Praying work is hard work. Nothing about it is easy. Talking to a God we cannot see, reaching out to a God we cannot feel, conversing with a God we cannot hear taxes the soul. Where are we to start? How do we know when we are done? Did our prayer make it through? Did we gain an audience with God? All of these problems, all of these questions, and more confront the Christian when he prays? In our Covenanter this morning, I want to suggest an outline for personal prayer. The outline is not mine (I got the headings from Ken Boa's hard to find, little gem of a book, Handbook to Prayer: Praying Scripture back to God (Atlanta: Trinity House, 1993). You understand this is only one way of doing it? Although I think it is much harder to stay on track, it is perfectly acceptable to pray a different way, even to ramble from one thought to another as they come to mind. In the gym, I see people take a similar approach to exercise. They wander about aimlessly for a bit, then they pick up a weight or two, do a few curls, a few presses, ride a bike for a bit, and then head off to the shower. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but in my experience, human beings do much better with a structure that lets them know where to start, how to progress, and when to end. So here is an attempt at such a structure for a personal quiet time of prayer with God. The titles are Boa's. Beneath them, I try to give you a sense of how I use them to direct my soul Godward:
Begin by stilling your heart in the presence of God. Remind yourself that God is here, even if you can't feel Him. His ear is open and His heart is toward you. Then with as much of a sense of God as you can muster, begin by....
SUBMITTING TO GOD
Lord, you are the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the great, the mighty, the awesome God who does not show partiality or take a bribe. I come to you, this morning, to bring my soul under your authority, to submit to your law, to acknowledge that you are God and I am not.
ADORATION AND THANKSGIVING
You are the Great I am, the One who was, and who is, and who is to come, the Almighty. Nothing is too difficult for you. You work all things out after the counsel of your own will. You are Holy. You are light and in you there is no darkness at all. You have established your throne for judgment, and you will judge the world in righteousness. Fire goes before you and burns up the wicked round about. Yet, you are also good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and those who know Your Name take refuge in you. You sustain all who fall and raise up those who are bowed down.
I thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. I thank you for the gospel of God. I thank you that my sins are forgiven. I thank you that Christ has taken hold of me and will never let me go, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. I thank you that you are at work in me to complete the work that you began in me. I thank you for the hope of glory which cannot disappoint. I thank you for the good things with which you fill my life (list some of them here).
Lord, I pray you will search me this morning and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any anxious thoughts in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Your word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, able to divide and discern my thoughts and the intentions of my heart. Help me to remember that no creature can be hidden from your sight, but that all things are naked and laid bare before your eyes this morning.
Confess any sins the Spirit reveals to you here...
MY IDENTITY IN CHRIST
Lord, I thank you that I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” I thank you that I have forgiveness from the penalty of my sins for Jesus died in my place. I thank you that I have freedom from the power of sin because of Jesus Christ. Lord grant that His resurrection power will dwell in my heart so that I might reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Father, I pray this day that I will know more of what Paul meant when he said, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."
FILLING AND FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Lord, let me be filled with the Spirit, that I might walk by the Spirit and not carry out the lust of the flesh. For as many as are led by the Spirit, these are the Sons of God. Fill me with the fruit of His presence. For a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. A tree is known by its fruits. Let my life be full of the fruit of your presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
PURPOSE OF MY LIFE
Father, help me to love you with all of my heart, and all of my soul, and all of my strength, and all of my mind. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness. Make me a fisher of men, Lord Jesus. Guide me this day as I pursue your calling to me.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE DAY
Lord, I know that it does not belong to the man who walks to number his steps, but the Lord directs His path. Lead me this day as I trust you with all of my heart, as I determine not to lean on my own understanding, as I seek to know you and to acknowledge you in all of my ways. When hard things happen, help me to count it all joy when I fall into diverse tribulations. Help me to remember that the testing of my faith produces patience, and patience produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, a hope that does not disappoint because the Love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
PROTECTION IN THE WARFARE
Against the World: Renew
Father, you have told me not to love this world or the things of this world. For all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. Lord, help me, don't let the world squeeze me into its mold. Since I have been raised up with Christ, help me to keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Deliver me, O God, from anxiety, that I might be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let my requests be made known to you. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.N
Against the Flesh: Reckon
May your grace instruct me to say "No!" to ungodly and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. I know that if I live according to the flesh, I will die. Help me, then, by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body so that I might live in the resurrection power of Christ.
Against the Devil: Resist
Lord, I know that I wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Help me, therefore, to resist the devil that he might flee from me. Help me to be sober and on the alert, knowing that my adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Help me to resist him, firm in my faith.
THE COMING OF CHRIST AND MY FUTURE WITH HIM
Lord, help me to live in light of eternity, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Help me to abide in Christ, so that when He appears, I may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. Father, help me remember that I am your child and it has not yet appeared what I shall be. But I know that when He appears, I will be like Him, because I shall see Him just as He is. And with this hope before me, help me to purify myself just as You Yourself are pure.
Next week, as the Lord spares and tarries, we will think together about how we might pray for our family. In the meantime, as you draw near to God, may He draw near to you.