4 Steps, 7,000 Promises, and O.N.E. Powerful Prayer Life!
Whew! I'm wiping the sweat off my brow as I type! We have learned A LOT in the past four weeks about prayer!
Max Lucado taught us that prayer in its simplest form is this:
We unpacked a few obstacles to prayer. Satan would have us believe that God can't be trusted and that He doesn't have our best interests at heart. One look at the Cross proves that to be a lie.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean explained that the purpose of prayer is to discover God's will… not obligate Him to ours. "Prayer is our opportunity to reflect on God's mind, not change it."
We learned about the necessity of prayer and how prayer is the conduit through which power from heaven is brought to earth. It isn't that God can't intervene to release His provision without prayer; it's just that sometimes He chooses not to. We think we're the ones waiting. Perhaps He's the one waiting for us to pray!
We contemplated the benefits of waiting in prayer. "While the waiting time is the most difficult part of the process, it is also the most important. Waiting gives God the opportunity to redefine our desire and align our purpose and vision with His." ~ Jennifer Kennedy Dean
Finally, we unwrapped the promise of prayer! It is a heart that matches His. Then He can grant us the desires of our hearts because our hearts are like His. The great news is that His heart knows better than ours what is best for us and others.
If learning about prayer were a three-tiered gift, we're about to open the final package. Now we get to learn about the process of prayer. Bible teacher Chip Ingram has a brief but powerful series on prayer that I'll reference. I encourage you to check it out at livingontheedge.org.
Chip says that we can learn all we need to know about how to pray from this power-packed verse in Philippians:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6-7 N.I.V.
Even though we know that prayer in its simplest form is talking to God and listening to God, as well as Him talking to us and listening to us, Ingram is right. We can employ a process. He says there is an acronym for it. A.C.T.S.
We can begin with Adoration. Move to Confession. Sprinkle in Thanksgiving and close with Supplication.
Adoration is the first thing we can employ when we pray.
The word adore describes feelings like love, admiration, and fondness. When we look at the Lord's Prayer, Jesus tells us to begin with the words "Our Father." What a wonderful reminder of the intimate relationship we can have with God. He is our Abba, our Papa, Dad.
There is another aspect of adoration that we need to remember. Adore can also mean to esteem and revere. Immediately following "Our Father who art in heaven," Jesus said, "hallowed be thy name." God wants our prayers to be vulnerable and authentic. Still, it serves us well to remember that our Father is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Our God is a Father who deserves our respect.
When we have spent a measure of time in adoration, one of the things that will likely happen is an increased awareness of how big God is and, inversely, how small we are. This moment is conducive to confession.
Confession is the second letter in our acronym for prayer. According to Ingram, Confession is "…a focus on our need and our lack of resources. It's [our] inability to handle the situation. It's an awareness of [our] limitations and [our] dependency."
When we are engaged in confession, a critical element to remember is that if, at any given point, we feel shame…that is not from the Holy Spirit…that is from Satan. Shame is his stamp mark of approval. Contrast this with conviction, followed by peace… that is from the Holy Spirit, and they are two very different experiences.
Thanksgiving is the next step in our prayer process. Ingram used the analogy of having a saltshaker. Thanksgiving is what we offer throughout all of our prayers.
As we adore God, we're reminded of what we want to thank Him for. As the Holy Spirit convicts us and we confess, we're reminded of reasons to thank Him. For past deliverance, for His listening ear, thanks for the hope He gives us for the future. The list could go on. Thanksgiving is an element of prayer that can season the entire process.
Supplication is the last step to employ in our prayer process. Ingram describes supplication as our "grocery list" of requests.
God desires our specific requests. Ingram described his practice of writing down (and dating) particular requests. He commented that as time passes, he can go back and see the many ways God answered prayer. Sometimes, he goes back and sees ways he now feels he should pray differently.
The bottom line is that when we are specific with our prayers, we get to witness the specific ways He responds to them. As Ingram said, "Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific."
For myself, when I pray specific prayers, I can leave the conversation with God having two distinct advantages:
The first is that the details of my concern are no longer stuck in MY head. They are now in the capable hands of my Father. This is good news because most days, I can barely put one more thing in my head.
Second, when I end the prayer (for those specific requests) with a heart prepared to surrender to His will …I leave the conversation in peace because I know I can trust Him with the outcome. It doesn't HAVE to turn out my way because I know whatever HIS way looks like, it will ultimately be the BEST way.
Chip Ingram is quick to remind us that prayer is relational, NOT transactional. Prayer will never be about whether we've prayed long enough, loud enough, or emotional enough. Prayer is not performance centered. It is promise centered.
There are over seven thousand promises in Scripture. SEVEN THOUSAND! What a wonderful thing to know that our very good God wants us to experience those promises. But we may need to ask, we may need to pray with––
I hope the past five weeks have been as helpful to you as they have been to me. I know that I still have much to learn. That will never change. Our all-knowing God has unsearchable ways.
But what a glorious gift it is that we get to talk to Him, and He listens to us…that He speaks, and we can hear from Him.
What a treasure it is that we can pray.