Tuesday, November 07, 2017

If it helps, this is how I pray

People sometimes ask me how I pray. So, below, I've quickly typed out much of what I prayed this morning.

Each day, I have a basic list of prayer concerns, specific people for whom I pray, who, in the interests of confidentiality and privacy, aren't included in what you see below. But this will give a rough idea of the conversational approach I take to prayer, whether the longer prayers I offer at the beginning of the day or the shorter ones I offer throughout the day. This is the gist of what I prayed about this morning.

The shorter prayers I offer throughout the day are always prompted by circumstances or just as a person comes to mind. For example:
  • I'm about to visit someone who's ill or dying, for example, and I ask God to give me the right words and the right silences with which to help those people and their families. 
  • I have to make a decision and I ask for wisdom. 
  • I'm going to have an important conversation and I ask that God will leave me open to His guidance. 
  • I go to the store and I ask to be a positive witness for Jesus, overtly or not, in my interactions with other customers and the employees. 
  • As I preach, I ask God to help me get across His Word.
Another thing: Intimacy with God doesn't mean that God is my buddy. God is not my buddy. Or more to the point, I'm not God's buddy.

God is eternal, almighty, utterly holy, other.

God is, as Jesus says, my friend, but He isn't my buddy. I'm not God's equal and being conversational, open, intimate, and real with God does not connote that He's my pal or an indulgent co-conspirator in my sin.

Just because God loves and understands that I am dust doesn't mean He approves of everything I think, do, and feel.

God's intention is to change me for the better and I come to Him to submit to the frequently painful process of being transformed, to willingly lay aside anything that keeps me from following Him, no matter how painful that can be, so that I can embrace the free offer of eternal life with God and wholeness through repentance and belief in Jesus.

A relationship with and belief in Jesus is the essential component of prayer. It's Jesus, God the Son, Who empowers us to approach God as our Father. And it's only by virtue of His righteousness that we dare to even speak with God. "Until now," Jesus told His first disciples and all subsequent Christians in John 16:24, "you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

To pray in Jesus' name doesn't mean appealing to a good luck charm.

It means to submit to the will of God the Father as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion.

It means surrendering to the wisdom and goodness of God.

It means asking God to do what is best, even if it's not the solution I would choose.

It means inviting God into the middle of the circumstances and situations for which we pray.

It means acknowledging the truth that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, the only path to God (John 14:6).

In prayer, I submit to the God I have only come to know through Jesus and the Bible's faithful witness about Him.

Below, is some of what I prayed this morning. If it helps you to pray, that's great. If it doesn't, just forget you read it.
Dear Lord, I ask You to forgive me my sins for the sake of Jesus. [I listed the sins of which I am aware.] And God, bring to my mind as I spend time with you today those sins of which I'm unaware so that I can repent for them. And forgive me and guide me in all parts of my life.

Grant that today my life will give you praise and glory and that I will in no way bring dishonor You.

Protect my family and me from all danger and harm. Protect us from temptation and sin. Protect our characters and our reputations. Extend these protections to the churches we’ve served, to our friends, and our extended family.

God, get our country through its muddle over guns and violence. End the romance with violence that exists in our country. Guide lawmakers everywhere with Your wisdom.

Send workers into the harvest: Disciples who will carry the good news of new life from Jesus for all who repent and believe in Him. Grant this to happen in every nation of the world. And protect your disciples who carry the gospel with all of the protections I ask for my own family, our friends, our church, and me. Use every means You deem right to connect Jesus and people.

Heal those wounded in the shooting in Sutherland Springs. Give comfort to those who mourn.

Help the people affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Texas, and Florida. In the midst of recovery and relief, grant that those who don’t know You will be met by compassionate witnesses for Jesus who can help them follow Jesus to life. Forgive us in the states of the US, and I include myself, for treating the conquered Puerto Rico like a stepchild.

Help the people impacted by the wildfires with the same help and protections, Lord.

Give the Holy Spirit’s guidance, confirmed by Your Word, to our congregation on how to proceed with the building project. After a season of prayer, I’ve reached my conclusions, Lord. But guide us all, I pray.

Guide all political leaders and decision-makers with Your wisdom, whether they follow Jesus or not. You’ve done just that in the past, guiding Cyrus of Persia, who didn’t believe. Bring these people into contact with You, Your Word, and Your wisdom and make them open to where You lead.

Father, give peace.

Lord, peacefully bring down the thugs of this world, the dictators and autocrats: Putin, Kim Jong-un, Duterte in the Philippines, and would-be thugs and dictators around the world. Remove the curse of their reigns, as You have done before in history.

Guide me in all of my decision making today. Grant that my words, thoughts, and actions will glorify You. Give me opportunities to share Jesus with others and to make disciples.

As I dig into Your Word this morning, show me what truth You want me to see and what You want me to do in response to that truth.

In Jesus’ name.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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