Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Should We Pray?

Recently, in the wake of my spiritual revolution, I have been pondering and re-evaluating the purpose and efficacy of prayer. Prayer to me always seemed somewhat awkward, which made me wonder if I was doing it wrong. That got me thinking about what prayer really is and whether the Western concept of prayer that I am familiar with is wrong or unbiblical, as many things in modern Christianity so often are.

Upon introspection on how I personally pray, and reflecting on the group prayers that I have been part of, I found that the vast majority of prayers consisted of little more than ‘gift requests’, as though God is some kind of genie-in-a-bottle.
While there is nothing wrong with petitioning God for divine intervention per se, when this is the main focus of prayer, or even the only purpose of prayer, then it struck me that there may be something fundamentally wrong.
This type of prayer always left me thinking something along these lines; “God knows what He is doing, He doesn’t need me to tell Him what to do!” and “Half the things I pray about are probably contrary to His plan anyway, so why bother praying?

So it was then after this most recent contemplation that it really became obvious to me that my method of prayer had to be deficient in some way. Surely there was more to prayer than what honestly felt like little more than just an egocentric ‘gift request’?

I spent ages trawling the net looking for answers with no success. It was after this that it hit me; why not try the Bible! (It was one of those face-palm moments, lol. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?) When I started looking at the examples of prayer throughout the Bible I immediately noticed a significant trend; an actual ‘formula’ for proper prayer! It was a surprise to me because I can not remember ever hearing any preacher or scholar mention it or use it. Please note that I am NOT claiming that I am the first to notice this proffered formula.

The formula is present in every example of prayer in the Bible, and always follows the exact sequence which I describe below. What really cemented the reality of the formula in my mind was the fact that the Lords Prayer itself follows this formula. This leaves me with little doubt that God wants us to pray to Him in the manner which is set out below.
What I found was a sequential five tier structure in all the examples of prayer in both the Old and New Testaments. The sequence of the structure never changes, but each prayer does omit one part of the formula, depending on the purpose of the prayer. But the general structure is clear, and I think undeniable.

So have a look and see what you think!

Scriptural Principles of Proper Prayer:

1) Honour God
We are to acknowledge God as the supreme and sovereign Lord of lords

Nehemiah gives a perfect example to start his prayer: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God” Nehemiah 1:5, or Solomon: “O Lord, God of Israel there is no God like you in heaven or on earth” 2 Chronicles 6:14.

2) Identification of God’s previous promise/covenant, or the petition for its continuance
The purpose of this is to acknowledge what God has already done for us, and give thanks for previous prayers that have been answered.

This is Solomon’s example; “LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.  You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.  [….] And now, LORD, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true. ” 2 Chronicles 14-17

3) Confession/identification of sins
We all sin, and we do it all the time. It seems important to me to acknowledge this to God before asking a favour of Him.

This is Daniel’s example on behalf of Israel; “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel [….]are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. [….] All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you” Daniel 9:5-16

4) Supplication for Divine intercession
This is when to petition God to intercede in your life. Notice that it is only after the three steps above that it was considered appropriate in the examples in Scripture to then make requests of God.

5) Praise of God
Praise Him with joyous hallelujah, because He is truly worthy of all praise. Whether or not He answers specific aspects of our prayers, He has our best interests at heart.

 This is the praise that Habakkuk expressed at the end of His prayer; “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour. The sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:18-19

Take note that these steps occur in order of the most important to the least important. The order should not be altered.
While the finer details could be quibbled over and the categories further refined, I think the general five parts of the structure are beyond dispute. But hey, if you disagree then let me know!

 Honour God
Petition/Identification of God’s Promises
3 Confession/
identification of Sins
Supplication for Intercession
Praise of God
Hezekiah’s Prayer
2 Kings

David’s Prayer
2 Samuel

Solomon’s Prayer
2 Chronicles

Nehemiah’s Prayer Nehemiah

Daniel’s Prayer

Habakkuk’s Prayer

Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer

Apocryphal addition ***
The Believers Prayer


*It should be noted that when a single verse is placed in two of the categories, then the first half of the verse belongs to one category and the second half of the verse belongs to the other category.

**Verses highlighted by italics are verses that seem to be out of the general order of the formula.

***The addition to the Lord’s Prayer that is commonly recited -but not found in the earliest manuscripts- fits this category:'s_Prayer#English_versions

I noticed that when I previously changed the way that I interacted with God by including more praise and honour of Him -which this formula uses- then my whole relationship with God changed to be far deeper and more spiritual experience. So when I introduced this formula into my normal prayer, praying turned from being a somewhat perfunctory practice into a dynamic and joyous experience.

Maybe this more scripturally ‘correct’ way of praying/interacting with God is why I am starting to see my ‘gift requests’ in prayer actually now working with powerful results?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Spiritual Faith - part II

This post was written in the effort to fully understand the ‘spiritual’ revolution that I find the Holy Spirit taking me through.

The catalyst for my emancipation from the “dry and insipid rationalism” that I mentioned in a previous post was mainly due to the new church that I have found myself at. I was brought up in a traditional Lutheran church which itself is fairly dry and insipid, and basically devoid of the Holy Spirit. The church I go to now is still a Lutheran church, but is a far more ‘spiritual’ one. The pastor is letting the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit lead him and the church, rather than blindly following hidebound Lutheran doctrine.

This has resulted in a more Charismatic/Pentecostal sort of doxology. You can actually feel the Holy Spirit move through the place and through the people. It’s not something that I can really explain, you have to feel it.

I have been following the example of set in Psalms where David expresses total and unmitigated soulful praise of God for no other reason than that He is truly worthy. Whether we have a good day or bad; whether our mission/proselytising work succeeds or fails, He is worthy of infinite praise.

Psalms shows us that we are to have our focus on God alone. Worldly things/relationships are always vexed and will always let us down at some time and to some degree. It is only God that provides constant and unfailing love. Only God fully understands our pain and woe. I have found that it is this knowledge, when expressed through a total release of soulful praise to the tune of modern Hillsong type music, turns my depression into effusive joy within minutes!

I know that this sounds like a bit of a didactic lecture, but it is just my experience, I have only discovered this new ‘spiritualism’ in the last couple of weeks, and I suppose I am still trying to figuring it all out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In the last few weeks as I forsook tv (or ‘idiot box’ as my father called it) - to free-up time for other more rewarding pursuits- I came across this little felicitous gem on YouTube.
It sums up quite nicely my opinion of the media.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homosexual Marriage Survey

I’ve just become aware of a current national survey on the hot topic homosexual marriage. “Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012

It asks for a 250 word explanation of your opinion. I thought I’d share what I wrote with y’all:

Once we cross the line to recognise homosexual marriage (‘homosexual marriage’ is by definition an oxymoron), then we put one foot on a very slippery slope. Once marriage is open to being redefined then there is no logical basis (or any other basis) for denying polygamous, incestuous, zoophiliacal or any other cohabitational variation. We need to draw the line somewhere, and the traditional definition of what marriage is, is the most logical and pragmatic place.

The cohabitation of one man and one woman has always been the criteria for defining what a marriage is. A man and his car is not a marriage; a woman and her wardrobe is not marriage; a dog and it’s bone is not a marriage; a man and a boy is not marriage, and in the same way two men or two woman does not constitute marriage.
As far as I’m concerned, you can not change the definition of ‘marriage’ to include homosexuality any more than you can change the definition of ‘fruit’ to include a spanner.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Spiritual Faith

Having gone through some rather painful relationship trauma lately (hence the large hiatus between posts), I’ve tried to be more Bible-centric. I’ve spend quite a bit of time ruminating on Psalms.
The spirituality of old-school JudeoChristanity is blowing my mind! As a consequence of my rigid traditional Lutheran upbringing, I’ve been stuck in a very dry and insipid rationalism my whole life – which has been instrumental in my campaign against atheism- but I’m starting to see everything in a far more rich spiritual light. I was struck by a quote of Athanasius of Alexandria on the spiritual response one should get from Psalms:

And it seems to me that these words become like a mirror to the persons singing them, so that he might perceive himself and the emotions of his soul, and thus affected, he might recite them. For in fact he who hears the one reading receives the song that is recited as being about him, and either, when he is convicted by his conscience, being pierced, he will repent, or hearing of the hope that resides in God, and of the succour available to believers –how this kind of grace exists for him – he exults and begins to give thanks to God”

Lately whenever I find myself in some sort of emotional bind, I have been turning to the Psalms and have indeed found succour in them.
Following the lead of David, I have found that spontaneous and heartfelt hallelujah throughout the day –in addition to prayer- leads to a deeper and more spiritual relationship with God.