by Kevin Bradford
Cow #Tipping: How should we pray?
I saw a post about prayer on Twitter today from Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle. He said, “Christians learn how to pray by listening to other Christians who are mature in the faith, both in the church and in the Scriptures.” Over the years, I have encountered an enormous amount of people who are uncomfortable or scared to pray in public because they don’t want to mess up. It’s a tragedy that our church culture has cultivated such a view on prayer. It should not matter how eloquent we speak or whether we say that “right things”. What matters most is that we say what’s in our heart. God knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). And, newsflash, He knows what you’re going to say before you say it. Most people’s issues come in because they are concerned with what other people will think. So I thought I’d continue the recent Ridge Church series and do some “cow tipping” of my own. Let’s talk about how we should pray.
He knows His name. I have a pet peeve when it comes to prayer. God knows His name people. There’s no need to continually saw it when we pray. If I’m talking to my son, I don’t say, “Hey Austin, what do you think, Austin, if we go to the park, Austin, and play basketball, Austin? What do you think about that, Austin?” Sounds silly doesn’t it? But that’s what we do! “Dear God, we come to you today, God, and ask that you would be with us, God, and give us a good day, God, and…God…and God…God…God…God.” (I’m just having fun now!) My point is that we should talk to God as we would talk to anyone else. It’s a conversation…it’s a relationship. And prayer is one of the best ways to nurture that relationship.
Prayer Remix. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, did a message a few years ago on prayer. In it, He talked about four common prayers we use and how “me-centered” they are. “Bless me. Be with me. Watch over and protect me. Forgive me.” When you think about it, these prayers are selfish and faithless. He DOES bless us every day, but we just choose not to see it. He IS with us, all the time, but we choose not to be aware of it. The whole protection prayer isn’t a guarantee. After all, Jesus was brutally tortured and ultimately died. And, lastly, He DOES forgive us! In fact, He did once and for all on the cross.
Giglio closes the message with a challenge to move towards a healthier, God-centered prayer language. “Let me bless You. Live through me. And no matter what, use me.” These are prayers that will revolutionize your life and your conversations with God.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
As I said earlier, it’s not about eloquence. It’s about sincerity. But also understand that prayer is a muscle and the more you pray the easier it becomes. This is because you become more familiar and comfortable with talking to God. You let your guard down and begin to trust him more. I am a lot more comfortable talking with my best friend than I am with a perfect stranger. It’s because I have learned that I can trust my friend. He understands what I mean when I say things all weird and awkward and vice versa. But with a stranger, I’m going to choose my words carefully. So learn to exercise your prayer muscle.
If you’re like me, it can be beneficial to have a model to follow. It helps me gain confidence. So I offer up a simple acrostic that I learned as a youth that I have used often over the years to guide my prayer life. The acrostic is ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Here’s a quick blurb about each:
Adoration – offer praise to God for who He is and what He has done. There are so many dimensions to our God that we could spend all of time adoring His nature, His character, and His works.
Confession – I used to think this was just me confessing my sin, but someone recently blew this step out of the water for me. While it is important to include confession of sin (both big Sin nature and little sin acts of disobedience), this includes confessing WHO He is and WHAT He has done for us. It also includes admitting that WE are incapable of doing anything good on our own, we are powerless and helpless to do anything about it, and that we NEED His help!
Thanksgiving – I think this is self-explanatory. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Even if life sucks right now and nothing is going right, thank Him for the air in your lungs and the blood in your veins. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
Supplication – This is our chance to ask God for things. Now, keep in mind HE IS NOT A GENIE IN A BOTTLE. The definition of supplication is “an appeal made to somebody in authority; a humble and sincere appeal to somebody who has the power to grant a request.” Key phrase: humble and sincere. HE IS NOT A GENIE! I can’t stress that enough. When I was young and immature, I would rub the lamp and expect Him to do things for me or give me things. I cannot begin to tell you how damaging that was to my faith. But as I grew, I realized that as I humbly and sincerely brought things to God, for myself and others, He would shape my words and the desires in my heart to match His own.
I leave you with one last thought from 1 Thessalonians 5:17: pray without ceasing. Develop a praying habit in your life that as you go through the day, you talk to God constantly. Not out loud in public situations because people will think you’re a freak. But seek Him and you will find Him when you seek Him with your whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
** For more on prayer, check out the message series Circle Maker and the message How To Pray Like a Beast from Ridge Church