Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How I've Learned to Pray

As a child, I learned to pray like children do. "Now I lay me down to sleep..." and "Lord, we thank you for this food...". As a young adult, I prayed for specific things and people.
But, as a woman, I began to feel convicted to pray the Lord's prayer. Like a bolt of lightening, it suddenly made sense to me to pray like Christ teaches me in the scripture.

Matthew 6: 5-15
5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 11: 1-13
1And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say,
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3Give us day by day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
5And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Here we can see how two different disciples remember the words that Christ told them when Jesus was asked to teach them how to pray.

In Matthew, I am warned to not pray for looks or glory to myself. And not to get all wordy because the Holy Spirit is already communicating my heart to God as I pray.

Luke remembers how Christ also gave an example of how loving our Father is toward us, more than even an earthly father. But did you catch that in verse 13? I didn't until just now! "how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" The Father gives us what we need through the Holy Spirit. That deserves some thought. I'd best make sure the Holy Spirit which lives in me and is my intercessor is burning in my heart if "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh the intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8: 26-27) There have been times when I was so distraught that all I could do was cry in prayer and let the Spirit do the talking.

O-kay, but let me tell you that these verses are the "milk" compared to the "meat" of what I've learned. Like a child, I've been taught so much over the last couple of years. At first, I just felt compelled by the Spirit to pray the Lord's prayer. I prayed it for myself. Lead me not into temptation, give me my daily bread, etc. Just trusting that what Christ taught is the way to do it.

Then, I grew a little. And I realized that the prayer didn't say me but "we" and "us". What did that mean? Ask and it shall be given... so I asked, and I was taught that I shouldn't be praying for just myself and tacking on all my little "extras" at the end of the prayer (like praying for family members and friends.) So I began to mean myself and my family and friends as I prayed for "us" within the prayer.

But the more I read in the Bible, I began to understand that "we" and "us" was the whole body of Christ, his church. "We" are Christians! Christians everywhere! The whole lot of us! I can't tell you the blessing that I got when I first prayed that prayer over all Christians everywhere in this world. Hebrews 2:11 says, "for both he that sanctifieth (Christ) and they who are sanctified (true believers) are all of one..." We are to pray for the church which is the body of Christ, the whole bunch of Christians all over this world....we are one..."we", "us", "Our" Father (we all praise you, I know I'm not the only one doing that today), "Our" daily bread (please feed the hungry with food and the broken and the lost with your Word and Spirit even if I'm included), Forgive "us" (all of us, none of us are worthy and have sin and weakness), "our" debtors (forgive those who harm your followers: the perscutors who know not what they do, even those who torture and kill in other countries, even the evil-doers that might be on my street), lead "us" and deliver "us" from evil (all evil, everywhere, all of us), for You, "our" Lord and Saviour have the power to do it for every single on of us on this planet, for it is your footstool...and the power is Yours. AMEN! The place where I'm at in my prayer life is this: when I get up in the morning and sit down to read the Word, I pray the Lord's prayer first. As I ask for our daily bread, I know the Holy Spirit intercedes that I may understand what I read and keep my eyes open to the Lord's works in my day. At mealtimes, we say a prayer of thanks for the abundance on our table, even if it's in a restuarant... not to be seen, but when the waitress is not due back and we don't look around to see who saw us. It's just for us in the closet of our booth and discreet. When we are with other Christians, we pray as a whole for this increases the power of prayer, whatever the occassion, giving thanks, praying for brothers and sisters in need, etc.

There are countless examples of prayer in the Bible, prayer for specific people, things and events, prayer for strength, praying without ceasing, and all of it is good or else it wouldn't be given to us as examples. The Lord's prayer is just one part of my day. As the day goes on, I will pray as I can feel the Spirit tugging on my heart to do so. I will pray for those who request it. I will pray everytime I think of children who need intercession.

And I pray for myself, to gain strength in Spirit and do that which is pleasing to Him.

How do you pray? What have you been taught? Has the Spirit revealed to you how you are to pray? I would love to hear about it and learn from other Christians about the blessings they have experienced from and through prayer.

These photos are from a collection of old Sunday school lessons/pamphlets that I bought at Casey House Antiques. You can read about it at the bottom of my blog post here.


Tipper said...

The "we" and "us" is an awesome thing to think about for sure.

Judy said...

This made me stop and think because I have always prayed the way you did. Thanks.