The Practice of Prayer

Praying is one of the privileges and callings of God’s people.  We are commanded to pray for ourselves, for others, for the government, and for many others.  God tells us that we should be thankful in our prayers, that we should confess our sins, and that we should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

In his book, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, pastor and professor John Kleinig has some excellent thoughts on prayer that I thought I would reproduce here.  I encourage you to read his thought provoking and very helpful book.  Here are some practical suggestions he has for praying.

  1. The best place to begin is with congregational worship. There we stand in the presence of the triune God and are surrounded by all the saints. Unless I happen to be leading the service, I use four points in the service to pray for others. When I enter the building before the service begins, I pray for the pastor, the musicians, the whole congregation, and the visitors. I also make it a practice never to go to Holy Communion just for myself. I go with some specific request for myself, but I also go for help for some other people whose needs I have discovered in the previous week. I seldom sing the hymn during distribution, but pray for my brothers and sisters as they go forward to receive Christ’s body and blood. If I notice that someone seems especially troubled, I concentrate for a while on that person. Lastly, I take any subjective and objective distractions during the service as directives to pray for the people involved.

 

  1. The next best place to pray is in family devotions. When our children still lived with us, my wife and I settled for a relatively fixed pattern of rotation in our family prayers. Apart from a set reading from the Bible followed by discussion, we alternated for six days of the week between set prayers, individual prayers, and hymns that were sung around the piano. When we had individual prayers, each person, beginning at the youngest, thanked God for something and prayed for somebody. Every Sunday night I led a prayer for all the members of our two families. Now my wife and I pray together each day when we go to bed, debriefing together with God.

 

  1. An excellent way of teaching people to support each other in prayer is a prayer circle. Most people are familiar with its etiquette and dynamics. Somebody is appointed to open and close the session. Nobody speaks more than one or two sentences at a time. Silence is encouraged. I’ve found that prayer circles work well with young people. Many are, in fact, moved to pray for others in a prayer circle more readily than anywhere else. Those who have difficulty in voicing their requests find it easier to do so in this setting. Even if they don’t say anything, someone else in the group often expresses their thoughts. In it people can easily unburden their souls and bear each other’s burdens. Best of all, it introduces people to the power of silence and the value of listening in prayer.

 

  1. In my own devotional life I have found two approaches most useful in the practice of intercession. I have a prayer list that I use. At present it consists of my family, the staff and students at our seminary, and the other people under my spiritual care. Besides that, in the morning I anticipate the people I will meet in my work; in the evening I remember those whom I have met that day. I act as their advocate and pray for them.

 

  1. Frank Laubach promotes what he calls “flash prayers.” Others describe these as arrow prayers. His suggestion is that we use the moments of spare time in our day to make short, single-sentence prayers. While the description of his own practice is rather curious, the idea is good. Whenever I remember I not only say a silent “thank you” for something good or “help me” when I face some difficulty, but I also silently mention the name of Jesus for the people that I meet and imagine Him there with them.

 

  1. Richard Foster mentions a related method of intercession that I myself have often practiced without thinking about it. 52 This method is really quite simple; it involves the use of my imagination to envisage what Christ promises in the New Testament. All I do is imagine the presence of Jesus as in one of the stories from the Gospels and then picture Him coming to the person that I pray for. This method of intercession consists in using my faith to bring a person to Jesus. In this way I introduce someone to Him in my mind and let Him take over from there. [1]

 

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.

[1] Kleinig, John. Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (p. 217). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

 

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