Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning to Pray More Effectively

Last week I was browsing the web and came across an article by Tim Keller on how to pray more effectively. I really enjoyed his insights, so I turned it into a sermon for Sunday night. Here were the basic points.

In Luke 11:1-4 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and He gave them this prayer:

"Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation."

Not all prayers in the Bible are the same, of course. But it is common for prayers in Scripture to do the same three things Jesus did in this prayer:

1) Say something about God. In this case, Jesus described God as our "Father," which implies that God is Creator and Ruler.

2) Request something from God. We are to ask God for blessings such as daily food, forgiveness of sins, and protection from evil.

3) Desire something for God. In the model prayer Jesus expressed two desires for God: that His name be hallowed and that His kingdom would come.

In the rest of the sermon I just read through various prayers in Scripture and noticed how they included these same elements. For example, look at the prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21-

1) Say something about God

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory..."

2) Request something from God

"he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

3) Desire something for God

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The other prayers we studied were Psalm 51; Psalm 71; Isaiah 37:15-20; Romans 15:5-7.

Finally, we talked about why these elements of prayer are so important.
  • They turn prayer into praise as we profess the greatness of God.
  • They instill confidence in God's power to answer our prayers as we reflect on His attributes.
  • They center prayer on Gods will rather than ours, which is always what prayer should be about.

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