Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Prayer, Part One

Last weekend I spoke at Shiloh Bible Camp. I shared my "Spiritual Scrapbook" message on Friday night (see previous blogposts) and on Saturday morning I shared a message on prayer. Here is a slightly adapted version of the first of four segments of that message.

The gazebo in this picture is in a little park in our neighborhood. When I take the kids there, they carry little plastic dolls to play with in the sandbox. Last time we went to the park I noticed that the two older girls spent a long time building sandcastles. They told me these were houses for their dolls. I asked my youngest daughter Tina why she wasn't building a sandcastle and she said, “My doll lives in the gazebo.” Tina is very practical and she was tired that day, and she realized that she could use an existing structure and jump right into her fairytale game with her doll without any preparation work.

I watched my kids play that day, and I thought about prayer. I thought about how much easier it is to jump right into prayer when I have a little structure in mind. God hears the quick spur-of-the-moment prayers I pray, but when I have time, He is worthy of thoughtful meditative prayer.

This week I'm sharing a prayer structure with you: it's just three words you can use in your prayer times...three words you can count on your fingers and pray as you're drifting off to sleep..three words you can pray while you wait for your teakettle to boil in the morning.

We're going to read some prayers from the Bible, from the book of Psalms and the Epistles of Paul.

Here's a verse from Psalms:

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You, and will eagerly watch.
(Psalm 5:3)

When I read David's declaration that he would “order” his prayer, I see the beauty of an appointed time to pray, and a plan for that appointment.

Here's another verse—this one's from Paul:

Devote yourselves to prayer, stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
(Colossians 4:2)

If you've read Paul's writings, you've noticed that he was definitely devoted to prayer, devoted to his friends, and devoted to the Lord. I like his phrase “stay alert” – it tells me that prayer takes a little effort, it's something I should make time for, not just do when I feel like it or when I suddenly need God's assistance. This verse also holds a reminder to give thanks – it's so easy to remember to ask the Lord for things, but He deserves my praise also.

I call on You, God, because You will answer me;
listen closely to me;
hear what I say. (Psalm 17:6)
Be gracious to me, Lord,
for I call to You all day long.
Bring joy to Your servant's life,
since I set my hope on You, Lord.
For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive,
abundant in faithful love to all who call on You. (Psalm 86:3-5)
... I call to You for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer meets You. (Psalm 88:13)

Tomorrow I'll share the first prayer word with you.

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