What to Pray?

This is the final post in a series on prayer.

To wrap up my examination of prayer, I’ve been mulling over what to pray. What does one say to God, the Creator, Master, and Redeemer of the Universe? What does one say to our Father, our Savior and intimate Friend? To start with, here’s the prayer I pray more than any other, it seems:

Dear God,

It’s a fantastic prayer, and I hold no copyright on it so you’re encouraged to use it, but that seems a lot like stiffing God for time, effort, and concentration that He deserves from us. Think about looking up at Jesus dying on the cross and praying that prayer right then. It just doesn’t seem right. There’s a lot more to it.

As I mentioned in my last prayer post, my buddy Kit gave a talk on prayer. He mentioned the ACTS method of praying. I won’t go too deep here, since Google gives a pretty valid list in its top five, but ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. So my go-to prayer above pretty much zeros in on just the last bit.

For times when I’m a little more concentrated and my situation is a little less urgent, Christ’s prayer is a little more balanced. Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord’s Prayer, covers the whole deal:

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. [Adoration]
Your kingdom come. [Adoration/Supplication]
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven. [Adoration/Supplication]
Give us this day our daily bread. [Supplication]
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [Confession]
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [Supplication]
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. [Adoration/Thanksgiving]

There are plenty of other model prayers out there (from Nehemiah, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah to name a few). My challenge to myself and to you, though, is that we not pray based on some model, but pray out of the abundance of our hearts (Matthew 12:34b). In Matthew 26:38, Jesus is in the garden, “deeply grieved,” and He prays in the next verse (Matthew 26:39) for two things. First, that if possible, He be spared, but more importantly, that whatever happened, God’s will would be done. That’s the abundance that came out of His heart. I identify really, really well with the first part - see my prayer above. Jesus seems more human to me here than any other time - more mortal, more afraid. He reacts just like it says in Philippians 4:6, though. And then the amazing thing happens - He prays for God’s will, not for His own self. If I can get to that point, I think I’ll be doing pretty all right.

I think the way to get there is to go to God a lot more often, a lot more intentionally, and with a lot more focus than I have been before. Wouldn’t it be great if what was in our hearts was really all about God!

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