing of a crop of wheat, yet the silent wheat feeds millions while war destroys them.”

Your Loving Grandfather

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Photo credit: Nancy Big Crow (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “Teaching A Grandson About Daily Prayer — II

  1. How fortunate, both you and your grandson are, to have each other! What sound teachings you’re giving him! This post reminded me of my years teaching 5th and 6th graders, at our church. I taught them the ACTS way of praying. A – Adoration; C – Confession; T – Thanksgiving; S – Supplication. I retired from teaching about eight years ago and the man, now in charge of the class, told me recently they still use this system for praying. But thank the Lord, we don’t have to have a system! Sometimes, HELP me, Lord! is sufficient! 🙂

  2. I think it was Nobel peace prize winner, South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the worldwide Anglican Communion,who said that we learn to swim by swimming and a good coach is essential too.He went on that likewise, we learn to pray by praying and that a good coach is a requisite too.I think he was talking about the art of contemplative prayer in this context,,but his point applies to all prayer.

    I’ve always thought prayer one of the most important parts of the Christian life.,something we really need to do as well as possible.How to pray is something people have wanted to know since the beginning of Christ’s mission on earth.

    I never stop seeking advice on how to pray and the many ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ blogs on prayer have been a valuable guide for me.So too is this second in a series of three blogs on praying.

    I now use daily , the system of five elements of prayer which I first learned from an earlier ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ blog. This system of 5 elements (Adoration ,Confession ,Petition ,Intercession ,Thanksgiving) has guided and enriched my daily prayers.

    I’ve also found good advice in a few other pieces of writing over the years,which I’d like to share.

    Firstly,like all Christians I have the greatest prayer of all time for inspiration. This is often overlooked due to it’s familiarity and universal place in all Christian lives.I talk,of course, of the prayer Jesus Himself taught us,the Lord’s prayer.

    Jesus’ disciples wanted to know and one of them asked the Lord.

    ‘ One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” ‘ Luke 11:1 NIV

    This is how all Christians have come to gain the gift of the Lord’s Prayer,from Christ’s own lips.Adoration,,confession,petition ,intercession and thanksgiving are all contained in the prayer that our Saviour taught us.So the 5 elements in this weeks ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ have the highst pedigree and provenance.

    Pope Benedict XV I wrote a three volume history of our Saviour ,which I value because unlike so many studies of Jesus’ life,the Pope emeritus accepts in good faith, the truth and reliability of the most important document of Jesus’ life – the Holy Gospels of the New Testament.

    Not all historical Jesus studies seem to have faith in Bibklical truth,which diminishes their value for me.

    Volume 1 of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ ,titled ’Baptism to Transfiguration’ and came out in 2007..Iwas was written first,but is the second volume chronologically ,after Volume 3 ‘ The Infancy Narratives’ which came out in 2012,the year after volume 2 , ‘The Entrance Into Jerusalem to Ressurection’.

    Pope Benedict devotes chapter 5 of ‘Baptism to Tranfiguration’ to the heart of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer ( Matthew 6:9-13 ),giving us a verse by verse exegesis.Benedict sees the prayer as 7 petitions with a doxology,each petition being an aspect of how God wills we relate to Him and with each other.

    Other commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer can be found in Bible commentaries written by Augustine,,Martin Luther,John Calvin and John Wesley,providing different masterclasses on prayer.

    In his seminal system of protestant theology,the classic ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ published in 1536,John Calvin sees the Lord’s Prayer as structured as an address ( Our Father who art in Heaven) ,followed by 6 petitions and concluding with what I think he calls an ascription,which I also know as the doxology ( For thine is the Kingdom …..).

    Calvin says this of the name ‘Father’, in the first part of the Lord’s prayer –

    ‘’by the great sweetness of this name he frees us from all distrust’’ John Calvin ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’

    Calvin further reminds us that by addressing God as our Father,we are reminded fo be in Christ ,for Jesus is the Son and calls God Father ,and so we call God Father through being in Christ. Only through Christ can we call our creator Father.

    As to the petitions which follow ,Calvin sees 6 not 7 because he understands ‘Lead us not into temptation’ as joining with ‘but deliver us from evil’ as one final and 6th petition.I find this convincing.

    From Calvin’s commentary I learned to see the final adcription ‘for thine is the Kingdom…. ’ as concluding the prayer by acknowledging the absolute truth of God’s complete sufficiency ,tleaving us with with complete assurance in God.

    So Calvin shows us the Lord’s Prayer begins by freeing us from all distrust and ends by leaving us with complete assurance.What a great model for every prayer.

    Another piece of writing on the Lord’s Prayer I’ve found helpful is ‘The Lord and His Prayer’ by Tom Wright published by SPCK in 1996.

    Tom Wright,the prolific New Testament scholar and retired Anglican Bishop is evangelical by persuasion.He has written a plain easily understood book on every book in the New Testament, in his ‘For Everyone’ series :’ Mark for Everyone’.’Revelations For Everyone’ and’ Pauls Letter to the Corinthians For Everyone ’ and so on.

    In his study,Bishop Wright shows how the Lord’s Prayer is a paradigm for all Christian prayer. Containing all the necessary knowledge of how to pray, once thoroughly understood and exegeted,it has everything necessary.

    One little book ,more than a century old now,which has helped me very much ,is ‘How To Pray, by American evangelist R A Torrey,published in 1900.

    The author discusses the vital importance of prayer, explaining that we must pray unto God in the Name of Christ,abiding in Christ,by the Will of God ,in obedience.He advises when to pray and how to cope with hindrances to prayer.

    As to hindrances or distractions to prayer ,a little book on contemplative prayer I’ve found inspiring ,is ‘Into the Silent Land ‘ by Father Martin Laird,which came out in 2006.

    Father Laird talks of prayer as a doorway guarded by an elaborate array of distractions.I can relate to this image.These distractions,Father Laird says ,are like riddles that must be answered. He says these distractions may be worries,fears,shopping lists,meal plans or family finances.

    Father Martin says

    ‘’These distractions must be answered before the door will open’’ ‘ Into the Silent Land’

    I find this notion of a door to prayer useful.It reminds me of Christ knocking at the door to our heart ,depicted in a famous Victorian pre Raphalite painting.

    We need to find the peace of Christ to master our distractions ,so to enter the door to prayer.We need to be in Christ to prayer.

    As John tells us,in Christ’s name,Christ is the way through the door and Christ is the door .

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep’’. John 10:7

    I’ve just got a book which came out last year ‘Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God’ ,by pastor Timothy Kellar .He suggests one way to learn how to pray is turn to the Psalms, which he calls ‘’the inspired prayer book of the Bible’’.

    Pastor Timothy explains that in fall 1999,in ‘’the dark weeks in New York after 9/11when our whole city sank into a kinmd of corporate clinical depression’’ his family was further struck by health crises.Pastor Timothy had thyroid cancer and his wife Kathy was struggling with Crohns disease.

    The couple realized the necessity of prayer and began to pray together every night and have never missed a night since.

    Maybe this new book on prayer ,which I have just ’gotten’ , to borrow a Canadian word I like, came out of those dark days of autumn 1999.So far I’ve merely scanned and skimmed this book ,in preparation for careful study it,which I look forward to in keen anticipation.

    So that’s the advice on prayer which I’ve found,,together with the ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ blogs on prayer ,Imost useful.

    Once again,thankyou for your valuable guidance on prayer,pastor Don.

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