Those of us who have hung around church life awhile, and attended church prayer meetings know they are often boring. Many depressing gossipy updates take place about people’s physical maladies like Aunt Susie’s sore toe, but when it comes to serious prayer for Susie’s salvation, obedience or spiritual growth, time runs out. A quick closing prayer suffices. Then, many of the personal prayers we hear often border on the pedantic and trivial. Truthfully, I am not sure God even wants to listen to some of my prayers or some of those I have heard over the years.
Communion with God is an overwhelming thought. God is the Creator of the universe. He holds all power and authority. He is beyond our us. Yet, God has invited, no commanded us, to enter His presence and dialogue with Him.
This raises a serious issue. How am I, a sinner, able to enter the presence of holy God and talk to Him? The reason is simple! God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He removed the barrier of sin, so we can approach Him through Christ Jesus.
One of my spiritual growth points this year is to better commune with God. To put it more simply, I want to pray better and see God responding with clear answers. Over the years, I have read many books on prayer. I have tried various prayer techniques. Still, I feel inadequate with the quality and results of my prayer life.
In January 2016, I read a book on prayer by Daniel Henderson, so I was excited when I learned he would speak at the Pastor’s Conference of The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware this past November. Daniel described a kind of praying foreign to modern church life, but what he said made tremendous sense. And, it captures the heart of the early church.
Let me give you Henderson’s Reader’s Digest version of prayer.
Think of the four-fold pattern of the music beat. If you watch Pastor Raymond direct a song with 4/4 timing, he will lift his hand high to start, then he comes straight down, then to the left side and finally to the right side. Think of prayer in this way. The upward beat is REVERENCE, asking the question, “Who is God?” “… Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed by Your name.” (Matt 6:9) Biblical prayer always begins with acknowledging God’s character. One great way to approach God is to use your Bible to find character qualities of God (most passages will offer them), and then praise Him.
The downward beat can be characterized by RESPONSE, answering the question, “How should I now respond?” “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven . . .” (Matt 6:10) This is a time of quiet introspection, confessing sins and listening for the Spirit’s voice. It is surrendering to God’s purpose and plan.
The leftward beat of prayer is characterized by REQUESTS, answering the question, “What should I now pray about?” “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt 6:11-12) Most requests will fall under these two categories: we either need resources from God, or healing in relationships. Usually, we make prayer all about our requests, but when we ask, we must always ask in God’s will.
The fourth beat is characterized by READINESS, answering the question, “Where do I go from here?” “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matt 6:13) Biblical prayer doesn’t simply ask, it prepares us to be engaged on the battlefront. We are in a spiritual battle and we need courage and faith to withstand the temptations and pressures thrown at us.
So, we have gone through a fourfold beat of prayer, but how do we end it? Why not end by going back where we began, by returning to reverence? “For Thine is the power, the glory, and the honor forever. Amen” Again, central to all praying is for God to be glorified.
As a disciple of Jesus, I hope you have an interest in deepening your prayer life. I will be leading a video-group discussion study by Daniel Henderson on prayer entitled, “Wake Up and Pray.” We will explore the principles outlined above. The study begins on Tuesday, January 17 at 6:30 PM in Room A-104 and runs for six weeks. Will you be a part of a prayer revolution here at Faith Baptist Church? Sign up at the Connection Center.