A couple of weeks ago, I preached on prayer from Mark 11:22-26. The text begins:
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.'”
I said that this is about God drawing us into a relationship with himself. Think about it: Jesus invites us to bring our requests to God, to come to him with our desires, needs and longings. Then Jesus promises that God responds to our prayers of faith. God delights to hear our prayers and respond to them. In other words, he desires to draw us into a daily, personal relationship.
And I posed this question: Is the God you believe in a perfect, loving Father who loves to give good things to those who ask him (Mt. 7:7-11)? Does your prayer life testify to this? Does your prayer life confirm that this is what you believe about God?
I then presented a challenge to set aside a specific and regular time for prayer. I want to follow up on this, both as a reminder, and to give some guidance on how to pray. Here are a few things you might use to guide your prayer time:
- Acknowledge and adore who God is in prayer (Mt. 7:9). Thank God for being powerful, sovereign, loving, merciful, holy, just, and present. You might sit with some of these for a while and reflect on them.
- Confess your sins to God in prayer (Mt. 7:12). We confess sins every Sunday corporately, but your personal prayer time is a good opportunity to confess specific sins. Then thank God for his blood-bought grace in Jesus, and set your hope and comfort on that.
- Confess any doubts, questions or struggles to God (Ps. 31). Ask for help, and then bring to mind and confess relevant truths and promises of God.
- Petition God, keeping in mind his glory, will and purposes (Mt. 7:10). Pray for your fellow believers. Pray for the health and unity of the church. Pray for opportunities and boldness for evangelism. Pray for conversions. Pray for godly fruit in believers. Pray that God’s people would be seek first his kingdom and will, and not be distracted and blinded by “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16).
- And then keep your eyes open to God’s response. He can do more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Which doesn’t mean he will do everything we ask, just as we imagined. But he is at work, and delights to work through our prayers.