Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." Luke 11:1 NKJV
We talked last week about the importance of prayer, and the fact that it is one of the most important parts of a successful spiritual life. Yet many may not realize there is a right way, and a wrong way to pray. Continuing with our comparison of a healthy spiritual life with a healthy physical one, I do recall an example of this from my experiences working out at the gym.
My first visit to the gym was somewhat overwhelming when I was faced with so many choices of exercise equipment to use to achieve my goals. So like most, not wanting to show my ignorance, I simply chose machines I was familiar with to start my workout routine. Imagine my embarrassment when one of the professionals stopped by and informed me I was using it the wrong way, and probably wasn't going to get anywhere doing it the way I was. I do so enjoy being humbled in public. Fortunately he took the time to show me how to do it right, and as a result I did begin to see and feel some progress.
That picture in mind, I wonder exactly what the disciples were thinking and feeling in the situation revealed to us in verse one from Luke 11. They were in a position to see Jesus praying, and immediately asked Him to teach them how to pray. Does this mean they knew from watching Jesus that they were doing it the wrong way? As Jesus goes on to teach them what many call the "Pattern Prayer", He gives us some insight as to what not only constitutes an effective prayer, but also that there are several components that should be included in every prayer. I want to share with you four things I believe we need to include in every prayer based on this passage, and a few others as well. I call these the ACTS of prayer.
Hallowed means to set apart, venerate, or declare sacred. The point here is that the very name of God is powerful, sacred, and very different than any other name in Heaven or on Earth. I'm sure most are familiar with the third commandment?
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NKJV
Gods very name is different than any other. To "hallow" God's name is to start your prayer by acknowledging that His very name is above all others, and that He alone is the only one who has the power to answer our prayers.
After addressing our prayer to the only God of the universe, and acknowledging His place in creation while we attempt to come into His presence, do you think maybe unconfessed sin in our lives could interfere with our line of communication?
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
Psalms 66:18 NKJV
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NKJV
It is impossible to come into Gods presence with unconfessed sin in our lives. If we desire to talk with God we need to be sure we have confessed our sins and repented in order to be sure He will hear us.
What chance do you think we have of getting what we are going to ask for if we haven't yet thanked Him for what He has already done? Without thankfulness, we are in all honesty simply trying to take advantage of Gods' goodness.
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
It's easy to give thanks for the little things, but doesn't it make sense to thank Him for even the little things we often take for granted? God wants to hear us thank Him for absolutely everything, because as we should have already figured out, everything comes from Him.
Last, but not least, we can make our requests known to God. Yet should we ask for whatever comes to mind, or are there guidelines we should follow when it comes to what we ask for?
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19 NKJV
Give us day by day our daily bread. Luke 11:3 NKJV
Do you recall that in the wilderness after the Exodus, God provided manna to the children of Israel, but told them they could only gather enough for one day? God wanted them to understand that they could rely on Him to provide what they needed, every day,and did not have to try and store up any in case God took a day off.
One of the best sayings I ever heard about God when I was young was this;
God may be your Father, but He's not your old man. When we pray to God there is a certain, respectful way to go about it. Include these four steps in your prayer life and see if it makes a difference in the results you get. It certainly has in mine.