During the last few days I have been thinking about prayer. For me personally there have been some things happening recently that have made me feel, at different times, stupid, troubled, annoyed, worried and sad.
I have found myself going back, again and again, to Philippians 4 v 6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
These verses are so simple. They cover ‘every situation’, those that may seem trivial to others but are so real to you through to those that everyone can see are life-changing and serious. The advice Paul gives is so clear and, if you take it seriously, so good! As various thoughts and concerns have swirled around in my head I have gone back and applied these verses exactly as instructed. When I have done this I have found the peace of God truly does guard my heart and my mind.
For me much of my prayer is talking to God in the ordinary situations of life. I might be walking, driving, working, relaxing with a book or just generally busying myself about the house, but I find I can talk things out with my Heavenly Father in all these situations. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing and take a few minutes to have a serious conversation with God. But sometimes they are just ‘arrow’ prayers, quick requests or brief reminders of what I know God said to me at a more reflective time. This is the joy and wonder of prayer, that we can have freedom and boldness to talk to our Father at any time and in any place. What an amazing privilege this is that Jesus has won for us by his death and resurrection! (Hebrews 4 v 6; 10 v 19-23)
However, not all my prayer is ‘on the hoof’. I love to have times set aside every morning when I can read the Bible and pray to God. Now I don’t want to give any false impressions! I personally find it easier to read the Bible than to actually pray. Although I can pray as I read, sometimes the prayer does get squeezed out. I’m a little disappointed with myself when that happens, but I know enough about the grace of God to know my Father still loves me. Basically, it’s me that loses out on those occasions.
I do enjoy my morning times alone with God. Now that my home life is a bit quieter, and my work life is more measured, these can be regular times of 30-45 minutes. But I have known what it is to have family demands and work pressures. When life is busy you have to discipline yourself to find 15-20 minutes alone with God. In fact you have to be creative and carve time out where you can e.g. lunchtimes or in the evenings. But however you do it, make the effort to set time aside to talk things over with God, you’ll never regret it.
In my morning prayer times I use the template of the Lord’s Prayer.
‘Our Father in heaven.’ Thanking Him that he made me His child, born from above; for the saving work of Jesus that makes it all possible; for all the privileges and blessings of being a son of God.
‘Hallowed be your name.’ This is a time for praise and worship; thinking over all the attributes of God reflected in His names given in the Bible.
‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Praying for my family, my church, the movement of churches I belong to, my nation and any individuals on my mind.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Acknowledging God as my provider; thanking Him and bringing specific needs to Him.
‘Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.’ Confessing any sins the Holy Spirit convicts me of; appreciating the incredible price Jesus paid for my forgiveness; forgiving those who have sinned against me and releasing them from their debt.
‘Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from the evil one.’ Declare the victory of Jesus; pray for deliverance from strongholds and strategies of the devil, praying in the Spirit for myself and my situations.
This is just a quick summary of my template for prayer. I have found the Lord’s Prayer a helpful guide over many years.
Of course there are many other aspects of prayer such as corporate prayer in church; prayer with family and friends; prayer for the sick; prayer offered in an evangelistic situation etc. But for me the fundamental bedrock of prayer is my personal prayer life, and recently I have had a reminder that it is a vitally important part of my Christian life.