Sunday 29 April 2018

How to Pray Like Jesus

Imagine for a minute the lifestyle of an olympic athlete. Their athletic lifestyle overlaps in many of their daily activities from what they eat, to what they wear, to how they manage their schedule. 

What if we looked at prayer not as a one shot daily duty like brushing your teeth, but using the same lens of an athlete. What if we integrate and intertwine prayer into every element of our day? By doing this you would be disciplining yourself in a prayer lifestyle. 

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinithians 9:24-27 (emphasis in bold is my own):

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

Prayer as a lifestyle is one that, like every other lifestyle, takes discipline. 

Whether or not we are aware of it or not, marriage is also a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is intertwined in our day as we attempt to keep open communication with our spouse. Maybe it’s a phone call at work to say hi, or making a point to have a meal together, or even going on frequent date nights. 

What if we treated the lifestyle of marriage like we do the daily duty of brushing our teeth? We would get up, spend 60 seconds saying hi, then never have another conversation until the end of the day. Our final 60 second conversation might look like this:

“How was your day?” 
“And yours?”
“Well...there was this problem in the office today that I struggled with.”
“That’s nice. Have a good sleep.”
“You too.”

Not exactly the way to keep your marriage working. Yet, we do this in our relationship with God all the time when we treat prayer like a duty that needs to be squeezed in at some point in the day. 

Prayer is just a fancy word for being in communication with God. If He is to be of even higher priority than any other relationships we have, should He not take the majority of our time as well? For many of us, this where that discipline comes into play as we seek to change habits to train ourselves to make speaking and listening to God (AKA-prayer) a lifestyle. 

Jesus was way ahead of us on our struggles with how to keep open lines of communication with God, so he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Most of us know it as that thing we mutter at funerals, or perhaps first thing in the morning, or just before bed as a prayer. But have you ever stopped to make sense of what Jesus was showing us? 

The Lord’s Prayer can certainly be read as a stand alone prayer, but more importantly it is a guideline for our prayers so we don’t draw a blank and treat prayer as a daily task amongst the other varying tasks. Listen to it in full, but from the Message translation to see if you can catch it:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Matthew 9-13 The Message)

If we take the version we are more familiar with and extract it in sections the guideline Jesus gave us looks like the following:

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

We begin with praise! How easy to incorporate praise throughout our day, especially when we make a point to recognize all the great elements of God’s goodness around us. From the beauty of the morning sunrise, to the fragrance of a fresh rainfall, to the happiness of our kids, or a phone call when we need it. His magnificent hand is on it all! 

Your kingdom come. Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.

After praise, we begin with the “listening to God” portion of prayer. Before we speak, we listen. This is a laying down of our own wills and desires and allowing God to interrupt our days. Sometimes, He calls on us to intercede and places a person, place, or moment deeply in our heart to prayer for. This is when we join with him in prayers that He needs (more on this coming soon in a future post). Sometimes, it is that God will place a person in our lives, even if just for a small moment in our day, that He needs to speak life into. 

Note that this one comes before we ask daily provisions. Before we pull out own checklist of needs we wait on God’s interruptions to bombard our hearts and stir us to see as He sees. It is an acknowledgement that His will comes before our will, and as such we lay down our lives to “seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33)

Give us this day our daily bread.

Once we lay aside our own will, we are still allowed to come to the throne with our daily requests. In fact, God is our Father, he wants us to come to him with our requests. 

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Daily we are offering forgiveness to those around us. From the person who cuts us off in traffic, to an offending spouse who spoke cruelly, to the past hurts that bubble up. 

But more importantly, we need to be asking for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. If you have accepted Jesus died for your sins, you no longer stand condemned, but this does not mean you no longer sin. What it does mean is a heartfelt apology to God washes the smudges of sin once again and then you move on free of guilt.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

There are temptations in every aspect of daily living, but God promises to always offer a way out, or an escape hatch when the temptation is too strong. 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

Even more, this passage is a call to battle. We are constantly bombarded with pressure from the enemy who always seeking to set up camp in our thoughts. Here we acknowledge we are children of God, and we can call on His name when we need strength. “Holy Spirit come quick,” is often being uttered in my moments of weakness.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Once again, we find praise. Jesus knows that through praise and worship we set our gaze fully on God. As my favourite hymn says:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemmel)

As we train ourselves to use this model of prayer, we can see how we can intertwine these moments into our daily living and be disciplined the prayer lifestyle. We praise, we listen, we petition, we apologize, we wage war, and we find rest in the praise and worship of a good God at the end of it all. Whether you are sitting in prayer for hours (somedays you might!), or intertwining short effective prayers throughout the day, the goal is to always be communication with our Abba. Listening, speaking, and being in his presence. 

If you wish to read deeper on using the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer guideline for more effective prayers, you can check out the book Power Praying by David Chotka. Much of what is included in the breakdown of the Lord's Prayer was taught in practice to me by this wonderful pastor/ teacher.