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Friday, March 11, 2016

A "New" Path for Prayer

A few of you may know what a big deal it is for me to say that our recent sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer provoked a significant change in the way that I approach daily prayer. Since 1989, I have followed the same path with only occasional diversions. The approach I learned at that time, literally transformed my life. You can read about that here. But I have followed a different approach for more than two months. I would have sent this sooner, but I didn’t want to claim a transformation in my approach to prayer prematurely.

To be fair, this new approach is influenced by the old one. I previously followed an elaborate version of the ACTS acrostic: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It’s a great outline for prayer and I am in no way criticizing that. But slowly preaching through the Lord’s Prayer caused me to wonder why I was not following the path that Jesus actually taught his disciples to use. So that is what I have done now since just before the beginning of this year.

There is a place for both spontaneous prayer and for prayer that follows a structure. Following a structure is helpful in times when you don’t feel like praying. For instance, having a specific path for prayer helps me find my way out of the dark woods of fear or discouragement or when I wake up in the middle of the night paralyzed by some concern or the thought that there is just too much to do. When that happens, if I just lay there hoping I’ll go back to sleep, that’s about as effective as trying to wander out of the woods in the dark with no path and no compass. But when I get up and follow this prayer path, well, more often than not by God’s grace, I find my way out of the woods. It works like this:

Here’s a document that follows the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer with many other scriptures listed that go along with each phrase. Each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer serves as a prompt to provoke further prayer along that theme. I use only one verse at a time from these passages. For instance, the first passage listed under “our Father in heaven” is Psalm 139. So I look up Psalm 139:1 and I use that single verse to help me pray with more depth from the phrase, “our Father in heaven.” So I might pray something like this:

O Lord, you are our Father, and as our Father, you have searched us and known us. You are the one to whom we can have confidence in our praying because you know everything about us. You understand us better than we understand ourselves because you have searched us and you have known us, you have searched me, and you know me.

In that way, I'm following Jesus’ themes and I'm using other scriptures to help ensure a healthy direction of my praying and to keep me from just praying the same words over and over. The next day I’ll likely use Psalm 139:2. I go through the Lord’s Prayer in this way using only one verse at a time from the list in the table to help me. This is how I do it; there are no rules here, and this is no magic formula. This process helps me and so I’m sharing it with you.

The passages I list may not seem obvious to you at first or ever. If so, add your own. Feel free to customize this in whatever way you wish. I would love to hear about passages you add to the various sections.

You may wonder about your intercessory prayer lists. There are a couple of ways to work these in: You could work intercession into the phrases, “your kingdom come,” or “give us this day our daily bread,” as you go through the prayer. However, if your lists are long you could bog down there for a long time & miss getting to pray through the rest of the prayer. So, you may want to hold your lists to the end or work into your daily routine a separate time for intercession.

I’d love to get your reaction to this approach.

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