The Heart of Prayer

So, how’s it going?  We’ve been trying to spend 20 minutes in prayer each weekday now for 11 days.  It’s kind of tough, isn’t it?  But I hope that it is also bearing fruit.  And if you have missed a day now and then, don’t give up, and don’t feel guilty.  This 20/40 challenge is not about making a rule, that if broken, will somehow make God angry!  This challenge is simply a tool to help us develop a rhythm and practice of being with God and letting him shape the habits of our lives in new ways!  Stumbling and struggling is part of the journey of growth.  But as you struggle, please keep paying attention to the things that God is bringing to your mind, from the scripture readings, or as you pray, or even as you sit in silence.  Those are the Holy Spirit’s nudges to you about how God wants you to grow at this time in your life.  

I preached Sunday about three ways in which prayer—communication with God—keep us connected to Jesus.  1) We pray because Jesus Modeled it for us.  During his earthly life, Jesus constantly went off to be alone in prayer, in all moments of his ministry, but especially around major decisions and moments of crisis in his life.  If we want to follow Jesus, then we must learn to do as he did, including following the prayer practices that he modeled.  2) We pray because Jesus Mandated that we do so!  He told us to pray, and he told us specifically how to pray.  Part of following and loving Jesus is learning to do what he says.  Jesus wants you to pray.  Why?  Because Jesus likes handing out rules?  No, but because Jesus wants to transform us, and he knows that we will be transformed from the inside out as we spend time with God in the way that he instructs us.  More on that later.  3) Jesus continues to Mediate for us through prayer.  Jesus died for our sins, was raised from the dead in power, and now rules over all things at the side of his Father in heaven.  And do you know what he’s doing?  He’s still praying—but he is praying for us!  Jesus is constantly talking to the rest of the Trinity about our needs and struggles and asking for God to help us stay strong in our life of following Jesus.  So, when you pray, remember that Christ is also praying for you!  Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Now about praying as Christ instructs us.  Jesus gave us actual words to pray in the prayer that is now known to us as the Lord’s Prayer.  My personal practice is to pray this prayer daily, pausing after each phrase to reflect on all of the areas in my life that are touched by the particular phrase.  Next week, my devotional will talk a little bit more about how I do that, but this week, be encouraged!  We are not praying to earn brownie points with God, or to show how amazing we are at being Christians.  We pray because the practice of prayer—learning to speak and listen to God—keeps us closely connected to Jesus.  It puts us in a position of letting Christ do his work in our lives and transform us into the people he desires for us to be!  So, let’s pray!

Opening Prayer (slowly, pausing as you need along the way):

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you as the day rises to meet the sun.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen. 
Come, let us bow down and bend the knee: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Psalm and Gospel for the Day: (slowly read the Psalm, maybe 2 or 3 times, pausing if there is a word or phrase that stands out to you; then take that word or phrase and turn it into a prayer.  Then read the Gospel lesson.)

Feb. 26 | Psalm 29 | John 4:27-42

Feb. 27 | Psalm 68:1-6, 19-20 | John 4:43-54

Feb. 28 | Psalm 119:89-96 | John 5:1-15

Mar. 1 | Psalm 70 | John 5:16-23

Mar. 2 | Psalm 69:1-3; 13-18 | John 5:24-30

Mar. 3 | Psalm 27:1-6 | John 6:1-15

Personal Prayers (If you have felt God speaking from his word, respond in prayer; ask him to work in your life in specific ways.)

This week I encourage you to spend some time with a journal, reflecting on the following questions: What things am I feeling angry about? What things am I feeling sad about?  What things am I feeling anxious about?  What things am I feeling glad about?  Then go through these lists and pray about the things that you have written.

Prayers for Others (especially pray for one person you would like to influence for Christ)

The Lord’s Prayer (pray it slowly and thoughtfully, thinking about ways each phrase may apply to your life today.)

Closing Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit.  We pray that your fruit would be in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.