No, I’m not starting a new business charging for prayer. Today, I had an early lunch with a friend of mine, a banker, who always insists on paying for both of us. And, as is our custom, I always end up saying grace. So today, I suggested that we switch roles – I would buy lunch and he could offer the grace. He declined – mostly because he considers me a bank customer and can’t stand the thought of me taking him to eat; and a little because he doesn’t pray in public when we’re together. So… without too much thought, I said, “Okay, you pay, I’ll pray…” We both started laughing.
Then, I remembered that last evening our family went to the NFL Experience in downtown Indy and I was a little anxious all evening, with the crowds and lines that are typical of this event. Today, I ended up having a discussion with somebody and found myself getting really amped up when I got my buttons pushed. These behaviors, while not normally prevalent in my everyday life, are reminders of the past – a time when I did what I felt I had to do in the corporate world to achieve the goal – even if the method was inconsistent with the way Jesus would have urged me to handle the situation.
Truthfully, I am a little annoyed that I succumbed to the temptation to reveal a part of myself that I have had tucked away for a number of years now. My co-workers have not seen that side of me; but I am sure they sense that it exists. Just because I haven’t demonstrated a certain behavior doesn’t mean that it’s dead – only hibernating. Nonetheless, I was disappointed that I handled the situation the way that I did.
So several things have happened in the last several days that indicate to me that I need to spend more time in communion with God. I have been a little bit on edge and I notice that I have been a little quicker to pull the trigger when it comes to making decisions. While this can be good, I sense that I need to take a breath and get a little re-focused on my priorities. And to continue to honor God by staying the course and making sure that I keep focused on Him and not on the “cosmos” – from the Greek, meaning, “the things of this world.”
You have heard me say that I miss my friends at seminary and the somewhat rigid, disciplined life I led when I was deep in my studies. To say nothing of the intimacy with God on a daily basis; and sometimes I long to have those days back. But there is nothing keeping me from my own spiritual disciplines if I am diligent in my pursuit of a deeper relationship with God.
But what does prayer look like when we don’t have guidance? Because we are prone to ramble on and randomly ask for stuff from the Father. While asking for things, which we call supplication, is a part of the prayer experience, we should also practice adoration and confession of our sins as a part of the process. So what’s the model that we should follow? It’s really quite simple – Jesus Himself gave us the perfect formula.
When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He told them in Matthew 6:9,”Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.” The rest of the prayer, which we call the Lord’s Prayer, is probably the most well known prayer in the English language. An interesting part of this whole section of Scripture is that Jesus told the disciples how to start their prayers – with the words, “Our Father….” But notice that Jesus did not let us know how He prayed to the Father. That’s because while we are adopted sons, Jesus is the only “begotten” (of the same DNA) Son of God; and that clearly means there is a difference in the way He prays – and that’s a completely different story.
For us, prayers should start with recognition of God’s sovereignty and the fact that everything that happens should be in accordance with His will for our lives. Then, we should be satisfied with what sustains us, day to day; and we should also be willing to forgive the imperfections of others as we ask forgiveness of our sins. Of course, if we are smart, we should also ask for protection from Satan and as I have found out more times than I care to remember, he is lurking around every corner, tempting us with things that are inconsistent with God’s will for His children. Finally, we should acknowledge that God reigns supreme in all aspects – eternally.
So there you have it – a short primer on prayer. The challenge is for me to go from teaching mode to prayer mode in my own life. I am really good at giving suggestions to others, but sometimes not so quick to follow my own advice. That has to change…..
My encouragement this evening is that you can pray in a manner pleasing to God; and with intention, following the instructions from Jesus Himself. My prayer is that you will remember to spend time with God in prayer and that He will honor you by providing those things to you that you ask in His name – consistent with His will. Well it’s late – time for bed, and prayer……. Grace and peace…..