Enjoying the Journey
The new year brings with it fresh thoughts about our devotional life. We all need to give more time and attention to prayer. To God. Recently a fine young man sent me a message to ask for a few pointers on prayer. I felt ashamed to speak on the subject in so many ways. There is so much more to learn about true communion with God. My answer to him was simple:
1. Learn to pray by doing it.
We do not learn to pray by listening to lectures on prayer or reading books about the subject. Prayer is fellowship with God. It is deepened only by time spent in His presence. Find a place. Make time. Pray.
2. Spend time meditating on great prayer passages in Scripture.
The Bible is our “prayer-book.” It provides motivation to pray and instruction on how to pray. Get in God’s Word and you will never run out of things to talk to the Lord about!
It was this second suggestion that led me to what I would like to share with you. I took my own advice. This week I spent some time in Matthew 6:9-13 again. They are familiar verses, verses so familiar that they are often missed. Most people refer to them as the “Lord’s prayer.” In reality, the Lord’s prayer is found in John 17. These verses simply provide a model Christ gave for us to follow.
Every word, every line is full of meaning and rich help. A few brief observations on the prayer as a whole reveals so much about genuine prayer.
- Genuine prayer is marked by simplicity. There are no big words. No long sentences. No impressive structure. Just the simple heart cry of a child to a Father. Stop trying to impress God and just talk to Him.
- Genuine prayer touches every area of life. This prayer is so simple and yet the breadth of the prayer is amazing. Relationships. Daily needs. The past. The present. The future. All of this is touched in this beautiful prayer! Bring every part of your life into the presence of God and you bring God into every part of your life.
- Genuine prayer given more attention to God than man. Most of our prayers seem to focus on man – ourselves, our enemies, our friends, our family. That is good. But there is a higher level in prayer – a place where we do more than simply talk about people; we talk to God about what is important to Him.
- Genuine prayer majors on spiritual matters. Yes, we pray for “daily bread.” But that is not all. In fact, that is not primary! The prayers of Christ and of Paul are our example. Do not be content to simply ask for physical, material things. The same chapter gives us the secret: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
One practical suggestion that has been a great help to me is to write out prayers. I have never been in favor of reading prayers publicly. Prayer should be the spontaneous cry of the heart. But I have found personally that putting my prayers on paper has enabled me to think about what I am asking. To concentrate and reflect. Don’t worry about making them polished. Often my thoughts come quickly and are simply phrases.
The Psalms are full of the written prayers of David. The Apostle Paul recorded a number of prayers in his letters. Use a devotional journal to write out your petitions and take the time to commit them to God.
I have so much more to learn about real prayer. We all do. So it is time to go back to the first suggestion: we learn to pray by doing it. May God help us to do more than talk about it this week. Pray and the God who answers prayer will teach you how.