The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.
Chapter Nine: Conclusion
Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise [Keith Green]
My parents weren’t overtly religious. We lived our lives simply. My sisters and I were taught to live with integrity, give when appropriate, be generous with our time and to go out of our way to be considerate of others and welcoming to strangers. It was obvious to anyone that we were “church going folks” but we didn’t wear our faith on our sleeve, pound the Bible at every turn or try to convert anyone to our way of life. When it came to evangelism especially we believed that God touches the hearts of mankind in his own time. It is our job to make friends with people from all walks of life to be ready to disciple new seekers only when they were ready to hear what we had to say.
We called it Friendship Evangelism.
I remember my mother once confronting my father about his apparent lack of a structured prayer life. She had always followed structured prayer and devotional time herself, working through various devotional books and guides but my father did not. It was during a time when our community was going through some difficulty and we where being encouraged to make specific prayer request on behalf of the church. So, my mother asked him one day why it never seemed like he prayed to God for anything.
At the end of his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul lays out a list of final instructions to the church meant to keep them faithful to the teaching they have received. To pray without ceasing in this list is not to be considered a continual conversation with God, that your whole life is to be about prayer but that your life should reflect your relationship with our father in heaven.
To pray without ceasing is to make your whole life a kind of prayer. The list Paul gives here also includes things like teaching and warning others of the consequences for poor behavior, a version of the golden rule, rejoicing, testing prophesies and rejecting evil. Prayer is just one piece of a much bigger discipleship puzzle.
My goal in writing this guidebook has been two-fold. First off, I wanted to help my readers to begin to pray like Jesus. Jesus gave his followers this prayer in part as a lesson in communal discipleship. I have tried to show throughout this work aspects of both personal and intercessory prayer, praise, thanksgiving, submission, personal requests, confession, forgiveness and temptation. Second, I wanted to lay the foundation for a life of teaching and discipleship. The role of a Christ-follower in the broader community of believers and seekers is to be both teacher and student.
Though I rarely saw my father stop what he was doing and pray on his own he would often lead others in prayer. His prayers were always careful to point out that he was doing so because Jesus tells us to and would almost always began in a similar fashion, “Father God, we come to you today as your son Jesus instructed us, to humbly acknowledge your presence in our midst and ask that you…”
I hope that I have been able to show even just a little of that spirit in the proceeding pages. Jesus taught us to pray directly to the father with equal parts praise, submission, boldness, humility, conviction, and intercession. As part of my on-going commitment to discipleship my prayer is that each of my readers will take from these pages a sense of God’s presence in their lives, a new understanding of prayer and the way in which God communicates with his creation and a commitment to “pray without ceasing” through the way they live out their lives.
The Lord’s Prayer serves as a framework for how we are to pray. I have given you a structure to follow that if you use it will enrich your prayer life. I personally have prayed this way for 15 minutes every morning for the better part of two years and I can say that it has changed me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. Some mornings have been easier than others. Some days I have a hard time thinking of anything to add and I’m done in less than 5 minutes, other days I keep praying well beyond the 15 minutes mark without getting past the first few phrases. It’s not the time that counts, nor it is always necessary to get all the way through. Most importantly, it’s about opening your heart to God to both listen and petition his spirit.
I hope I’ve inspired you to try it. Jesus taught his followers to pray this way because it covers everything we should be praying for, both in our personal lives and through interceding on behalf of our fellow believers.
Happy praying – Amen!