The Pattern for a Prayer Life

The Pattern for a Prayer Life
By Andy Burns

What is your opinion of prayer?  Not your public opinion, the answer that we are to give during Bible class or to our fellow brethren.  The opinion I am speaking of is the one that you have when you are in deep prayer to God over an issue that causes great anxiety and consternation. How do your actions project your opinion of prayer then?

While crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain’s request he spoke on “Answered Prayer.” An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, “What did you think of Dr. Meyer’s sermon?” He answered, “I didn’t believe a word of it.” That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear “what the babbler had to say.” 
Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.” “Your father? Surely your father can’t be still alive!” “Praise God,” she replied, “He is very much alive.” “What do you mean?” pressed the agnostic. She explained, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!” The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ. (Our Daily Bread, www.sermonillustrations.com)

Often it is helpful for us to operate in our prayer lives based upon a pattern or a guide.  The Holy Spirit provides five passages that lead us to a clear understanding of a pattern for effective and powerful prayer.  First, Jesus begins this practice of prayer as he teaches his followers the overall attitude and mindset of prayer (Matt. 6:5f).  This pattern begins with adoration to God as Father and continues with a community of aid with the audience of Heaven. As we begin our prayers by viewing and interpreting our Heavenly Father with adoration and humility, our prayers will no doubt begin both with confidence and a relationship.
Second, the Holy Spirit guides James in giving us just such a pattern for our prayers.  James shares that when we need wisdom and Heavenly advice, we should ask God for such wisdom (Jms 1:5-8).  Our prayers must (the word the Holy Spirit uses) begin and continue without doubting (a negative way of saying “be faithful” {Robertson Word Pictures}).  This lack of doubting involves a growing belief in God’s presence/ability and a constant trust in his power to care for our needs. Do you trust God to care for your daily and challenging needs?  Do you believe that God will give you an orange when you need it…even from unlikely sources?  We must realize that we are not talking to the wall – but to the All-Knowing God of creation who loves us eternally.
Third, Luke details that we should ask God for aid with patience and consistency (Luke 18:1f).  This parable begins by the Holy Spirit telling his readers “that they should always pray and not give up.”  This word for “not give up” means to be weak or to fail.  God is telling us how to pray patiently with strength and endurance.  Luke tells of a woman who submits a need to an “unjust judge” that neither cares for men nor loves God.  This woman continues to plead her case (vs 3) to this unjust judge.  Finally, because she continued to bother him, he gave in to her request.  The Spirit’s teaching is that God will come to our aid because we are His beloved, blood-bought children.  He is always listening and will therefore consistently come to our aid; but we must be patience.  Aid will come according to God’s Will.
Fourth, Paul shares another pattern of prayer that deals with peace and thanks (Phil. 4:6,7). He begins this teaching by telling what not to do as it relates to prayer.  “Do not be anxious about anything…”  The Spirit begins with a prohibition toward anxiety and a strong inclusion of prayer and requests.  We are called to pray with peace.  We should take more time thinking about God’s care, than the challenges before us.  We are encouraged to pray with prayer & petition to God.  This prayer involves both worship & request to God.  We are persuaded to pray with pleasure.  Our prayers need to include thanks and praise to God.  This thanks to God is not a one-time-action; it is active and constant.  We are told to pray to God with presentation.  We are encouraged to gladly and freely give our needs to God.  This giving will provide prosperity and quietness that excels our comprehension.
Fifth, returning to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, we find that prayer is to be done with sincerity before God.  Jesus first teaches that prayer has exclusions.  We are not to pray with a fake heart (Matt 21:22; Psa 5:2) or with empty words (Eccl 5:2).   Our prayer pattern should be with a genuine heart seeking God’s guidance.  Prayer is also to be expected.  God expects us to see our need for prayer (Dan 6:10).  In addition, prayer is to be exclusive.  This conversation with God is an intimate worship with Him from each individual, even when in public.  He teaches that it is not for public praise; it is not for eloquence; not is it for preaching or teaching. Instead, prayer is an understanding of our needs, God’s power and a surrendered heart.  Finally, prayer is to be a genuine exchange between God and His children.  God does not desire us to perform before an audience for their pleasure.  Prayer is an opening of the heart to the designer of the heart for known and unknown needs. Prayer is not to inform God of a need; prayer is to inquire that God nurture our needs.
In conclusion, this pattern of prayer instructs us that prayer is not a time of “shooting the breeze, talking about the weather or sharing odd thoughts.”  Prayer is a process of 1) adoration of God, 2) patience within our spirit, 3) belief in God’s power and perfect will, 4) recognition of peace and appreciation and 5) a sincere relationship.  Does this describe your prayer life before God?  Are you too casual with God in your prayer life?  What type of pattern describes your prayer life today?  Let God hear your heart and care for your needs today.
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