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How and when do we pray?

by | Feb 6, 2013 | Blog, Community, Mission, Redemption, Worship

A guest post by Bubba Hines…

Read What is Prayer? Why Pray? and Does God always answer prayer?

How Do We Pray?

There is no set way to pray. Prayer is an integral part of our relationship with God and therefore we are free to talk to Him as we wish. God is not interested in hearing us repeat meaningless words; He wants to hear us express what is on our hearts. Having said that, some people find it helpful to have a pattern for prayer. For some years I used the mnemonic ACTS.

ACTS Acrostic

AAdoration

The A stands for adoration. That is praising God for who He is and what He has done.

CConfession

The C stands for confession. This is where we ask God’s forgiveness for anything we have done wrong.

TThanksgiving

The T stands for thanksgiving. This is were we thank God for all he has done in our life.

SSupplication

The S stands for supplication. This is where we ask God to act on our behalf, on behalf of friends, and for others.

Model of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

Additionally, some people follow the pattern of the Lord’s prayer.

“Our Father in Heaven” (vs. 9)

We have already discussed earlier what this means. Under this element of the Lord’s Prayer I would spend time thanking God for who He is and for my relationship with Him and for the ways in which He has answered prayers.

“Hallowed be Your name” (vs. 9)

In Hebrew someone’s name signified a revelation of that person’s character. To pray that God’s name be hallowed is to pray that He be honored. When we look around the world today we see that God’s name is being dishonored. We should start by praying that God’s name is honored in our own lives, in our church, and in the society around us.

“Your kingdom come” (vs. 10)

God’s kingdom is His rule and reign. That will be complete when Jesus comes again. But this kingdom broke into history when Jesus came for the first time. Jesus demonstrated this presence of God’s kingdom in His own ministry. When we pray, “Your kingdom come” we are praying for God’s rule and reign to come both in the future and in the present. It includes praying for people to be converted, healed, set free from evil, filled with the Spirit, and given gifts of the Spirit, in order that we may together serve and obey the King.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (vs. 10)

This is not resignation; it is releasing the burdens that we carry. Many people are worried about the decisions they face. The decisions may be about major or minor issues, but if we want to be sure that we don’t make a mistake we need to pray, “Your will be done.”

“Give us today our daily bread” (vs. 11)

We interpret here that Jesus is referring to our basic needs. Martin Luther said it indicates, “everything necessary for the preservation of life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, government, and peace.” God is concerned about everything you and I are concerned about. Just as I want my children to talk to me about everything that they are concerned about, so God want to hear about the things we are concerned about.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (vs. 12)

Jesus teaches us here to pray for God to forgive us our debts—that is, the things that we do wrong. Now some would say, “Why do we need to pray for forgiveness? Surely when we come to the Cross we are already forgiven for everything: past, present, and future?”

It is true that we are totally forgiven for everything, past, present, and future because Jesus took all our sins on Himself on the cross. I find the best analogy to be the one given by Jesus in John 13 when Jesus moves to wash Peter’s feet. Peter says, “No, you ain’t ever gonna wash my feet!” To which Jesus answers, “Unless I wash you, you have no part of me.” So Peter replies, “Well in that case, wash my whole body.” Jesus says, “A person who has had a bath needs only wash his feet to be clean; his whole body is clean.

This is a picture of forgiveness. When we come to the Cross we are washed clean and forgiven of all sins. However, as we continue in our relationship with God and we are walking through the world, we do things that tarnish our friendship with God. Our relationship is always secure, but our friendship is sullied with the dirt that we pick up. Each day we need to pray, “Lord forgive us, cleanse us from the dirt.” We don’t need to have a bath again—Jesus has done that for us—but a measure of cleansing may be necessary every day.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (vs. 13)

God Himself does not tempt us (James 1:13), but He is in control of how much we are exposed to the devil (For instance, look at Job 1 & 2 sometime). Every Christian has a weak area, be it fear, selfish ambition, pride, lust, gossiping, cynicism, or something else. If we know our weaknesses we can pray for protection again them, as well, of course, as taking action to avoid unnecessary temptation.

When should we pray?

The New Testament tells us to pray “always” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18).

We don’t need a special building to pray. We can pray in the car, on the bus, riding a bike or the train, in the bed, in the middle of the night, wherever and whenever. As in a relationship like marriage, we can continue an ongoing conversation. Nevertheless, as in a marriage, it is necessary to have time together when you know you are meeting simply to talk. Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). He himself went off to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35).

I find it helpful to combine Bible reading with prayer at the beginning of the day, when my mind is most active. It is good to have a regular pattern. What time of day we choose will depend upon our circumstances and our particular make-up.

As well as praying alone, it is important to pray with other people. This could be a small group of two or three, for example. Jesus said, “I tell you that if two or more of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). This could also be in a greater group of people, but regardless of how many come together to pray, it is important that we do come together and pray in agreement.

Conclusion

Prayer is at the heart of Christianity, because the heart of Christianity is a relationship with God. That is why it is the most important activity of our lives. As the saying goes:

Satan laughs at our words; Mocks at our toil; But trembles when we pray.

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