Are You Praying In Detail?
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King David wanted his prayers to be like incense-beaten fine, heated up and sweet-smelling to God. Your prayers can be the same way, if you follow the formula in this article!
By George M. Kackos
You want to pray. You realize you must pray effectively to get close to God and to receive His help.
At first, the words flow freely. You feel good. You feel like God is really listening.
But then, as quickly as it began, the flow diminishes. Soon it is a trickle. The well is running dry, although almost no time has elapsed! You can't think of anything to say, or anything that seems worth saying. Feeling frustrated and disrespectful toward God, you shamefully give up.
Praying effectively is not easy, but it is vital if you wish to build a strong relationship with God if you want to enjoy a right attitude and real answers to your prayers.
What can you do? How can you lengthen your prayers and make them more effective? How can you build a bond with God that pleases Him and brings you joy and peace of mind?
Make your prayers like incense
Let's begin by understanding what God doesn't want. Jesus made it clear-repetitive, mindless prayers that require little or no thought are a waste of time: "When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7). They won't!
So what is the right way to pray?
The Bible more than once likens prayer to incense. David prayed, "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141:2). Seated around God's throne in heaven are 24 elders-spirit beings who serve God. In their hands are bowls of incense, picturing our prayers (Revelation 5:8).
But why does incense represent prayer?
• It is beaten fine. To make your prayers effective, you must pray in detail. Name names. Give circumstances. Describe feelings. Avoid vague generalities.
• It is a blend of ingredients (Exodus 30:34-36). Your prayers should contain a blend of thoughts on a variety of topics. Discuss everything with God (Philippians 4:6).
• It is heated up. Without heat, incense is of little value. It doesn't give off its aroma. The same is true of prayer-without fervency (heat), prayer is dead, lifeless, useless (Matthew 15:78)!
• It smells sweet. Prayer should be appealing to God-something that He wants to savor (Proverbs 15:8). If you obey God in everything you do, your prayers will please Him-and they will get results (I John 3:22).
Jesus' sample prayer outline
Jesus explains in Matthew 6:9, "In this manner, therefore, pray." In verses 9 through 13, He went on to give a basic outline you should follow when you enter your private place (verse 6) to converse with God the Father.
Of course, the exact words you should speak are not these. Jesus was teaching that you should take His outline and enlarge upon it. Let's examine this sample prayer:
• Our Father in heaven (verse 9). Through the indwelling of the holy spirit we become children of God and heirs of salvation. Besides concentrating on this special relationship with your majestic Father in heaven, humbly remember how, as He sits on his throne, He exercises complete control of all the universe. You must develop a deep awareness that God truly is your great Father in heaven.
• Hallowed be Your name. God is Creator, Revelator and Ruler, with vast powers that are always used in perfect love and wisdom. Let Him know in your own words how deeply you appreciate and admire all the fruits of His character (Galatians 5:22-23).
• Your kingdom come (verse10). The disastrous problems of this world will cease in the coming world tomorrow, and an age of happiness and harmony will prevail! God wants us to look beyond this world and take a special interest in the coming utopia. He wants us to pray that God's own true Church will successfully prepare for it.
• Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Doing God's will is a requirement for salvation (Matthew 7:21). Ask God daily for a heart that will willingly surrender to His direction.
• Give us this day our daily bread (verse 11). Each day you have pressing needs that weigh heavily on your mind. You should bring these, as well as the needs of others, before God. But don't bring them in a selfish attitude-you assuredly won't get results (James 4:3). Instead, be loving and thankful. Think of the needs of others as well as your own (Philippians 2:3-4, 6). Think of how you can use any blessings God gives you to serve others, also.
.And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (verse 12). Debts refer to sins that need to be forgiven by God. Besides repenting before God (I John 1:9), you must be willing to forgive others when they repent (Luke 17:3-4). If you are harsh and spiteful, God won't forgive your sins.
• And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (verse 13). Ask God to protect you and His other people from accidents and illnesses. Ask Him to heal those who are ill and to encourage those who need more inspiration. Above all, ask God's protection from Satan the devil. Ask God to give you the desire to obey Him, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
• For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. End your prayers as you begin them-with praise to God and statements recognizing His glory and power and coming Kingdom.
Now that you have a better grasp of what God wants, how do you transform this outline into a dynamic prayer that gets results?
Don't neglect to take time to meditate. Ask yourself: "What do I want to bring to God's attention? What does He want to hear?"
Follow David's example. He cried: "Give ear to my words, 0 Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, 0 Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up" (Psalm 5:1-3). Many people find it best to pray in the morning, when their minds are clear and fresh and the day's challenges and opportunities still lie ahead.
Write down your thoughts. You could label note cards, for example, with headings such as Heavenly Father, God's Work, God's Name, God's Kingdom, God's Will, Personal Needs, Needs of Others, Forgiveness, Deliverance.
Some have found it useful to divide a loose leaf notebook into sections covering these and other areas. Pages can then be added or removed as needs change.
Be sure to list sick and needy people as well as words, phrases or names that will trigger thoughts when you pray. If it's worth thinking about, it's worth praying about.
By studying your Bible, talking to others and thinking deeply, you can come up with all kinds of areas to pray about. Now you'll
face a new dilemma: How to adequately cover all these subjects in the time you have for prayer!
The answer: Vary the content. Change what you say. You can do this by going through your cards or notebook daily, but emphasizing different sections. By doing this you will pray about all the essential things. Nothing will be left out.
Of course, don't let your cards or notebook become a straightjacket. You don't want your prayers to sound like memorized speeches, which can become vain repetitions. Take time to review your notes before and as you pray so you can talk about them from a fresh viewpoint.
Let current events and whatever is on your mind stimulate your prayers as well. God's spirit will move you and intercede for you with God (Romans 8:26).
And pray on your knees during your daily prayers (Psalm 95:6, Luke 22:41), unless it is physically impossible for you to do so. Of course, in emergencies, or when you simply have a spare moment and would like to talk to God, you may pray wherever you are. "Pray without ceasing," says I Thessalonians 5:17.
The results are worth it!
Think about your prayers from God's point of view. What would you want to hear? Short, unimaginative, dull prayers mumbled from a fogged mind just moments before you flop into bed? Or prayers that are whiny and shamefully self-centered?
No! You would want to hear well thought-out, heartfelt, outgoing prayers that are presented from your (God's) point of view.
This is why God gave us the outline prayer. Take time to think deeply about what you'll say and then say it fervently, really meaning it!
The results will be well worth the effort. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.... Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24)!