40 Days of Prayer
In our 40 Days of Prayer season at Trinity Wellsprings Church, I have begun our series on prayer with two sermons that both tried to give us new “forms” to experiment with in prayer.
In With Christ in the School of Prayer: Praying Backwards – “In Jesus Name, Amen” (Sept 22), I suggested that we experiment with not only ending our prayers “In Jesus Name” but beginning our prayers “In Jesus Name”, too.
When we start our prayers by vocalizing “In Jesus Name”, our prayers begin with:
Confession. “In Jesus Name” reminds us that we only approach God because of the finished work of Christ. We come before God not on our own merit (our best works are filthy rags, Is. 64:6) but only through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We can pray: “In Jesus Name, I come before you. I thank you for his mercy. I thank you for his grace. I thank you, Father, that you accept me as your own because of Jesus.”
The Glory of God. David says to Goliath: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” (1 Sam 17:45) In the NT, demons are cast out “in the name of Jesus”. Anything done in God’s name is for God’s glory. Thus, in a sense, the first plea of the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be thy name” – hovers over all true prayer. When I vocalize, at the beginning of my prayers, “in Jesus name”, I acknowledge that my life is to serve one purpose: to bring glory to God. I ask that his Son might be exalted in my life. Praying “in Jesus Name” reminds me that prayer is not simply the extension of my stubborn self-will (“my will be done” -- which seeks to control God and keep self at the center) but rather moves me to a God-centeredness in life (“thy will be done”).
Jesus as our High Priest. Using our sanctified imagination, we begin to picture Jesus as the Exalted High Priest sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty in the throne room of heaven. “In Jesus Name” gives you a picture of Jesus on the throne. Jesus lives to intercede for you, as Rom 8:34 and Heb. 7:24-25 make abundantly clear. Your imagination, in prayer, becomes sanctified. Beforehand, the best prayer you could imagine praying was “Lord, help my life to work” or “Lord, remove my problems so I can be happy”, but now you begin to wonder: What is Jesus praying for me? You begin to get very curious: Why kind of prayers is Jesus as my High Priest praying for me? Perhaps Ephesians 1 gives me a clue: “I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which he has called me, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (vs. 18, changing the text from 3rd to 1st person)
In Relational Prayer: The PAPA Prayer sermon (Sept 29), I acknowledged (sadly but honestly) my own boredom with prayer meetings back when I was a missionary candidate with WEC International. “God, are we really doing anything here? Are we changing anything? Am I being changed?”
As I looked back on my own prayer life, especially experiences of frustration or discouragement or disillusionment with prayer, I wondered: might all these (discouraging) experiences in prayer stem from the same common source?
That is, maybe before I “get things from God”, maybe I should “get God” by relating to him in prayer.
About 10 years ago, with Larry Crabb’s The PAPA Prayer serving as a gauntlet of truth for my own prayer life, I acknowledged that my prayers essentially consisted of a short list of thanksgivings followed by a long laundry list of petitions.
Larry Crabb was helpful in describing how relational prayer radically re-orders our priorities in prayer:
“Maybe petitionary prayer is supposed to come after relational prayer.”
“Relational prayer is the center of all true prayer. The power of petitionary prayer depends on the centrality of relational prayer.”
I suggested that the apostle Paul gives us the freedom to pray like Jesus, who addressed the God of the Universe as his “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-6).
“‘Abba’ is such an intimate word. The child who still says “Daddy” is living totally unencumbered: free to love, free to trust, free to be helpless before Daddy because you know He loves you. Such is relational prayer.” ~ Pastor Jason
Here’s the acrostic again.
P: Present yourself to God (i.e. Find your “Red Dot”; “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul”; Ps. 25:1)
A: Attend to how you’re thinking of God
P: Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God
A: Approach God as the “first thing” (main thing) in your life
I commend both prayer experiments –- praying backwards “In Jesus Name” and the PAPA Prayer – as you seek to live A Praying Life.
Remember, it often takes 40 days to find and form a new rhythm. The Puritans used to say, “Pray until you pray”. That is, just vocalize the words (out-loud if your mind tends to wander in prayer) and just push through the initial 120 seconds (which is the hardest part of prayer – because we are often initially disconnected from self and need reminding who God is). So the counsel “pray until you pray” is actually the simplest (and most sage) advice on prayer that I know.
Thankful to be on this path of prayer with Trinity Wellsprings Church.