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March 2019 Newsletter

An ongoing series of informational entries

How Do We Pray? 

By Laurie Nichols

March 1, 2019

Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." If we look at the model of Jesus, it would be impossible to extract the importance of prayer from an honest picture of what life with God looks like. He was known to pray alone and pray with others. His life was a complete picture of connectedness to His Father God. In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus tells us how to pray:


And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


When I look at this, three things stand out.


First, prayer begins with a right spirit. Why are we praying? For others? For ourselves? Out of guilt? Need? The truth is, every action has a motivation. As we dig deep into the recesses of our hearts, we must come clean with God. Honest prayer is the only kind of prayer God desires.


Next, we engage in prayer that is expressive and creative. It’s worship and praise, it’s intercession and confession. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus guides His disciples:


This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”


Do you see what happens here? Jesus starts by saying, “This, then, is how you should pray.” Like this. It’s a model prayer that includes praise, intercession, petition, confession, and pleading. There is no right or wrong way to pray, but what we shall never omit is prayer that is heartfelt. Whether it’s a traditional orthodox prayer or one that is birthed in your own mind and heart, the discipline of prayer must always and ever draw us nearer to the heart of Jesus and His love for a lost and dying world.


Finally, prayer builds passion. The 24-7 Prayer Movement has long held a Vision Poem which lays out a radical view of prayer that changes everything. In it are these words: “With blood and sweat and many tears, with sleepless nights and fruitless days, they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them.”


This vision of the prayer life draws us straight back to Jesus and His model of prayer. As we intercede for our world, our hearts draw close to the marginalized, the broken, and the lost. Our “How long, Oh Lord?” translates into action as we can no longer stand the thought of those around us living life without the One thing that will change everything: Jesus. Charles Spurgeon expressed his desire this way: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned or unprayed for.”


Authentic, real, heartfelt prayer makes our hearts burst to share the good news of Jesus with those still in darkness. What’s your prayer life like these days? Maybe it’s time for a reboot.