How to Pray
I want us to be a praying church. Prayer is conversing with God. It is communication. Any good relationship involves communication.
That means we have to make time. That means we ought to know what to pray. We are an extremely distracted society. I recently learned the word distraction originated with a medieval form of execution in which chains were tied to a horses and then attached to the limbs of a person. They would then hit the horses so they run in different directions. The person was said to be distracted.
You may feel like that in various ways today. We have phones and computers that never let us get away. We need to make time to get away. It is necessary. If you are not able to put your phone, to do list, other responsibilities down so that you can pray then you have to ask yourself who your God is. Prayer is a reflection of what you trust.
I also think a lot of times we do not pray because we don’t know what to pray. A lot of times communication fails in relationships because you don’t know how to communicate. You don’t know what to say. I want to focus today on the content of our prayers. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and that is what we are looking at today, how we should pray.
Text: Matt 6:5
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:5-15 ESV)
Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and he does so because the useless babbling, stammering, uttering of empty words, and phrases that he saw people doing. Makes you wonder what he might say of our praying!
I want to look at how the Lord’s prayer teaches us how to pray. I want to look at it through the lens of the ACTS acronym.
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplications.
These steps are seen in the Lord’s prayer and can also help in other passages of Scripture. I think this is a helpful way to think about praying. In this passage Jesus taught his disciples to pray “like this.” He didn’t say “pray this” as they are the only words, but like this, and it seems there he is giving categories, concepts, dispositions, etc.
To “adore” something is to like it a lot, to love it. It can even mean to worship something or honor it as deity.
Do you ever think of adoring God? Well prayer is a great to time to remind yourself who you are talking to. We adore deserts, we adore sports cars. We adore athletes. But God is infinitely more worthy of our adoration than any of those things.
The goal of adoration is to offer our highest compliments to God. Prayers of adoration are prayers of praise for who God is, what He's done, what He's doing, and what He will accomplish in and for His people.
An easy way to practice prayers of adoration is to simply pray Scripture back to God. Read a passage and state what you should adore about God. The Lord’s prayer points us to this.
One of the first things we see is “hallowed be thy name.” Hallowed. Holy. God has a name that is as far above us as he himself is above us. His name is holy. He is pure and sacred, honorable, and so is his name. We should adore God because of who he is. He is perfect in all of his ways.
To sanctify his name means to give him the glory that he alone deserves. The deepest veneration. He alone is worthy to be honored. Baseball, star player, you esteem him because of a greater degree of competence in that area. God is in every way to infinite degree. God is our creator, sustainer, redeemer, our all in all. How much more should we adore him for his glory.
Another reason… God is in heaven. Isn’t that awesome that you are coming into the presence of the almighty? Heaven reminds that God is utterly different from us, above us, beyond us. Untouched by the things that disrupt us. He doesn’t just dwell in the nicer neighborhood down the street. People like to boast of the neighborhood they live in. How about heaven! Not Lake Winward, or Wyndam. Beat that. He is above and beyond us. He is eternal, unchanging, and unfading in his glory. We ought to adore him.
His kingdom is coming. God is bringing his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He has given us something greater than this world to live for. He has a kingdom that is coming, and it is coming into the hearts of people, changing from the inside out.
Father. Not to Mary, to Joseph, to Paul or any other saints in the Bible or in history. We pray to our heavenly Father! Do you realize what a powerful statement it is to call God Father. Consider how awkward it would be if you went up to another person and said, “Hey Dad how are you?” They would look at you like you are crazy. I was talking with another dad a few weeks ago and he was talking about how his kids will still ask for money and things and he enjoys it and tries to encourage them to come to him but also make sure they have skin in the game. He will tell them he will pay for half of something. It was neat to hear this. His kids come to him because of his unique place in their lives as their father. There is an intimacy between both. It would be awkward if I came up to him and said “hey Dad i need a ____. Could you spot me some money?” He would look at me like I am out of my mind. Now consider, that we call the creator and sustainer of the universe “Father.”
“I adore you. I worship you. I praise you.”
Starting out with adoration is powerful. Remember who you are talking to. A while back I was praying and had something that was really pressing on me. I committed to pray for that thing, got a book on prayer to encourage me to keep asking. I was anxious and worried and repeatedly asking God for this and finding no peace in the situation. I then read about how we should pray prayers of adoration to God. I noticed that over time I was far less concerned about the thing I thought I so desperately needed. I realized God was bigger than the situations, would be with me in it. This is not to minimize your needs, but it is good to know there is something bigger than all the things and stuff that is out there. I remember this change in my heart and mind. I do not remember what in the world seemed so pressing at the time.
Same thing can happen in our prayer. We can be so stressed out about things at work, things we need done, things that we can’t live without and we think we need those things, but in reality we are better off being made aware of who our God is. That he loves us. That he is hallowed. That is is as far above us as the stars are above our head. Adoration is a way to give God the praise he deserves. And doing this to start our day sets the town for what we do the rest of the day.
Confession is the logical next step after expressing our adoration for God. When we see who God is we are immediately aware of what we are not.
Confession is needed. Confession reminds us that we need conforming to God’s ways. We pray to conform to his plan. We pray for his name to be hallowed. But isn’t it already hallowed. Isn’t his will going to be done? Isn’t his kingdom coming? We pray these not so much to ensure they are done as to ensure our lives are in line with what he calls us to.
*Jesus teaches us to pray so that we are changed and not just our circumstances!*
Confession is stating what we have done wrong. You may think of a criminal in a cell being pressured to tell what he has done. That is confession but biblically confession is to our heavenly Father who sent his Son to die for our sin. We don’t need to feel pressured to confess, it is the natural overflow of knowing who our God is and the forgiveness we have in him.
“God, I m sorry for… I confess i …”
During confession, it is good to be specific. There is a place for "God, forgive me for being sinful." While it's true that God is able to forgive and we are sinful, the Holy Spirit convicts sinners of specific sins.
Confession might look like, "God, I confess that I lied to my boss to cover up a mistake I made at work. I m sorry I was so worried about the finances. Please forgive me for being mean and angry to my spouse. God I m sorry for disobeying my parents."
Sometimes we enter into confession of sin knowing full well the ways we aren't in line with God's commands. Other times we enter into prayer without an immediate sense of where we're sinning against God. In times like this it's helpful to recall Psalm 139:23-24: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way."
Confession flows out of seeing God for who he is. Many do not practice confession because they do not see how great God is. Where have you not adored God, hallowed his name, sought his kingdom, trust his provision, his wisdom and will for your life.
Confession doesn't have to be limited to personal times of prayer. It can and should be done with others. Have an argument with your spouse. Make up. Pray and in prayer confess your sin.
Let Scripture guide you. God forgive me for not hallowing your name. I prize other things more than you. I don’t read my bible with my family because I prize my own comfort rather than you. Forgive me for not caring about the lost. I confess my lack of trust in your and your word. Forgive me for lying to my customers. I confess my saying evil things about my coworker when she was not there.
“Thanksgiving is a humble response to the generosity of God, acknowledging that every good and perfect gift comes from him. In spite of who we are and what we have done, God has been and continues to do us good. Thanksgiving recognizes that all we are and all we have is because of him. Gratitude puts us in the right frame of mind to ask, because it leads us to consider what God has done and what he is able to do.”
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Prayers of thanksgiving are often reserved for times of obvious blessing-a painful relationship is mended, financial crisis averted. But the passage above reminds us that prayers of thanksgiving should be prayed in all circumstances, even when we don't understand our present difficulties and trials. A couple of tips for praying thanksgiving include.
We can be grateful in all circumstances. At lake Joel pushing Joseph to ground to avoid getting hit by swing.
Spend a few minutes writing on a scrap piece of paper things you should be thankful for. Include specific instances of God's blessing and faithfulness to you. This is something as you do it grows and you are amazed at what
One of the ways we see people spiral downward is ungratefulness. It is a dark pit. We were not created to be dark pits of gloom but life giving rays of light. In Christ our greatest need is met.
Thanksgiving and humility go together. Luther on forgiveness.
“He will find he is no better than others and that in the presence of God everyone must duck his head and come into the joy of forgiveness only through the low door of humility.”
Will you …?
How often do we consider prayer as just going to God to ask for our needs to be met. It’s the last letter in our acronym. Note also that per Jesus instructions on prayer, praying for our needs is the fourth thing to come up. The first three points dealt with our disposition to God (Father. Hallowed. Kingdom, will).
You may feel like asking God for specific things is selfish or un-biblical. This couldn't be further from the truth. In Matthew 21:22, Jesus says to His disciples, "And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
We must balance this freedom to ask with an acknowledgment of God's perfect perspective and will. Honest prayers of supplication are always submissive to God's will and purposes. Prayers of supplication are also wonderful opportunities to pray on behalf of others. Just as the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27), so should we pray on behalf of others.
- Pray for needs, daily bread. God is interested in the small things in life. We also ask for our spiritual needs before we get to our physical needs. But notice that daily bread is a request for our basic necessities. I think most of us are use to praying for the quality of condiments come with our bread. Bread is good but I want apply butter, or grape jelly, maybe some all natural clover honey from Vermont. (Prov 30:8).
- Deliver us from temptation is a prayer to minimize our own internal evil.
- Prayer to deliver us from the evil one is a prayer against external evil.
- Pray for his kingdom to come. It’s not wrong to pray for physical needs. We should. But are praying for greater spiritual needs. We are to pray for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a summary of every spiritual blessing we have in Christ. And when we have that we ought to be willing to forgive others.
- Is eternity any different because of our prayers. Is our church any different because of our prayers.
- Are people being changed from the inside out. We want to change the world. How does that happen.
- The Gospel changes people and people change the world. We need inward renewal.
What do you most long to see happen? When people ask to pray for you what do you tell them. Does your prayer reveal a deep longing for God or a comfortableness.
John Owen said, “What a man is on his knees before God that he is and nothing else.” Prayer reveals much about us, what we believe, what we long for.
What are you praying for? If someone asked how they can pray for you, what is your greatest desire. Do you say “I’m good.” which is spiritual complacency or ignorance. I m fine the way I am. What do you long to see happen in the world. What do you long for God to do in you. What are you passionate for. What do you long for God to do in your life, through you? Is there anything more than your personal comfort? If god answered your prayers would people’s eternity be any different.
Prayer is not just about getting what we want from God. It is a means of knowing him better. I want us to be a church that is doing the basic things really well. There is nothing more basic than prayer. And it starts privately before it grows corporately. I want to ask you to commit to praying for fifteen minutes every day for the next month. Read a passage a chapter and pray through it with the ACTS acronym thinking about what you should adore, confess, give thanks, supplicate. Find a time you can pull away from everything. Put your phone down. Tell the kids it is quiet time and they cant ask you for anything. Get away with you, your Bible, and the Lord.
Tim Keller, Prayer.
- What most often keeps you from praying?
- What are the main points Jesus teaches his disciples to pray about? Which of these do you spend the most time in?
- How might using the ACTS acronym help guide your prayer? Are you committed to praying for at least 15 minutes a day for the next month?