There are three questions to consider when talking about prayer as means of grace: Why, How and What. This morning we will spend some time with each, but we will start with why because it sets the stage for “how” and “what” to pray.
Why pray: Genie in a bottle? – Angry Kid that needs to be appeased? – Self/ Life actualization technique? – Stress Relief/Centering time?: No – No – No – No
Why Pray? – How about so “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give [us] a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to [us]. 18 [So] that the eyes of [our] heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, 19 and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers.” (Common English Bible, Ephesians 1: 17-19)
Why Pray? – to communicate with God so that we know God. God wants us to be in relationship with God and relationships require communication. Spouse, parents, children,… and God. To enlighten our heart eyes so that we can see and hear and know God more fully. Without prayer we just continue in darkness.
Having a right attitude (posture) about why we pray is vital because if we enter into prayer because of one of the false reasons listed above, or for any other false reason other than to be in relationship with God, we damage the effectiveness of our communication and dim the light that can enlighten the eyes of our heart. – It’s not that God can’t or won’t work to communicate with us even if we come in thinking God is a genie granting wishes – it’s just that it is that much more darkness to be driven out by the light.
How do we pray? – you have to be kneeling, your head has to be bowed, your head should be covered, you should be looking up, your hands should be raised, you should pray silently, you should talk out loud, you should pray in a closet, you should pray in a church, you should pray in nature, you should pray on the street corner, you should pray written prayers, you should pray spontaneous prayers, you should pray when you’re sad, you should pray when you’re mad, you should pray when you’re happy, you should pray when the Spirit moves you, you should pray unceasingly. – All of these are in scripture in some way shape or form. What I take from all of these commands about how, when or where to pray is that as it turns out we should pray - period, but pray in a way that allows God to enlighten the eyes of your heart and the hearts of those you know and love.
Some forms that I find helpful –
- the breath prayer: something like “Lord Jesus Christ” as you breath in and “have mercy on me, a sinner” as you breath out. Involve your whole body through breathing in your prayer
- collect - Address – “Dear God,” Attribution – “You became one of us and prayed for us,” Petition – “Help us to pray in ways that show us who you are more fully,” Purpose – “So that we might follow you better in mission and ministry to the world,” closing – “Amen” (Stookey, Laurence Hull, Let the Whole Church Say Amen: A Guide for Those Who Pray in Public, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001 pg. 17)
- Litany/Intercession and the Kyrie – When you have a lot of prayer concerns or praise you can add the Kyrie between petitions or praises. Kyrie is Latin for Lord, and the full Kyrie is “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.” This can also be prayed spontaneously when you hear about a concern or when something happens and you just need to call on God’s mercy in the midst of it.
What to pray? – There are two ways to interpret the “What” to pray question that I want to address. The first is the question of what the content of our prayers should be. This one is easy, anything and everything, bring it all to God your Whole life, your dreams and aspirations, your desires, your wounds, your pain, your brokenness, your joy, your praise, all of it, but do it to let God’s light shine on all of it, all of your life, so that you can see and know God in all of your life. We don’t bring ourselves, our stuff, to God just to drop it off and be done with it, we bring it so that the hope, glory and power of God might be known in it.
The second question is what words to use when praying. Use words that are comfortable and authentic to you and how you best communicate with God. For some people this means praying like the Kings James Version Bible. For others it means a casual conversation with a buddy. The important thing to remember is that the words we use should be words that help us find the place where God can enlighten our heart eyes through prayer, so that we can know God and God’s call on our lives better.
Remember that our words not only state and reflect what we believe about God, they actually shape how we view God, so as you come to know God better through prayer, and the other means of grace, expect the words you use in prayer to change, and, as your words change, expect your view of God to change and get deeper and deeper and deeper as your prayers enlighten your heart eyes.This sermon, like all the ones in this series, comes with a challenge. Practice this means of grace this week. Take your prayer life, where ever you are in it, to another level. Push yourself to really practice prayer. With the challenge also comes the offer of support. If you want to come and be held accountable for your practice and be supported in it and learn how others have had success or struggled, then join us on Wednesday mornings from 10:30-11:30 or Thursday nights from 6:30-7:30 for a small group discussion of our practice. IF you would like to let us know that you are coming you can sign up on the Opportunities Table or let Pastor Rett know, but you can also just show up