Growing in Prayer
Practicing the Discipline of Prayer
God has adopted us as his children through his Son Jesus Christ and therefore we have the great privilege of knowing and communing with him as our Father. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father by going into our room and shutting the door, and he taught us to trust that our Father who meets us in solitude will reward us as we seek him. How can we, as sons and daughters of God, live intentionally as praying people who walk closely with our Father each day? How can we practice the discipline of prayer?
Follow the Example of Jesus
- In his study of Jesus’ spirituality Leslie Hardin writes, “Jesus’ spirituality is manifest, not in the miraculous, but rather in the routine activities that garnered partnership with the Spirit, which in turn gave rise to miracles and supernatural events. In short, Jesus’ spirituality is seen in the things he did that allowed the Spirit to grow and flow unimpeded in his life.”
- The Gospel of Luke which gives us the fullest portrait of how Jesus the Son lived in constant communion with the Father.
- Luke 3:21-22: Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
- Luke 5:15-16: But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
- Luke 6:12: In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
- Luke 9:18: Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
- Luke 9:28-29: Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.
- Luke 11:1: Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
- Luke 22:39-46: Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane
The rhythm of prayer in Jesus’ life: prayer is woven into and throughout Jesus’ life and ministry as a routine activity through which he lived in constant communion with the Father and through which the Holy Spirit moved perfectly in his life.
- Jesus withdrew from the crowds and the disciples to be alone with the Father in prayer (Luke 5:16; Jesus lived what he taught us about praying to the Father in solitude)
- Jesus prayed privately in the company of his disciples (Luke 9:18; 11:1)
- Jesus prayed before and during the most important events of his ministry – including the times of greatest joy and glory as well as the times of greatest distress and sorrow (Luke 3:21 – his baptism; Luke 6:12-16 – choosing his twelve apostles; Luke 9:28-29 – his transfiguration; Mark 6:46 – after the feeding of the five thousand; Luke 22:39-46 – before his arrest and crucifixion; Luke 23:34 – while hanging on the cross)
- Jesus prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35)
- Jesus prayed late at night (Luke 6:12)
The rhythm of prayer in our lives. Like our Lord Jesus, we need to live in constant communion with our Heavenly Father and in constant dependence upon the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Eugene Peterson writes that, “Prayers are tools that God uses to work his will in our bodies and souls. Prayers are tools that we use to collaborate in his work with us.”
- Established times for prayer: Daily: Mornings, afternoons, or evenings. Periodically: Weekly block of time [e.g. Monday mornings]; personal prayer retreats; Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, BCC’s 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting
- Practices for Prayer: 1) Silence: Be still and quiet before God without saying anything. 2) Pray in response to God’s Word: Read a portion of Scripture and then pray to God in direct response to what you have read. 3) Use Prayer Lists: Write down the ways you want to pray for the church, your family, Christian missions, and other issues and people.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer
Matthew 6:7-13: And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
- Know and Pray the Lord’s Prayer: It is essential to know the Lord’s Prayer by heart and to regularly pray it as it is given to us in Scripture. Praying the Lord’s Prayer consistently trains us to be people who seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness (Mt. 6:33).
- Use the Lord’s Prayer to Give Order and Direction to Prayer
- Worship (praise God for who he is; thank God for all he has done, is doing, and will do; pray for God’s name to be worshipped throughout the earth)
- Seek God’s Kingdom (pray for God to help you seek first his kingdom and righteousness; pray for God’s kingdom to come through the ministry and mission of the church throughout the world)
- Submission to God’s Will (pray that God will help you be wholeheartedly obedient to him; pray for the church to walk in loving obedience to the Lord Jesus; pray for the nations to be brought to the obedience of faith)
- Depend on God’s Care (pray for your own needs and the needs of others; intercession)
- Receive and Give God’s Forgiveness (confess and repent of your sins; pray for the Spirit to enable you to forgive others as God has forgiven you; let go of anger, bitterness, or grudges)
- Trust in God’s Protection (call upon God for his guidance and protection in your life)
- Worship (praise and thank God again)
Pray the Psalms
- Eugene Peterson: The psalms are “God’s gifts to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest.”
- Praying the Psalms:
- Read the Psalms regularly
- Live with a Psalm (read and meditate on one psalm throughout an entire week. Keep a written record of your experiences with this psalm).
- Turn the psalms into personal prayers (when you read a psalm, pray it as your own prayer to God).
- Own the prayers of the psalms as your own (take prayers from the Psalms and use them regularly in your prayer life. Example: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I might walk in your truth” from Psalm 86:11).
- The psalms teach us how to:
- Praise and Worship God (Ps. 8: “O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”)
- Give thanks to God (Ps. 136: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.”)
- Confess our sins (Ps. 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”)
- Submit to God’s word and will (Ps. 119: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”)
- Pray in pain and grief: lament (Ps. 13: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”)
- Recall and celebrate the acts of God (Ps. 105: “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.”)
- Seek God’s direction (Ps. 43: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!”)
- Pray for others (Ps. 1: “Lord, I pray that my family will not walk in the ways of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. Instead, O Lord, let us meditate on your law day and night.”)