A great analogy for our Christian prayer life is a lamp. No matter where we put the lamp, it is still a lamp. It still has one purpose, to give off light so that people can see. Floor lamps, table lamps and overhead lights all serve the same purpose. These lamps also have something else in common: they must be plugged in to work. Without staying connected to a power source, a lamp is worthless.
We too in our life with God, must stay connected. Whatever mission God calls us to will fail if we don’t stay connected to him as our power source. For the follower of Jesus, prayer is more vital and important than any other action we do. Prayer is our communication tool with God.In order for us to stay connected with God, it will be helpful to look at a few aspects of prayer, to learn about its purpose and function.
First, prayer is a conversation. It is much more than talking at or to God. It is a two-way street of dialogue. While we will certainly come before God with our concerns and praises, it is just as important to spend quiet time waiting for him to speak and prompt us. A healthy prayer life gives God time to talk.
The purpose of prayer is to connect with God, to show him what is on our heart and to see what is on his.
Second, prayer is consistent. One important aspect of growing and developing a healthy prayer life is to set aside a certain time to be alone with God. Some may find this easiest to do in the morning, they are awake, alert and refreshed after a good nights sleep; and morning prayer may help center and ready them for the day ahead. Others may find it more useful to find a quiet time at night. The children are in bed, the day’s tasks are completed and prayer in the evening can help us reflect on the events of the day and allow God to speak to us and allow us to grow through them. The important thing is not when prayer happens, it’s that it happens.
Third, while there is no set formula for prayer, there can be some helpful guidelines for those that feel stuck. One popular method for prayer is the acronym A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). In short, it means we orient our prayer time around these four ideas: Praising God for who he is, asking for forgiveness, thanking God for all he has given us and requests for us and those around us that are in need. In his enormously helpful book Prayer Coach Jim Nicodem uses a different acronym to remind us about the two-way dialogue of prayer. Nicodem uses the idea of C.H.A.T. For him, a good order is Confess (seek forgiveness), Honor (praise God), Ask (praying for us and those around us) and Thank (acknowledging that God is a giver of all good things). The purpose of prayer is to connect with God, to show him what is on our heart and to see what is on his.
Fourth, prayer is ongoing. Several times the Apostle Paul tells believers to keep praying. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Similarly in 1 Thessalonians chapter five we find these words, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” While we desire to set aside specific times each day for focused and concentrated prayer, we also realize that our every moment and thought needs to be offered as a prayer to God.
Finally, prayer is directive. Prayer is always designed to lead us somewhere. First and foremost it always leads us closer to God, but it should also help us in our daily mission. Prayer and action should be paired together. We first give a situation to God (say a difficult situation with a coworker), praying (and listening) to God about the situation and then we look for ways to act on that prayer (having heard from God we look for the ways he is telling us to make the situation better).
As we go through this world looking for ways to embody God’s Good News to those around us, we will undoubtedly experience trials, setbacks and failures. For the believer the key ingredient to overcoming these hardships is prayer. By it we not only express our grief to God but hear from him ways to overcome it and find our ultimate source of joy and hope in him.
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