By Dr. Sharon Schuetz
The world expects more from women now than it ever has. Mom must be a miracle worker. We expect her to sew a costume for the school pageant, bake twelve-dozen cookies, and take her child's class to the zoo on little notice. She does this while writing an annual report, preparing a proposal for a new client, training a new secretary, and studying for her third-grade Sunday school class. If you are a parent, and you are not praying, you need to be.
Prayer is not a Band-Aid for a busy day, nor aspirin for the spirit; nor is it antacid one takes after over-indulging in the world. It is powerful, exciting, refreshing, and brings vitality to any life willing to commit to pray.
An active prayer life causes us to think about God more. As we understand prayer and pray regularly, joy becomes second nature, and other relationships improve.
Prayer is man's acknowledgment of a higher being. In prayer, we address God, the Creator of the universe. A mere mortal has a private audience with the King of Kings. It is purely spiritual communion with God.
A young man visited his brother, a student at a large seminary. He was unfamiliar with the sprawling campus, so he asked the first person who passed him "Is this Davidson Hall?" The seminary student asked his brother if he had realized that he had been talking to a world-famous theologian. He had the opportunity to ask any question--and he asked about a building. Christians are like that. We can ask anything we want. Nevertheless, how many of us do?
Like anything else, our prayer life improves with training and experience. New endeavors take time and commitment. It is like learning to type in high school. A teacher teaches the keystrokes, how to hold our hands and where to put our fingers. We can only become an accomplished typist by practicing enough that we do not need a wall chart. With enough experience, our fingers fly across the keyboard, often correcting mistakes without affecting our speed or accuracy. Quality comes with training and experience.
At first, prayer may be nothing more than a child's precious words, "Jesus, I love You." God knows every cry of the human heart. Our prayers are necessary to him. He calls them incense, as a "sweet smelling fragrance" going up before his throne" (Rev. 5:8 KJV).
In this article, we examine five models of prayer everyone should use when we pray. We do not exercise each one every time we pray. But with an active prayer life, we will regularly use them all. This assures us of a well-rounded, strong relationship with God.
The first prayer model is Praise. To praise God is to glorify Him. Glorifying simply signifies an opinion, estimate, and thus the honor resulting from a good opinion.
We focus on God and the splendor of his character and personality when we praise him. We tell him how much we love and admire him just because he is God. We draw attention to his holiness, his mercy, and his grace, telling him what these attributes mean to us.
We do not worship God because he needs to hear it (Heb. 13:15). We praise Him because praise reminds us of His attributes. Praise at the beginning of our prayer breaks our minds loose from the cares of our day. As we speak, our minds begin to open, and we can focus on him. Our random thoughts slow down, and positive images begin to emerge in our thinking. Doubts, worry, and fear lessen their grip as words of hope and encouragement fill our spirits with confidence.
Praise prepares our minds and opens the door of communication between our spirit and God's Spirit. With the door open, we are ready for the second model of prayer, Confession. To confess, we are just recognizing that we cannot measure up to God's righteous standard. Scripture promises, "If we confess our sins he is just and faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 KJV). No one can attain God's holiness. We rely on Christ’s grace and his blood to cleanse us from a defiled conscience. Nothing else can satisfy God’s righteous requirements. With a tender conscience, we can walk in holiness, acceptable to God.
Several years ago, my husband, Michael, and I went to New York. On our second night there, we rode the Staten Island ferry. The filth was awful. Paper, cigarettes, empty cups, and puddles of spilled coke, coffee, and sticky drinks littered the stairs and walkways. We passed right by the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautifully clear, cold night. We tried to see Lady Liberty from the warmth inside, but the windows were so dirty from years of oil, smoke, and filth that she was not visible. We had to go outside to get a clear view.
Like the Staten Island ferry, if we allow sin to dirty the windows of our conscience it will obstruct our view of God. Our conscience is the hinge on the door between our spirit and God's Spirit. When we confess our sin and repent, we remove anything blocking our view of God, keeping the door closed between us.
Praising God and confessing our sins lets us worship him effortlessly. To worship him is our prayer model number three. Worship is a reverent honor given to God. After he forgives our sins, we fall on our faces, prostrate in adoration. In worship, we applaud his divine power and nature. With the door of communication wide open between us, our spirits can effortlessly communicate. We delight in his presence and glory.
Worship is different than praise. In praise, we verbally acknowledge and speak positively of God's attributes. In worship, we lay prostrate [if only in spirit] before God, in awe of him, as we proclaim his power and accept our frailty. We may weep or sit, immersed in his presence.
Close on the heels of worship is Thanksgiving. In Thanksgiving, we appreciate him for who he is and for all he has done. You cannot worship him, or confess your sins without gratitude. Thankfulness floods our being when we have seen ourselves through God’s eyes in confession, and receive his love through worship. We long to express our gratitude and thank him for his goodness. We call this an Attitude of Gratitude.
We can only successfully invoke model five after investing time in praise, confession, worship, and thanksgiving. This gives us the right to bring our petitions to God’s throne. We dare to ask for our needs when we are already in his presence. Our petitions complement his will for us and for those we bring before him. Our desires line up with God's will.
If we go to God with our petitions first, we limit our effectiveness. We get answers to our petitions because we are his children. Praise, confession, worship, and thanksgiving prepare our hearts and minds to know what to ask. We will know God's opinion on many matters and will not ask selfishly or fruitlessly. He puts things into our spirits that he wants to accomplish in other people’s lives. This level of communication comes from Spirit to spirit communion and only comes through praise, confession, worship, and thanksgiving.
We can compare praying to watching children learn to color. In the beginning, little ones have two problems. They chose inappropriate colors, and they have a hard time staying in the lines. As they mature, they learn to do both, thus creating a pleasing picture.
Our prayer life is like the child’s picture. We do not always know what to pray for, and we do not always remain in the lines of God's will. We will pray for the right things when we learn to pray, utilizing praise, confession, worship, thanksgiving, and petition. We will also remain within his will. This will make a powerful prayer life and a deep relationship with God.