Wandering thoughts – how exasperating! Most praying people are at times distracted by them.
And, because of the intense nature of modern life, we seem to function in a super-saturated environment with too much happening all the time. Not to mention that the secularism of our times may seem to push God further to the margins of life.
Against all of this, we remember, however, that prayer is one of the most important things we can do with our time.
That is why I suggest you use the five elements of well-rounded prayer to help you remain focused.
ADORATION. Jesus said when you pray say, Our Father … Repeat until the vision is clear — Our Father; In other words, don’t rush into the heart of prayer. In adoration, we come before God with a keen sense of his majesty, his holiness, his infinite greatness – and his fatherly love.
Take a lesson from sacred history. The Virgin Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord/ and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” What a way to start a prayer.
We may say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” Or, “Hallowed be thy name.” Adoration gives us time to focus on God Himself.
CONFESSION. In a collection of prayers John Wesley published before he was 30 years of age he gave this helpful pattern for confession: “Heal, O Father of mercies, all my infirmities (_____), strengthen me against all my follies (_____), forgive me all my sins (_____).
Wesley left the blanks so that anyone using this prayer could personalize it.
Prayer should always have a place for self-examination, but examination must be made with full confidence in God’s forgiving and sustaining mercy.
PETITION. In petition we bring personal needs before our Father. This may develop naturally out of our confession. The Apostle John spoke to Christians when he said, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Our prayers of petition may naturally follow the confession of our infirmities, follies, or sins. Or they may arise out of daily needs, however large or small. George Buttrick wrote, “No situation remains the same when prayer is made about it.” But don’t let prayers bog down in petition.
INTERCESSION. This means “a coming between” or “to pray on behalf of others.” Intercession can be wide-ranging, including family, friends, enemies, associates, neighbors, church ministries, civic leaders. To intercede means we care beyond ourselves.
The efficacy of intercession is one of the profoundest mysteries of the spiritual life. God’s response to our prayers are sometimes nearly out of sight and sometimes can be perceived and understood only much later. Or, answers on occasion may be immediate and startlingly obvious.
Intercession saves our prayers from becoming merely “want” lists.
James Hastings wrote, “It would not be unfair to estimate a person’s religion by the earnestness by which he longs for the welfare of others.”
THANKSGIVING. This matches our beginning with adoration. That is, in adoration, we worship God for who he is; in thanksgiving we praise him for all his blessings.
Sometimes our prayers break forth in a burst of thanksgiving and, when they do it is good to let our spirits soar.
In our daily prayers we remember the smallest mercies, and give thanks. We recall the most incredible blessings, and give thanks. We give thanks especially for the gift of redemption through Jesus Christ — the greatest blessing of all — our salvation!
Our prayers, once ordered, may both begin and end, lingering at the cross of our Lord.
Photo credit: Steve Evans (via flickr.com)