Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Prayer Dare

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The believer being persecuted for her faith stands before her captors with a quiet resolve not to deny her Savior. 

The Christian who just learned his wife wants a divorce finds the strength to look for reconciliation instead of exploding in anger. 

The believing parents who sit by their child's hospital bed are able to bear up under the strain in a way that gives their child hope and strength. 

What single source could make all of this possible? God's peace! His peace is stronger than your worry and it makes no sense from a worldly perspective. It is beyond our comprehension because it is spiritual. This peace is powerful, but you only receive it when you lift your worries up to Him in prayer. 

This is where many of us fail. We lack peace in our hearts because we lack prayer. But why do we lack prayer? Is it because we think prayer is boring? Or because we don't know what to say? Maybe we think prayer just doesn't "work for me."

If you are like me, then you need more peace. That means we desperately need to learn how to lift our requests up to God. So let me introduce you to two approaches that have helped me find joy in prayer.

The first is praying Scripture. If you ever find yourself praying the same things over and over again, or if you just don't know what to say at all, then this method is for you. It's very simple. God's Word is chocked full of prayers and songs designed to help believers pour their heart out to Him. Pick a psalm or some other passage of Scripture and begin reading. As you read, simply let Scripture give you prompts for things to pray about. You will often find that the Bible leads you to pray for things you would have never thought to pray about yourself.

Let me illustrate. I am choosing Psalm 149 at random. As I write this I don't know what that psalm says. Turning to it I read the first verse. "Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people." So I stop to pray the following.
Lord I do praise you. You are good beyond my ability to understand.  I praise You for Your goodness, wisdom, love, power and grace. There is no god like You. You alone are worthy of praise.
All you do is read Scripture and pray about what it brings to mind. When you come to a verse that makes you think of something to pray, then stop and pray about it. When you are done praying for that, simply continue reading until something else jumps out at you. My experiment led me to praise God. That's something I probably wouldn't have prayed on my own. I normally don't get around to praise when I pray, but the Scripture commanded me to praise so I did.

The second approach can help here too. I have been aware of the ACTS prayer method for a long time but have only recently started using it regularly. It has really been a blessing to me. ACTS is an acrostic that stands for Adoration (praise), Confession (repenting of sin), Thanksgiving, and Supplication (making requests). When you pray, simply take a few minutes to focus on each of these four different areas of prayer. Spend several minutes in prayer telling God how great He is and how much you love Him. Then take a few minutes to examine your heart and life. Repent of the sin you find and ask for forgiveness. Thank God for His forgiveness in Christ and then continue on for several minutes thanking Him for any of the other gifts He has poured out on your life. Then take time at the end of your prayer to lift up each of your needs to God and ask for help. Pray over everything that concerns you, all the things that make you worry. Don't be afraid to ask God to meet your needs. He is a God who hears and answers prayer!

Test God in this and see if you are not met by His peace. If you need to, pick one of these methods and set a timer. Commit to spending five or ten minutes in prayer. All of us can spare five or ten minutes. I bet you will find that what you thought would feel like an eternity is not nearly enough time to cover all you want to pray about. And once you have tasted the goodness of God's presence again, you will want to make this a regular part of your daily routine. Try it. I dare you!

*Donald S. Whitney has written a helpful little book called Praying the Bible that is worth the read. You should consider checking it out. 

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