“I have concluded that the more we seek the Lord, with a passion for His worthiness, the more we are gripped with our neediness. Adoration cultivates desperation.” – Daniel Henderson
In the middle section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered a template for prayer. Known to most as the Lord’s Prayer, this sample petition is found in Matthew 6:9-14:
Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.
Jesus’ point wasn’t to say this was the only way to pray (although The Lord’s Prayer is an awesome way to communicate with God). There is nothing wrong with saying these God-inspired words back to Him. In fact, praying scripture is one of the best ways to pray to God, because scripture-infused prayer helps us stay grounded in truth.
But, I believe Jesus primary goal in teaching about prayer was to provide His hearers with a general outline for nurturing a well-rounded prayer life. In the flow of Jesus’ prayer He covers six main topics: worship, submission, needs, confession, holiness and forgiveness.
Recently, in preparing materials for some discipleship training, I came up with a handout for guided prayer. Essentially, the goal is to provide some handles for the person who says, “I’m not sure what to pray about,” or “I don’t know how to pray.” Though not nearly as not as majestic or concise as the prayer Jesus offered in Matthew 6, it is an attempt to move prayer to a space that is more varied and more focused.
• WORSHIP: Begin with a time of offering God praise for who He is and what He does. Reading a worshipful Psalm before you pray is a great way to engage your heart in worship toward God. (Hebrews 13:15)
• THANKFULNESS: Reflect upon the ways you see God providing for you. Not just providing for your material needs, but your spiritual, emotional and physical needs as well. Be sure to include some words of thanks to God for taking care of you! (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
• QUIETNESS: Ask God to tell you what is on His heart for you, then spend some time in silence so you can hear His response. Follow this up with obedience. (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:14)
• INTERCESSION: Think of some people you know who could use some prayer today? Maybe someone is ill, or they are facing a difficult challenge, or they have a big decision to make. (1 Timothy 2:1)
• CONFESSION: Is there anything that you’ve thought or done that is something the Bible calls sin? The command of scripture is to confess our sins to Jesus, and He will be faithful to forgive and cleanse us of all our offenses and wrongdoing. This is an important way we keep our relationship with God flowing. (1 John 4:9)
• FORGIVENESS: People sin against us and we sin against them. How do we get our relationships back in line? Through forgiveness, which is sometimes one of the hardest things for us to accomplish. Is there someone you need to forgive today? Purposely making the topic of forgiveness a part of your prayer life may move your heart in that direction. (Ephesians 4:32)
• PERSONAL REQUESTS: What are your needs? In what ways do you need God to provide for you today? Think about asking God for things such as wisdom, courage, discernment, strength, endurance, compassion, or boldness. Maybe you need God to meet a financial or physical need. God wants to provide for your needs! (Philippians 4:6)
• LOVE: Love is of supreme value to God. In response to this high value, who can you show God’s love to today? It may be a friend, family member or a neighbor. Perhaps it is a fellow believer. It could a stranger you’ve never met before. Ask God to put you “on duty” to practically love the people who cross your path. (John 13:34-35)
• KINGDOM BUILDING: Ask God for readiness to share the good news of Jesus with someone today. It may just be planting a seed, or it may be fully explaining God’s plan for spiritual rescue, restoration and regeneration. People need God’s people to tell them about God’s gracious gift of life through Christ! (Mark 16:15)