Re-post: An Exercise in Prayer

Photo credit: khrawlings (via flickr.com)A minister was counseling a parishioner on how to restore meaning to his dry and discouraged prayers. He told the parishioner that for one month in his daily prayers he was not to offer a single request for himself, or his family, or to bring any of his affairs before God.

Dumbfounded, the parishioner asked, “What then shall I pray for?” The minister was unyielding, “Ask for anything that is in your heart only not once for yourself.”

At first, the man could find nothing to pray for. He would begin a familiar petition, but would then have to drop it because it was asking something for himself.

It was a serious but enlightening month for him and he learned a great lesson. He could see that in praying only for himself and his needs he was praying selfishly, and that kind of self-preoccupied prayer doesn’t awaken in us the larger concerns for God’s kingdom. Before the month was over passion was coming back into his prayers.

The man’s state had been sad because prayer is not only for the satisfaction of our own needs. It also aligns us with God’s will, and then moves us to entreat his favor on the lives of others, even at a distance, who have a pressing need for our prayers.

Such further-reaching prayers can bring joy back into our prayer times. Archbishop Trench wrote, “Lord, what a change within us one short hour / Spent in thy presence will avail to make!”

And the late Ruth Graham had this bigger picture. She wrote. “We cannot pray and remain the same. We cannot pray and have our homes remain the same. We cannot pray and have the world about us remain the same. God has decreed to act in response to prayer. ‘Ask,’ he commands us. And Satan trembles for fear….”

To be a follower of Jesus and to have a prayer life that is dry or even non-existent is very sad because, as George Buttrick wrote. “… if God is in some deep and eternal sense like Jesus, friendship with him is our first concern, worthiest art, best resource, and sublimest joy. Such prayer could brood over our modern disorders, as the Spirit once brooded over the void, to summon a new world.”

The pastor suggested for his parishioner a simple adjustment in prayer but one that refreshed the daily experience of prayer for him — and could work for us too. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That’s personal. But ahead of that he taught them to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.” That kind of petition extends prayer’s range and increases its joy.

George Buttrick gives us a good tip about prayer: such praying could become our “sublimest joy”.

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One thought on “Re-post: An Exercise in Prayer

  1. I think prayers for oneself are called petitions and prayers for others are called intercessions.

    A good system of praying is to follow a sequence of Adoration,Confession,Petition ,Intercession then finally Thanksgiving.

    ADORATION is expressing our love for God, dwelling on His nature,those features of His person which bless us and which we need so urgently. His forgiving nature,His love for us,His guidance,His mercy – the more we reflect on God’s nature ,the more love for Him we offer up and the closer we feel to Him,the more intimate our relationship with Him becomes.

    CONFESSION is bringing to God our transgressions and trespasses,our deviations from His Will,in deed,word and thought. Some of these sins we will have knowingly done,others unknowingly.

    Now is the time to review our sins and bring them before God, that He may cleanse and forgive us,and so lighten our burden that we may start over once again,learning from our mistakes.

    PETITION is bringing before God our personal requests for what we need most.God knows these needs already,but by saying them to Him,we focus on what we lack and we remember how much we rely on God and need Him.

    INTERCESSIONS are our prayers for others At St Michaels,we call these kind of prayers the Biddings.We trust God will answer our prayers because He has assured us,in the Gospels, that He will answer our prayers.

    ‘ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matt 7:7-8 KJV

    During intercessions,we remember we are part of something bigger than ourselves ,part of a family,a workplace ,a community,our local church and worldwide denomination,the whole family and united church of Christ ,all those united by baptism.We pray for our nation and our world,our global village.We pray for those who are sick or lonely or bereaved and we pray for the souls of the recently departed.

    THANKSGIVING prayers, may be called counting our blessings.We let God know we are aware of all the ways He blesses us.We acknowledge how He sustains us with food and shelter,with friends and family ,and all the gifts He has given us,starting with our very existance,our creation.

    The more we recall our blessings,the more our gratitude increases and the more our hearts warm . We remember things we may have previously taken for granted.Thanksgiving is a kind of stocktaking,where we come face to face with our fortunes and give praise where it’s due – to God.

    There is so much to pray for.Even if we leave off prayers of petition for a while and forgo prayers of intercession for our family, there remains a wealth of things to pray for.

    We begin to realize how great a world we are part of and our horizons expand .As we reach out in our prayer focus,we become part of a bigger picture – God’s picture.We become more in tune with the world from God’s viewpoint, more in harmony with God.

    Our prayers become greater , richer. God becomes more alive in our life, than ever before.Our prayers become revitalized and renewed ,leading to a personal revival of faith. It can be like a national Revival, but in microcosm.

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