Lord, Teach Us How to Pray

These are days where, like Jesus, we should be taking time to go off by ourselves and pray; to get into a personal conversation with our Creator, God.  Yet, for many of us, despite having extra time on our hands, we find ourselves uncomfortable, unable, or just plain unwilling to do what we know we ought.

Whether we are in a time of prosperity or suffering or vacillating somewhere in the middle depending upon the hour or circumstance, we have a Heavenly Father who would love to hear from us…for us to at least check-in and let Him know what’s on our hearts and minds. Oh, to be sure, He already knows, but for us to humble ourselves and bring it to Him, makes Him happy…the way most good parents like to hear from their children.

Prayer affirms our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.

As Chris Tomlin puts it in his mega-hit Good Good Father;
I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
‘Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Often our prayers and prayer requests only go so far as a “wants list.”  In contrast, biblical prayer should reflect more. As Dr. David Powlison puts it; “the driving focus of biblical prayer asks God to show himself, asks that we will know him; asks that we will love others. It names our troubles. It names our troublesome reactions and temptations. It names our holy desires. It names our God, his promises, and his will.”

Jesus taught His early disciples how to pray and His teaching serves as a great model for us today.
You can find it in the books of Matthew (Mt. 6: 5-14) and Luke (Lk 11:1-4)James 5:16, 1 Timothy 2:1, Colossians 1:9, Matthew 5:44, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and many, many other verses in Scripture show us the benefit of also praying for one another.
In our Life Groups at North Coast, over the years we’ve found that group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines. In fact, group prayer goes best when…

    Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
    Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about.
    Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group.

As we learned in Life Group homework in recent weeks, the Psalms also provide a great model for us on how to pray, especially when we’re suffering due to difficult circumstances. In fact, over half of the 150 Psalms are classified as “lament” psalms because they express concern or sorrow over a difficult situation the author is facing.

Each lament psalm has at least three similar elements;

  1. A description of the present need or situation
  2. A call for help
  3. A commitment to praise God despite the Circumstance.

To these, a fourth element could be added:

  1. A reflection on who God is.

Here are several examples, again from our recent Life Group homework, on what each of these elements might sound like:

  1. Description of a present need (How is this situation affecting you or others?)

Example: I’m not sure how we are going to pay all of our bills. Or, this current situation, where everyone is home together, is starting to cause a lot of friction.

  1. Call for help (What would you like God to do for you or others?)

Example: God, provide somehow for our family; provide more work for me. Or, give me more patience with my kids when they get on my nerves.

  1. Commitment to praise (What is true about God that you can praise Him for?)

Example: Despite my concern about our finances, I will still praise you God for caring about us and always providing in the past. Or, God, I praise you for the family you’ve blessed me with and this increased opportunity I have to love and influence them.

  1. Reflection on who God is (What aspects of God’s character are most important to you in the midst of this?)

Example: You own the cattle on a thousand hills, and you take care of the birds and lilies, so you’ll take care of us (Luke 12:22-31). Or, You are a God of patience, and your Holy Spirit came to give me self-control.

Try it out for yourself.

Use these models and 4 elements to express your own lament prayer to God and see if it doesn’t begin to change the way you pray – both in your personal prayer time and as you share prayer requests in your groups.
Finally, by now, if you’ve read a few of these newsletters, you’ve come to know, and hopefully, even from time-to-time appreciate my love of music and entertainment and how I believe it can often show or teach us things that words alone cannot.

In that spirit, here are two videos I was again reminded of this week that I hope you will find as instructive and entertaining as I do.
I should probably let you know upfront, that these could be interpreted as sharing how God might like us to communicate with Him but admittedly from two very different perspectives.  Enjoy!
Even If by Mercy Me with Bart’s Testimony Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHosmHnOrb8
Father/Daughter Quarantine Challenge Dance to the song Hold My Hand by Jess Glynne: https://youtu.be/SOjwAL9Docg

Grace & Peace,