When it comes to praying the best way to learn how to pray is to simply do it. The function is best learned when practiced. The more we practice prayer the better pray-er we will become. The disciples came to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus spoke up and said “when you pray” we are to pray for certain things: daily bread, forgiveness of sin, kingdom work, God’s will, God’s power and glory. I would perhaps look at these things through these three lenses.
1) Pray-ers align themselves with God’s Will. When we come to God in prayer we move into the position of walking and moving with God. We seek His work, His Kingdom, and His forgiveness. When we have God’s forgiveness and we posture ourselves humbly before, we get into line with what He is doing and we can become part of His answer to the prayers of the world.
2) Pray-ers accept God’s answers. It is easy for us to think that we know what is best or what we want but pray-ers learn to rely on God’s desires and plans rather than their own. Pray-ers accept God’s yes or no or wait a while longer. When we come before God and pray His will be done, we accept that as the answers come God is working His good pleasure for our best interest. The power of prayer for a true pray-er is found in the humility of submitting our will to God’s will: “thy will be done”.
3) Pray-ers acknowledge God’s glory. Regardless of what the answers a faithful pray-er seeks God’s glory in everything. When we pray we are not seeking our own purposes or advancement we are seeking God’s fame. Our prayers are made in Jesus’ name, not our own. It is essential that as a faithful follower of Jesus that we leave God’s glory in our wake.
“There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the Kingdom of Christ as by prayer.” Jonathan Edwards
As I reflect on the YS convention, I have to start here. For me such events are wonderful on many levels and for many reasons but it’s what happens afterward that I feel is the most important. It’s not really about what God says as much as what God says to do. It’s not so much about hearing from God as much as being obedient to God. It’s really more about leaning in than learning more. It’s about becoming all God wants for us and for us becoming all we really can be for God.
There are a few things that really stuck out to me this past weekend at the YS Conference in Atlanta. Even though this is my 11th trip or so, I still find myself very encouraged and inspired each year to not only attend but to bring others along as well! Even as I write this, I see another thing I gathered from the event. Sharing our story about God is really nothing more than sharing about things like YS. I get something great out of it, it motivates me, inspires me etc. This is all that is necessary in sharing our faith. It’s just letting other people in on the life we lead, the things we do, the places we go and why.
After the Extended Adolescence Symposium yesterday I took a little time to reflect and consider what God may be saying to me. A few words popped out: Perspective and Paradigm Shift to simply name a couple for this blog. Doug Fields and Kenda Creasy Dean spoke about this to some degree in their Big Room Sessions. With two speakers bringing the words to my attention, I wanted to certainly listen for God’s voice.
Kenda Dean used an analogy of a clock spinning in a clockwise direction but depending on how you look at the clock, above or below, the clock can appear to be moving counterclockwise, never changing actual direction. Doug Fields used the illustration of the “Magic Eye” like the one in the pic above. The image can only truly be seen by allowing our eyes to adjust by not looking at what is there but looking beyond what is there, if you will. With both of these illustrations my perspective has to change in order to see things the way they are or could be.
This is not always an easy task. I can be so locked into simply looking at things my way or the way that my eyes have been trained to look. I can be locked into a position unwilling to move and therefore never be able to see anything other than what is physically right before my eyes. Here are a few take aways I had on the sessions about perspectives:
1) Perspective changes with location. In my all-time favorite movie Dead Poets Society, John Keating challenges the young men of Helton Academy to look at life from a different perspective (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8fu-hq3S7A) by having them stand on their desks (at 57 sec is where the desk part happens) . To see things differently we must be willing to move our vantage point. We have to be willing to look from God’s side of things. Isaiah 55:8-9
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
2) Perspective changes with time. Obviously as time marches on we grow older and look at life much differently than we did as kids. However, one of the things that I have to battle sometimes is the fact that I’m not a kid anymore. When I was a child I could only see what I wanted out of life or out of others. As much as I may want to look at life with rose colored glasses, I cannot. As much as I may want to be irresponsible sometimes, I cannot. Perspective allows me to see that there are things that are not only vitally but eternally important. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
Sadly too many of us are still looking at life through the eyes of a selfish brat. I realized that there are many ways I have to step up and man up and take the lead for some things to happen in my own life and even in ministry.
3) Perspective changes with life. There is nothing that alters one’s view of life more than the reality of death. As I get older, I certainly am much more aware of my own mortality and impending end on this planet. This has always been somewhat of a concern to me but oh how my awareness is heightened with every birthday, New Year or Arbor Day. Just kidding. Nonetheless, as I reflected on the conference and even the up coming new year, I was reminded that I have to maintain the right perspective on everything. There are some things that I look at now and wonder why in the world did I ever act that way, say those things, respond that way, and pray to God I never do again. There are some areas of my life that I wonder how in the world did I get where I am knowing as little as I did! But by the grace of God I am here. With all of that I am keenly aware of Paul’s admonition to the church at Colossee
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
With the YS conference over now and trying to work through these thoughts, I am in a place of pondering and contemplation seeking what God is doing in me and wanting to do through me. I guess at this point all I can really say is that I am hoping to not only see things from a different point of view but I am hoping to be able to see beyond the here and now and into then there and beyond. Because if life is really anything like a magic eye picture then that means God has so much surrounding me that I have not even scratched the surface of. I am adventurously expecting God to reveal many new and wonderful things to me in 2012. I hope your perspective will be the same!
1 Corinthians 2:9
9 But as it is written in the Scriptures:
“No one has ever seen this,
and no one has ever heard about it.
No one has ever imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.” — Isaiah 64:4
There is no doubt that for some, praying aloud can be very intimidating and uncomfortable. I well remember my first ventures into the prayer meeting at our small church in NC. Sitting with the men of the church and hearing them approach God with these long monologues and lists of desires and requests was something so new and different to me. I had never been part of a prayer meeting before! With time and listening, I eventually got to the place where I could vocalize my desires before God with others listening and not worry abut what others thought. But I have to say that my prayers were not always as authentic as if I were alone. It seems that as we pray sometimes we fall into the routine of talking to God the way others talk to him. And yet, if we have a “personal” “intimate” relationship with God, shouldn’t there be some nuances to our own prayer life with God?
Jesus opens his landmark and revolutionary prayer by showing the individual the ability and opportunity to approach God as “Father”. Now I didn’t call my Dad, “Father” nor did I call my grandfather, “grandfather”. I called my dad “Dad” and my grandfather “pop”. People have all kinds of names they use to invoke not only the attention of the loved one but also to reveal the personal relationship. The Bible actually gives many names and titles to God: Jehovah, Yahweh, Father, and Abba.
During my time at the YS conference they used a modern translation taken from The Message. The passage from Romans 8:14-15 reads like this:
God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!15This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
I couldn’t help but think back on some of the kids that I have heard say that word “papa”, especially in foreign countries. The idea of them tugging at their Papa’s shirt, or holding their hand. It just conjured up some great images for me. And then I had to think about God and me. How as a child he invites me to hold his hand and walk adventurously into the future with him…not with fear but with eager anticipation and expectancy.
Sometimes my prayer life as a pray-er is not all that exciting because I have reduced it to a list to simply get through. Praying can so easily become a chore. But when we place our hands and our lists, our wants and desires into the hands of our Dad, our Father, our Papa, it becomes a travel guide, marking what we learn, who we see, what we experience along the way.
Our Father knows our needs according to Matthew 6. Our Father knows our hearts. Our Father invites us to simply come. We don’t have to be formal. We don’t have to be contrived or formulaic in our approach. Maybe the best thing any of us could do would be to simply crawl up into his lap and whisper our desires in his ear. Why can we do this with Santa and not with God?
I have to say that I was very excited about this year’s passage and the thoughts behind the YS convention’s theme. They have made some great materials available to those of who who attended and here is a copy for you if you’d like to go through it with me over the next few weeks.
Please comment back on the study and share your insights, thoughts and comments on how God is working in your life. I’d love to hear what Papa says to you and for us to share the adventure together!