Elements of Prayer: PETITION

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Petition is one of the easiest elements of prayer for us to grasp and understand as it is praying for our own needs. We naturally gravitate to petition because we know our needs and we are personally invested in seeing the answer to our prayers. It is not a struggle for us to come to the Lord with our petitions. On the contrary, the danger is that we can spend too much focus upon our needs.

But why do we need to ask an all-knowing God for what we need? Does He not already know what we need? Yes, He does but petition is for our benefit. It helps us to express and realize our dependency upon God. When we look at Jesus, we see that he was dependent upon His Father.  He had to come before the Father in petition and ask. If Jesus had to ask, then so do we! E. Stanley Jones put it this way…

“Asking is the symbol of our desire, some things God will not give until we want them enough to ask.”

We are encouraged to ask the Lord to provide for everything we need. But when we pray it is good to be specific. “God bless me!” is a vague prayer, but “Lord, give me wisdom as I talk to the store clerk today and give me an opening to invite him to the Christmas service.” is specific. It is a complete prayer and it is simple. With such a prayer, it is easy to see how God answers the prayer.

It’s important to be specific, complete and simple in our requests, but we must also be submitted to the Holy Spirit. Asking the Spirit to guide our prayers and to guide us to pray for what will bring glory to God is essential for effective petition. It shifts the focus off us and restores it to the Lord, which is where our focus continually needs to be.

So, let us come to the Lord with specific petitions for everything we have need of spiritually and physically and then watch and wait to see how He will answer.

Elements of Prayer: SILENCE

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Have you ever watched a married couple in a restaurant just sitting with each other, no one speaking, but both fully engaged with the other? Science shows that communication is more than words, just showing up is a huge part of communication. It’s simply a matter of being present with one another.

The psalmist encourages us to take time to be silent before God when he says “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  When we become still before God we let all the stuff which is swirling in our minds settle and we simply become present to God, like the couple in the restaurant.

“This silent worship is the soul’s fellowship with God in prayer – There is something in our lives, also in our fellowship, which can never be formulated in words, which can be the common experience, nevertheless, of two who share with each other everything that can be expressed in words.” Professor Ole Hallesby.

Waiting in silence, just being in God’s presence, is enriching and draws us deeper in our relationship with God. But while it sounds easy, it is challenging. We don’t live in a culture which experiences silence. Instead, our lives are full of noise, and in the busyness of life it is hard to get our minds quiet enough so that we can be still and know God. It takes time and discipline.

Practically it can be helpful to do the following. First, sit comfortably and relax. Secondly, focus your thoughts on God as Father, Son or Holy Spirit. When the mind wanders (and it will) a phrase like “I long for your presence, O Lord” helps return the focus to the Lord.

Waiting upon God requires our whole being and our full attention. It takes time, but its time spent with the Lord. So, take time today to be still and wait upon the Lord.

Elements of Prayer: MEDITATION

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The very word meditation can become a hindrance for people when it comes to prayer. Popular cultural images of Eastern meditation with participants sitting cross legged on the floor come to mind. “If that is meditation it’s not for me” is a natural reaction. But that is not what biblical meditation is all about. Meditation was something God’s people were instructed to do. Joshua instructs the nation…

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

The word Joshua uses for meditation in this passage literally means “to mutter” or “to muse.” It means giving attention to the Word of God, pondering it, chewing it over and thinking about how the Scripture can apply to our lives. It has been said that if you can worry about something then you can meditate. Worry happens because we continue to think about a situation over and over. Meditation works in the same way. We think about God over and over. Worry does not get us anywhere. Meditation, on the other hand, with a solidly biblical foundation is the best thinking in which we can engage.

Meditation slows us down and forces us to linger over Scripture. In our fast paced society this is not easy to do but the rewards are great. Just as meat that has been marinated for a long time has the flavor of the marinade throughout it meditation in God’s Word allows us to be marinated in that Word. It draws us deeper into God’s Word, which in turn draws us deeper into our relationship with God. As we draw closer to the Lord our prayer lives will reflect that closeness.

As a result, our prayers become more focused and more in line with God’s will and we find that the Scripture is more available to us because we have spent the time soaking in it. So as Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8).