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How to Pray

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:40 pm    Post subject: How to Pray Reply with quote

I don’t consider myself a great model for praying…and I don’t tend to write “How to…” blogs. But here goes.

I’ve settled on a go-to pattern for praying that is absolutely biblical. It’s a two-step movement that keeps my praying from becoming a laundry list or, worse, treating God like we are his project manager and he needs to be reminded of his tasks(!).

Take any burden you have on your heart and consider starting your prayer with gratitude: “Lord, we are so grateful that you are working in this situation; that not one detail escapes your attentive, compassionate and just focus; that you make all things work together for good and that this situation will contribute to your good purposes and your glory; that you have overcome the evil one and he has no power to thwart your intentions; that your timing is perfect as you work out your will on earth; and that you hear the prayers of your children, which the Spirit mysteriously perfects.”

Then refer to the same situation with words of trust that echo these same truths: “Lord, we trust you with this situation. We believe that you will sovereignly intervene in your timing. We wait -eagerly and patiently - for an outcome that will shine the light of your glory in this dark corner. We cling to your promises and we declare our faith in your character. We know you will show up in this situation when and how you see fit.”

The more I pray this way, the more gratitude melts into trust, shaping the whole prayer. What starts as a particular situation of concern turns into an opportunity for praise. Prayer shifts us from the problem to the trustworthy character of the Problem Solver.

What I’ve done in this simple movement is follow two primary elements in many of the psalms. The psalms of lament – the largest category in Psalms– begin with serious complaints. Enemies. Disease. Undeserved opposition even from one’s closest friends. But laments have a hinge midway through. The complaining stops and the psalmist invariably declares confidence that God will bring his favor. A lament is a liturgical ride that takes you from where you are experientially to where you need to be theologically.

The psalms of trust are like the second half of the laments. Their images are fueled by sentiments of gratitude and trust. This kind of psalm inspires my praying most. I pray the laments when I need to, but I prefer trust for ordinary praying.

Psalm 23 is a great example of a trust psalm. You hear about enemies and deadly shadows, but these real concerns are wrapped in words of adulation for a Shepherd who is attentive, dependable and strong. He provides green pastures and still waters. He restores. He leads. My cup overflows. Gratitude for all that this “sheep” knows to be true leads instinctively to confident assertions that God will finish what he has started. In fact, the Hebrew wording literally says, “Surely, goodness and mercy will chase me all the days of my life.” That’s the kind of contagious confidence you can expect from a biblical prayer!
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