Saturday, June 30, 2007

Not pattern, but priority

I’ve been involved in conversations about “formula prayers” – prayers designed around a pattern. One of these is ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I’ve even heard it said that the Lord’s Prayer follows this pattern, as if that meant that we should always use this kind of guideline in our prayers.

Listening to Andy Stanley, and his discussion of the Lord’s Prayer, I have a new understanding of this “pattern.” Take a look at the prayer (from Matthew 6):

  1. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, – This is a recognition of who God is – his holiness and worthiness
  2. your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. – This is a statement of surrender to God
  3. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – This is a statement of dependence
It’s not a pattern. It’s a list of priorities. First, says Stanley, spend some time in recognzition of who God is. This is not to convince God of his worthiness, but to convince ourselves. Next, surrender to God – everything. All things. What does God want? Not what we have, but who we are. He wants our hearts. Struggle with this – wrestle with God over this. Then, talk to him about your needs. He knows them already, but in this conversation with God, we can come to a closer understanding of our needs in the light of our surrender.

How long should it take? As long as necessary, and if we don’t finish it in one day, then God will be waiting for us the next day. What are the words we should use? It makes absolutely no difference. The words don’t matter a bit. The only reason the order matters is that it helps US to understand the priorities. It keeps us from making prayer a time to list our “I want, I need, I must have” and turns prayer into a God-centered experience.
This made sense to me, and I’ve been trying to do it. I have noticed a different feel to prayer – a different kind of center. I’m not very good at it yet, but I think I’ll keep at it.

Images: We went to Island Shops this afternoon. They are built around a creek and marsh area that is full of birds -- mainly ducks -- but a few others, too.

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Anonymous bob said...

Kim, About the time the prayer of Jabez books came out. I read a book that elaboratedon this pattern prayer called the Prayer of Jesus by Hank Hanagraf. Just thought you might enjoy it.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Along the Narrow Path said...

This is a wonderful entry and so true. I know when I pray, at times I feel like I'm giving the Lord a laundry list of requests. I try to praise him and recognize I'm his servant and willing to do whatever he asks of me, but I'm not great at it. Thank you for posting this.

7:07 AM  

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