Seven Simple Ideas for Daily Prayer

While in my seminary days I found great help in prayer from a resource produced by Peter Lord of the First Baptist Church of Titusville, Florida, called the 2959 Guide (29.59, or about 30 minutes in prayer). The following is my adaptation and expansion of something I first thought of while going through the guide. I often use this in my daily prayer time. Perhaps it will encourage you as well. These are seven themes you see practiced consistently in Scripture. While I’m emphasizing these for personal prayer, they would be useful in corporate settings as well.

1) Praise: Praise is our response to the person of God. We praise him for who he is.  Praise is not noise, just as reverence is not silence. It is the acknowledgment of God’s greatness. It is recognizing he is “hallowed,” or “holy,” as the Model Prayer tells us (see Matt 6:9). Sometimes reading a Psalm of praise helps here. Beginning with praise starts our praying with a focus on God, not us, which is always best.

2) Thanksgiving: This is our response to the goodness of God. Thank him for what he has done. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving” (Ps 100:4). “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:18). An attitude of gratitude should permeate our lives.

3) Confession:  Confession is our response to the holiness of God. Our sins will hinder our praying (see Ps 66:18). As we pray, we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal each sin in our lives. Then we can confess the sin (see 1 John 1:9) and forsake it. When broken relationships are involved, we should seek to make them right as well (see Matthew 5). Remembering God’s forgiveness in Christ also helps us to be forgiving to others.

4) Intercession: This is our response to the love of God. Intercession means taking time to pray on behalf of others. When we ask of God, Foster reminds us, we are not “trying to manipulate God and tell Him what to do. Quite the opposite. We are asking God to tell us what to do. God is the ground of our beseeching . . . Our prayer is to be like a reflex action to God’s prior initiative on the heart.”[i]

5) Petition: Petition is our response to the love of God for us. It is appropriate and necessary for us to ask God to meet our needs. However, in our consumer-driven culture, we can learn from this prayer of petition from an anonymous soldier:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked God for health that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for—

but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men most richly blessed.[ii]

6) Listening: Listening is our response to the voice of God. You may not be aware of it, but wherever you are as you read this, noises are all around you. Rock-and-roll music is all around you. Rap tunes are playing. People are discussing various topics from sports to finance. The only thing you need to hear these voices is the proper receiver. Opening the Spotify App will suddenly usher into your presence a bevy of sounds.

Prayer operates the same way. God is constantly speaking to us, teaching us, leading us. He always speaks through his word, and he never speaks contrary to it. The question is not whether God is speaking but if we are listening.

7) Consecration: Consecration is our response to the activity of God. It is a prayer of commitment. Often in Scripture believers made specific, fresh acts of consecration: Jonah in the whale’s stomach (Jonah 2:1–10); David, following his sin with Bathsheba (Ps 51); Paul, our Lord, and others. In our times of prayer, we are often confronted with the need to make a fresh, new commitment to God.

[i] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 42.

[ii] C. R. Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity (Waco: Word Books, 1987), 113.

The Prayers of Jesus

That Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees, why not make him tremble? Why not storm the very gates of hell? Nothing could please God more. In the conflict that is upon us, certainly we can ill afford to neglect one weapon Satan does not have in his arsenal and the one he fears the most—prayer.[i]  —Ralph Herring

Prayer. We all say we believe in it. We sometimes practice it. But do we pray believing? How can we grow in prayer?

I’m convinced the place to start with prayer is with our Lord and his example. While the following is not exhaustive, here are some ways Jesus serves as our model in prayer. Let these truths encourage your prayer today.

First, he spent time in personal prayer. Mark 1:35 and other passages observe his penchant for private prayer. How is your private prayer currently?

Second, he prayed at important events (Matt 26:36-44; Luke 6:12). “Of course, we should do that,” you say. Important events call for prayer. But he prayed all night before calling the 12. When have you spent all night in prayer because of a vital matter? I admit, I’ve only been a part of two all-night prayer meetings. But most believers have never done so, or anything remotely related to this. Is prayer your first choice when facing an important decision?

Third, he taught the importance of prayer (Matt 6). The only thing the Gospels tell us the 12 specifically asked Jesus to teach them was to pray (Luke 11). The Lord’s Prayer, as we call it, offers a model of how to pray. Jesus always teaches his followers those things most vital to his heart. What are you learning just now about prayer?

Fourth, he prioritized seasons and places of prayer (Luke 5:16). On this occasion in Luke we read how our Lord often withdrew to a certain place. In this hyper-driven world of ours we need both a place and times of personal sabbath and retreat. Do you have a special place to seek the Father?

Fifth, he prayed when facing temptation and when suffering (Matthew 4:1-2). Both when facing the temptation of satan and during the agony of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed. As my colleague Chuck Lawless points out, prayer is vital in the real spiritual warfare we face as Christians. In addition, three of his statements on the cross were prayers. Suffering and temptation should drive us to our knees rather than driving a wedge between us and the Father. Do you turn immediately to God in prayer in times of temptation, or when facing suffering?

Sixth, he gave thanks (Luke 10:21). He gave thanks before miraculously feeding the five thousand, for instance. Are you a grateful person, and is your gratitude aimed at the good God who gives good things?

Seventh, he modeled prayer (John 17). John 17 reminds us Jesus prayed for his disciples then and for us even now. Do you see prayer as a means to be more like Jesus?

Eighth, he calls on us to pray for harvesters (Matthew 9:36-38). Jesus calls his disciples to pray for harvesters. When we share our faith, we are answers to that call to prayer! Will you be an answer to this prayer by sharing Jesus this week?

Finally, Jesus continues to intercede for us now! Hebrews 7:25 reminds us he always lives to intercede for us. Will you live confidently, knowing this fact?

[i] R. Herring, The Cycle of Prayer (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1966), 62–63.

Pray for Two Men Today — Then Act

[note: I first posted this some time ago, but with the events the week of July 4, 2016, felt it appropriate to repost with some editing. We must pray, we must love, and we must act.]

I want to ask you to pray for two men. These men, as much as any men in our society today, need our prayer, encouragement, and love.  I hope you will agree to join me in praying for these two men.

The first man is distinguishably young. His entire life lies ahead of him, or so one might think. He, like my son, son-in-law, and soon-to-be-born grandson, could become a husband, a father, and a significant contributor to his community. He could become a healthy follower of Christ and a strong witness for the gospel. He also has a one in three chance of spending time in prison. He has a far greater chance of being killed by a police officer than those not quite like him. He lives in a culture structurally bent against him, and this is often missed by the majority culture around him.

You see, this young man has a problem. The problem: he is African-American. That is not actually a problem theologically for he, regardless of color, is made in the very image of God. But in our culture, life offers for him challenges beyond those my children and grandchildren will ever face. I do not claim to begin to understand all this, as I have been a majority culture citizen all my life. For a little insight into this, this article by Russ Moore might help. 

I do not know what it is like to have to have two different talks with my son: one about the birds and bees and the other about the shadow cast on the life of a young man in America simply because he is black. But I do know this: I can pray for him. I can encourage him when I see him. I can seek justice for he and his peers, and I can learn from him. I am in conversation with several young African American men and hope to learn how to serve them. I worship with these brothers at our church, and today, I hurt with them. So when you picture a young black man, begin your vision of him not by caricaturing him but by praying for him.

I have much to learn from this young man.

But I also want to ask you to pray for another man. This man you also know, but he is not distinguishable by age or his ethnicity as much as his uniform and his badge. I’m referring to a policeman. I have several friends who serve in law enforcement; many worship at our church. The policeman is underpaid and often under-appreciated. He is more likely than not to be a good man who seeks to serve his whole community well. He is broken hearted by those of his ilk who abuse their power. I want to learn how to serve our police and how to help build a society where events like this week – from Philando Castile and Alton Sterling to five police officers executed by snipers – doesn’t continue to flood our headlines. 

I am often asked to speak on issues of faith and culture. But I am no expert here. I hurt for my brothers and sisters of color who grieve over their reality that they still are perceived as lesser in our world than others. I hurt for law enforcement who do their jobs with excellence and condemn unnecessary violence, and who also grieve at injustice. I sometimes feel helpless, but I am not hopeless. Our God is able to do beyond what we ask or think.

But when He does, He will likely use us in that work. Are we usable? 

I should not ask you to pray not only for these men. I should ask you to pray for me, that I would have eyes to see, a heart to care, and a life that acts for justice for all for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel. 



The 411 on Evangelism: The First Word Is Prayer

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossions 4:2-6

Yesterday I enjoyed teaching evangelism to the  folks at the First Baptist Church of Cumming, Georgia. In the morning I taught the Life on Mission 3 Circles produced by NAMB; last night I walked them through what I call the 4 P’s of Evangelism. I want to share these four with you in the next four posts.

The first word of evangelism is PRAYER. Before we talk to people about Jesus we should talk to Jesus about them.

As you read through the story of gospel advance in the Acts, you will see that prayer laid the foundation of everything they did.

The church was birthed in a prayer meeting. The early church emerged not from a think tank, or a denominational meeting, or even in the synagogue.. In Acts 1:14, the early believers prayed in unison for the ten days from the ascension of Jesus to the day of Pentecost as Jesus has told them.

The church was marked by prayer from her beginnings. In 2:42 even as the church was born they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayers.

The church advanced through a prayer meeting. In Chapter 3 Peter and John were going to the temple at the normal time to pray when they met a lame man. He was healed and began to praise God (wouldn’t you?); he joined Peter and John as they entered the temple to pray.

The church overcame persecution through prayer. Take a minute to read Acts 4:23-31. In this passage they faced their first persecution, and we read their prayer. They did not ask God to make it easier in the face of persecution, they did this: 1) They “prayed” the gospel (23-28); they started with a sovereign God, then affirmed Him as Creator, then recognized the fallenness of man (“the heathen rage,” etc). Then they acknowledged Jesus’ work for salvation was God’s plan all along. 2) They asked God to give them boldness to proclaim the gospel. 3) God answered! The place shook, they were all filled with the Spirit, and they all continued to share Christ with boldness.

The church made changes to help their growth so prayer would not be hindered. In Acts 6, Hellenistic widows were being neglected because of the growth of the church. The apostles sought to keep their focus on “the ministry of prayer and the Word.” We often hear pastors speak of the importance of preaching the Word, but do we hear the same focus on prayer? They chose helpers and the church continued to reach others.

The church turned to prayer as their first resource rather than their last hope. As in Acts 4, the church prayed when faced with persecution. In Acts 12 Peter had been arrested; the church gathered to pray (v. 5). When God answered and he was released, the believers did not believe it at first!

The church sent out missionaries in a prayer meeting. In Acts 13, Saul and Barnabas were sent out as the first formal missionaries from Antioch in the context of ministering to the Lord and fasting. Many other examples in Acts could be cited, but suffice it to say the early church, as Paul in Colossians 4, valued prayer.

Do you want to be effective in your witness? Don’t start with your technique or your knowledge. Don’t start with the lost around you. Don’t start with the how, start with the Who.  Start with God. Talk to Him.

Here is a 3fold prayer you can pray daily to assist your witness:
God, give me an opportunity to share Christ today;
Give me the wisdom to see it;
Give me the boldness to seize it.

[This was adapted from a forthcoming book Get Out co-authored with my son Josh Reid. It will be released in 2015 by Rainer Publishing.]