Matthew records this description of Jesus spending time with His Father, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone …”
Prayer … Jesus did it and, when they asked, He taught the disciples how to pray by giving us what we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Matt 6) Why does it seem hard at times to even begin? What should a good Christian’s prayer life look like? At times I don’t even feel like a good Christian and feel like I can’t even get God’s attention. Books have been written on prayer, but when I think I should pray, I have things on my heart that make those books seem distant and kind of … not applicable in my situation.
So often I’ve found myself feeling unworthy and at a loss for words when I know there are things that only God can solve. When I think about some things that I need to leave with God, I know there are many unknowns about the situation that it is presumptuous for me to propose a solution that may be completely inappropriate. There are also things that are within my scope of responsibility but beyond my power to resolve.
Peter wrote (5:6-7) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the almighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Instead of continuing to own all of life’s issues, as we’ve been trained to do, we need to humble ourselves and place our anxieties at His feet. He tells us that He cares for us. Which of us, when a child asks for a piece of bread will give that child a stone? God cares for us as His children. He tells us to look at the flowers in the field and how they are adorned. Even Solomon in all his riches and royal attire was not dressed as well as the flowers in the field. Still, God loves us even more than the flowers in the field. He cares for us and wants us to give Him all our cares.
There was a religious man in the temple square speaking eloquently so that all could hear, “Thank God I’m not like these peasants and ne’er do wells.” Jesus calls our attention to a tax collector standing quietly in the corner of the temple square, beating his chest in agony, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18) This parable of Jesus is intended to show us that it is not fancy words, but a contrite spirit (as Peter wrote) that captures God’s attention and is forgiven.
There have been many times in my life that I just needed to share my heart with God. In one season, I was in the habit of clearing the passenger seat of my car of all papers, and use my commute time to talk with God who I invited to travel with me so that we could just talk. That proved to be a time when I learned to really give Him all my junk and express the true desires of my heart. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went alone in the garden, and asked the Father to let the burden of this crucifixion be done a different way, and to let Him escape it. He asked this, knowing full well that this moment was why He had come into our world and that this was the only way our sins could be covered. Jesus modeled baring His heart and soul in making the desires of His heart known to God, His Father. Paul wrote in the letter to the church at Philippi, “… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)
Don’t over-complicate your prayers. Just sit down with God and speak to Him the desires of your heart. Some have envisioned the acronym ACTS as they think about prayer.
A – say a few words of Adoration from your heart to God, the Creator of all things. He is worthy of our praise. Look into some of the Psalms for some ideas of how to praise God our Father. Admire his creation if nothing else comes to mind.
C – one can’t help but come into the presence of the Almighty without Confessing our sins and shortcomings. We need to admit that we are sinful and need His forgiveness for our sins. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive those sins.
T – expressing Thanksgiving for the things in our lives that He has provided. Even when life is not going well, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” James wrote that we should consider it a joyful thing when we encounter various trials. He also wrote that every good and perfect gift is from above. So give thanks to the Father for His goodness to us.
S – we should offer prayers of Supplication. What is supplication? Well, it is asking for something humbly and leaning on the promises of God that He cares for us. Yes, it’s a 50 cent word but it completes the acronym with by telling us why we came here in the first place. This is the time to ask God for anything and everything that is on your heart. Christ did it and so should you.
Honestly, there are times when there simply isn’t time to go through all these steps. There are times when I’m talking with someone about something really important and I say a prayer asking God to guide my words so that they will honor Him. There are times when a situation is spiraling out of control that all we can do is cry for help. There are times when we lose someone we love dearly when we ask God for the comfort that only He can provide.
Prayer, the act of talking with God, helps us invoke a power beyond our own capabilities. The disciples were effectively praying when they awakened Jesus from His slumber in the middle of the storm, begging Him to help them. They had no idea that they would see the response they witnessed and the winds and the sea were stilled. When we pray we need to be ready for God to respond in ways we didn’t anticipate because He cares for us and loves us.
The letter to the church at Thessaloniki tells us to pray without ceasing. Live in an attitude of prayer. Let prayer become the lifeline for your courage and love for others. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1) I leave you with that same word.
Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.