For several years I’ve followed a sort of liturgy for my times of private prayer. I’ve found it so helpful in organizing and prioritizing my thoughts, and keeping me focused during my prayers. However, it provides the flexibility for pressing needs, limited time, and a purposefulness in the discipline of prayer!
Recently, what with a new baby, new town, new job, new schedule, new studies, etc. I’ve found that private prayer has been a casualty of all these changes. I do pray continually (1Thes. 5:17), but dedicated times of prayer have been less often.
However, despite my limited time for private prayer and trying to figure out where it fits in all the “newness” of my life, I’ve been refreshed by having a pre-decided commitment to pursuing private prayer and study; and even more than that, a biblical template of sorts, to guide my praying. I happened across this “template” many years ago now, and have continually returned to it as a model for how to structure my times of prayer. It comes from Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s biography, which is fabulous and I highly recommend it. He organized prayer this way, drawing from the Psalms and from the Lord’s Prayer:
“I ought not to omit any of the parts of prayer–confession, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
There is a fearful tendency to omit confession, proceeding from low views of God and his law, slight views of my heart and the sins of my past life. This must be resisted. There is a constant tendency to omit adoration, when I forget to whom I am speaking–when I rush heedlessly into the presence of Jehovah, without remembering his awful name and character–when I have little eyesight for his glory, and little admiration of his wonders. ‘Where are the wise?’ I have the native tendency of the heart to omit giving thanks. And yet it is specially commanded, Phil. 4:6. Often when the heart is selfish, dead to the salvation of others, I omit intercession. And yet it especially is the spirit of the great Advocate, who has the name of Israel always on his heart.”
The other morning, when I was spending some time in prayer, with heavy life-burdens weighing on me, I was so grateful for the wisdom found here in M’Cheyne’s structuring of prayer. Notice that confession, adoration and thanksgiving all precede our petitions and intercessions.
It struck me that so often we want to treat prayer as if it will change God’s mind, when in fact, when we pray biblically, it usually changes our mind! We see what is truly important. Furthermore, rather than coming to God as a divine vending machine (to get what we want), we are humbled by confessing our sin, worshipful as we give the Lord adoration, and made content as we give thanks for all that God has done for us. It rearranges our “laundry list” prayers and “re-prioritizes” our needs to be more in alignment with God’s word and will.
We find that the things we would have listed as our needs before we started praying, are settled and cared for by simply turning to God in faith, adoration and thanksgiving. My needs are solved in Him, He cares for the lilies and sparrows, so my needs will be met. It also leads me to think of others who are in greater need, and bear a weightier burden for those who are lost and do not know that riches of God’s grace in Jesus.
So, no matter how consistent or disorganized your prayer life has been, remain dedicated to it as a basic lifestyle assumption. And may God grant a spirit of prayer may rest upon us as we seek to see His Kingdom come and His will done.
Read some of my other posts about M’Cheyne: