Learning to Pray

Learning to PrayI’ve often been asked to pray for people. I don’t ever remember leaving Dick Anderson’s home without his saying, “Preach, have prayer before you go.” (I was always simply “Preach” to Dick). When I talked with my grandmother, she would typically tell me, “Say a little prayer for Mamaw.” I’ve been asked to pray before someone goes into surgery or when surgery goes badly. I’ve been asked to pray before life support was turned off. I’ve been asked to pray for people suffering from chronic disabilities.

I’m always happy to pray with people, for prayer has great power. I’ve written several times on my blog about prayer and my thankfulness for the avenue of prayer. I recently wrote some ideas about how Christians can pray for disabled individuals. Today, I’m going to begin putting a different twist on this discussion and consider how disabled people ought to pray. I’m not thinking about posture or length or frequency – instead, I’m thinking about content. For those who are sick, for those who are hurting, for those who are disabled, prayer can – and should – have special meaning. After all, we’re able to cast all our concerns at His feet with a full and calm assurance that He hears us.

As Jesus was praying, His disciples came and said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Lk 11:1). Two important points stand out to me from Luke’s account: (1) Jesus was praying when His disciples came and asked for guidance in their prayer lives – the disciples saw in Jesus something they themselves wanted, viz., an active prayer life; and (2) The disciples asked for direction in their prayers. Jesus gave what we commonly call the Model Prayer or Lord’s Prayer on that occasion. What better way to think about learning to pray than following the example and teaching of Jesus?

In the Model Prayer and in His life, Jesus teaches us how to pray. Someone developed the acronym: ACTS for our prayers. A: Adoration; C: Confession; T: Thanksgiving; and S: Supplication. Today, I want to think about how Jesus taught and modeled that prayer, and Thursday and Friday I wish to apply that model specifically for those who are disabled and provide some suggestions for praying when you’re suffering.

  1. AdorationJesus knew the value of praising His heavenly Father, and He taught His disciples to do the same.“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt 6:9)As His death approached, Jesus prayed for the Father’s name to be glorified in the Son: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (Jn 17:1-2)

    The Father is worthy of all praise (Rev 4:11). Jesus taught us to praise our Father in prayer. It’s only right that we begin our prayers with Adoration.

  2. ConfessionJesus, while having no sin (1 Pet 1:22), taught His disciples to confess their sin.“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12)When Jesus told the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the tax collector, refusing to lift up his eyes to heaven, beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk 18:13)

    Sin is nothing to take lightly: Sin separates us from God (Is 59:1-2), sin brings death (Rom 6:23), and sin caused the death of the precious Lamb of God (1 Pet 2:24). When we confess sin, God forgives sin (1 Jn 1:9). It’s only right that Confession be a huge part of our prayers.

  3. ThanksgivingJesus understood that every good and perfect gift comes from God (Js 1:17); therefore, He understood we need to give thanks when we pray.“At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will’” (Matt 11:25-26)Thanksgiving is to be a major part of our prayers. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2). Thanksgiving must be a large part of our prayers.
  4. SupplicationJesus taught us to take our concerns to the Father in prayer.“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11)“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13)

    God wants us to feel free to take any need to Him (1 Pet 5:7), and it’s only right that we do so. I personally like that in the ACTS acronym, Supplication comes last: We praise God, we confess our sins, and we thank God before we ask for His blessings. Thinking of self comes so naturally, and it’s so very healthy to remember to put others – including God Himself – before our own desires.

Jesus well knew that God’s will comes before our own desires. He taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). In the Garden, the Lord Himself prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mk 14:36); Jesus demonstrated His submission to the Father’s will when He went to the old rugged cross and died for the sins of the world.

Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication. Right components for prayer. Tomorrow, we’ll think about how the suffering particularly can adore the Father and confess their sins. On Friday, we’ll think about how the disabled can offer appropriate thanksgiving and make right supplication. Until then, be blessed!

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