Do you find that your prayers are sometimes labored and tedious, and do you repeat the same things over and over again? If so, here’s help; learn and practice the five main elements of prayer. From antiquity to the present they are considered to be essentials of prayer.
FIRST, ADORATION: This means to begin by revering God. Address him as the Almighty who is at the same time the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Psalms give us words we can borrow:
Not to us, O Lord, not to us / but to your name be the glory, / because of your love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1). Or,
O Lord my God, you are very great; / you are clothed with splendor and majesty (Psalm 104:1).
Also, the very first words of the prayer our Lord taught us to pray begin with adoration: Our Father in heaven; hallowed (holy, honored, respected) be your name. (Matthew 6:9).
SECOND, CONFESSION: Thomas Oden writes, Taking personal responsibility for sin is the heart of evangelical repentance. We repent initially when we are stricken with conviction over our sins and by faith we become believers. But is there a place for repentance afterwards?
The Apostle Paul contends, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2). Also, the Apostle John says with certainty, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin” (1 John 5:18). Being born of the Spirit, (Titus 3:5 — 7) our new aspirations are to please God, so sinning constantly and then needing to repent cannot be a normal healthy pattern.
But although sin is never necessary, it is always possible. Therefore, while the Apostle John assures us that we have broken with the life of sin, at the same time he provides for the confession of sins. He is speaking to Christians, when he says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and will purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
So in our daily prayers we stay alert to the peril of pride, self-righteousness, untruthfulness, or other lapses. It is for such that John assures believers, “if we confess our sins …” forgiveness and cleansing will immediately be given.
THIRD, PETITION: Our petitions are requests for ourselves. We petition for grace to be stronger in the face of temptations, to overcome in ways we may have failed, claiming the blood of Christ to cover missteps and blunders as well as moments of conscious disobedience.
As the Hebrew letter says, “[Jesus is] …. a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God [to] make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). He is our advocate before God at all times.
FOURTH, INTERCESSION: Intercession refers to requests we bring before God on behalf of others, ranging from immediate family needs to struggles of the persecuted on the other side of our globe. The Apostle Paul calls us urgently to this ministry of intercession (Ephesians 6:18).
Moreover, Christians who take intercession seriously often develop a prayer list so that they don’t forget the needs of others for whom they intercede.
FIFTH, THANKSGIVING: If adoration is worshiping God for who he is, thanksgiving is worshiping him for what he has done, or even what we believe he will yet do.
Our thanksgiving is always first for the gift of salvation given to us through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But we give thanks for life’s daily gifts too — for our food, for rest through the night, for loved ones, for God’s special favors we receive as his providences.
As believers we are to give thanks in every circumstance (Philippians 4:6); and to live thanklessly is to sin (Luke 17:16). We therefore offer prayers of thanksgiving to God through Christ even for what is difficult in our lives.
For example, of some difficult and perplexing situation we might pray, “I don’t understand it, and it is overwhelming me, but I am looking for your goodness and your grace through it, and for this I give thanks.” (Colossians 3:17).
Take this five-part pattern for your guidance. Ponder its elements and incorporate them into your prayers. And to emphasize part five, keep in mind that when prayer seems hard, it can always be energized by an outpouring of thanksgiving.
Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar (via flickr.com)