The Practice of Prayer

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Last week we looked at some lessons in prayer as taught by Jesus to his disciples. Today we’ll talk about more specifics on the subject of learning how to pray as Jesus’ followers.

Bill Brownson: I always begin with the scriptures, and I begin my study of the Bible with prayer for the Holy Spirit to teach me. I feel like all real prayer as well as all real living is our response to God. I mean, prayer is not our struggling to get God’s attention. It’s our answer to his call. If I’m really going to pray in a meaningful way, and if there’s going to be dialogue between me and our heavenly Father, I have to listen first. So I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me.

Then I read the scriptures. I’m in a program of reading through the Bible each year. I’ve been staying with that for a few years. I use different means and methods from time to time. That has been really meaningful to me. I choose usually three or four chapters a day, and then I specifically ask God to speak to me what he wants me to hear and know and how he wants me to respond. So I’m in a way saying what Samuel said in the temple, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. I want to listen.”

And then as I do that, I think about what God may be especially saying to me. Sometimes I’ll memorize a verse that especially seems to speak to me, and I will pray over some of the things I read. If I feel convicted of something, I’ll confess that. If I’m just impressed with something God is doing, I’ll thank him for that. I’ll just mull over the things that I’m reading.

When I begin my prayer, I start as a worshiper. I think a lot about this passage in 1 Peter 2 how we are a holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve done a lot of thinking, and study about what those sacrifices are and, of course, one of them is praise.

The Bible calls us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually. And so I seek to do that. I spend some time just praising God. I praise God for who he is. I praise the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. That sometimes goes in different directions. I spend some time in the language of scripture just lifting my heart in praise to God. And then I give thanks. I sometimes go back over my life. I think of recent mercies. I spend quite a bit of time just giving thanks to God for all the things that come to mind that he has blessed me with. The scripture says that whoever brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me. So I know God is pleased when we praise. God is pleased and honored when we give thanks.

Then following the praise and thanksgiving, I have a time of confession. In confession I speak the same as God does about my life. In other words, God says that I am a sinful person, that I’ve gone astray like a lost sheep, that my heart, like the heart of everyone else, has turned away from God. By nature I’m guilty, I’m defiled, I’m trapped by my own little ego prison. I’m a complete failure at really loving God and loving people – that’s who I am by nature, and without him I’m utterly lost. That’s what he says about me, and I say that about myself. But I don’t stop there.

I’ve come to believe that confession also includes this wonderful thing of confessing who we are in Christ. And so then I say, “Lord, but I confess to you that I am a man in Christ, and in Christ, I am forgiven. I’m washed; I’m accepted. In him I died to sin’s power and the devil’s kingdom. I rose again to live to you, O God. You are my true Lord so direct my walk in newness of life.” Now the Holy Spirit is living in me, and so I confess that.

Then after the confession, it just moves naturally into an act of commitment. And so then I sort of gather up everything I am and have and I say, “Lord, in response to your grace, I just give my life to you. Here’s my body, a living sacrifice; here are my members. Here is my heart. I give you what I’m going to do today for you to establish it. I give you where I’m going to go that you’ll go before me. I give you everything I have to use it as you direct. Here’s my mind for you to enlighten. Here are my feelings for you to sort out, purify and fire up. And here’s my will for you to govern. When I’ve done that, I say, “Now, Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit.” And that’s a great way to begin the day.

Then after I’ve prayed that I’ll be filled with the Spirit, there are a number of other things that I ask, that God will do that day. I pray a lot for the power to love, the power to love God, to love people. I pray for the power of faith to honor God with real trust. I pray for power to communicate the Word clearly and faithfully. I pray for power to do the work of an evangelist and encourage others in that. I pray that I’ll be able to act justly that day, love kindness that day, walk humbly. All of it sort of comes to fruition again, asking that I’ll be able, as Jesus prayed, to glorify God on the earth that day and accomplish the work that he’s given me to do.

When I’ve read the scriptures, and I’ve worshiped, and I’ve prayed like that and put my life in God’s hands, then I really feel ready for the day.

David Bast: Wow. And we haven’t even gotten to intercessions for others yet.

Bill Brownson: That comes next, and that’s a whole other segment. There are three other sections of my prayer life. The first one, as I was saying, has to do with God’s name and kingdom and will. I spend some time each day praying about those things. I ask myself the question, “All right, if I ask that God’s name be hallowed in the world, how will that happen?” Well, certainly when the people of God truly worship. So I pray for a worshiping heart for myself and for all God’s people. And because we so much dishonor God when the church is not what it’s called to be, when we don’t get along with each other, when we shame the testimony of the Lord by the inconsistency of our life before the world. So one of the things I pray for all the time is that God will purify and renew the church so that we’ll really be a praise to God in the earth. When I think about the fact that I want his name to be praised, I think how I want everybody to know him. I want everybody to praise him. So I pray every day, as you were suggesting a moment ago that God wherever the harvest is great and the workers are few, the Lord will send out more harvesters. And let the gospel reach everybody. Let all the people praise you, Lord. Let all the nations you’ve made come and worship before you.

And so I translate that first call to pray for God’s name to be hallowed into the things that I see will contribute to that happening. And then I pray about God’s kingdom coming. To me, God’s kingdom is God’s reigning in the hearts and lives of people. And I pray that that will happen in the lives of people who now do not know the Lord, I pray that this day many, many, many people will repent, believe the good news and surrender to God’s loving rule in Christ. I pray that his reign will come. I pray that that will happen today for many Jewish people, for many Muslims, for many Buddhists, for many Hindus, for many animists and atheists, and for people from every background and culture. I think praying for God’s kingdom to come is praying for conversions.

Dave Bast: Praying for people to come to Christ, for the name of Jesus to be lifted up throughout the world, and for the church to grow really.

Bill Brownson: Absolutely. Yes. And that we who are believers will learn more today what it is to seek his kingdom first, to put that first. Then, I guess, the ultimate prayer when you’re praying for God’s kingdom to come is the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Dave Bast: So we pray for Christ’s return.

Bill Brownson: Every day.

Dave Bast: Every day – Maranatha..

Bill Brownson: And then the will of God to be done. You know, I think about that in this world. I pray for the U.N. and all their decisions and actions. I pray every day for the rulers of the nations. That’s what God instructs us to do, pray for kings and all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. This is tied in in First Timothy with God’s wanting everyone to be saved, to come to the knowledge of the truth.

dave Bast: So we pray for peace and for justice.

Bill Brownson: Yes.

Dave Bast: And all who work toward them, people of good will, but also for religious freedom throughout the world. For the freedom to hear and to believe.

Bill Brownson: Exactly. And you know, because God’s word tells us that the hearts of kings are in the hands of the Lord, he turns them where he will. I pray for God to work in the hearts of leaders of government, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, generals, dictators, legislators, judges. God will put his fear in their hearts. That’s the one great need. And I pray that he will incline them toward what makes for justice and for peace. And as you’re saying, I pray that in every land there will be freedom, the freedom to worship, the freedom to proclaim the gospel, and that in every country God will open doors for the Word. That’s what Paul prays for, that God will open a door for the Word. I pray that especially for Muslim countries, that God will open a door for the Word so that there will be the possibility that the Word of God can reach the heart, mind, and conscience of people in all of those countries. And then I pray especially for nations that are torn by strife, that God will bring his shalom between Israelis and Palestinians, and in all the other areas where there’s terrible hatred, vengeance and violence. God, bring your shalom.

Dave Bast: This is the point too where you can be very specific in your praying as things come to your attention.. You see things in the newspaper. Many of us receive prayer letters and missionary letters that have specific requests and in these areas of concern.

Bill Brownson: Right. And then we can pray for God’s will to be done in circles closer to us, in our own lives and in the whole life of the church. I pray about the church that God’s people will be faithful in the word that they proclaim and teach, that it will be the Word of God, that it will be the authentic Christian gospel according to the scriptures. I pray in that connection for some ministers I know who no longer preach that way. I pray God will bring them back to confess the faith “once delivered to the saints.” And I pray for the church to be united.

I pray for the church and its compassionate ministry. I think about the number of groups I pray for, Church World Service, Bread for the World, International Aid, World Vision, and people I know who are involved in those organizations. I pray that God will rouse the church to fulfill the Great Commission. I pray for various agencies in the churches. I pray for ministries like Words of Hope. I pray for you, Dave Bast, and others involved in this ministry because it is God’s will that the gospel be preached to everyone. I pray that he’ll so rouse the church and so inspire, encourage and empower that we’ll be able to finish this task so the gospel will be preached in all nations for a witness and then the end will come. That’s what I pray about.

Dave Bast: And then, of course, moving on through the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” you mentioned, “and forgive us our sins and lead us not into temptation.” So as we were taught so beautifully, we can pray for all things necessary, both for body and for soul, for ourselves and for those whom we love and even those we don’t know.

Bill Brownson: Yes, intercession is a big part of prayer. Now in my retirement years I have more time and heart for it than I ever did before. So I have quite a number of people I try to pray for individually every day. I was inspired when I read in John Wesley’s journals how with all of his travels and busy ministry, he would take a half hour in the late afternoon just to intercede for others. That is a wonderful thing. I say to all of you who listen that praying for others is the most beautiful expression of love because you are asking for the blessing of God to come to the lives of those people, doing for them what only God can do.

But the other thing that is true is that your praying for others releases all kinds of other ministries of love on their behalf. I mean, when I’m praying for somebody, I think, “You know, I haven’t talked to that person in a long time,” and I’ll call them on the phone. Or maybe I’ll remember, “I haven’t treated them very well. I’ll make an apology, or I think that I should write that person a letter or go to see them. So praying for them brings them not only to God but brings them before your own mind and heart so that you’re encouraged to do other things on their behalf. So praying for others leads to doing and answering your own prayers sometimes.