[In the light of recent tragic events, there is a “Prayer for the Nation” (video) below.]
[This is part 2 of Lessons in Prayer. Part 1 is here.]
When we speak to God a certain awareness of our relationship with God is pressed upon our minds and hearts. It begins to happen the moment prayer begins. It is rooted in the profound fact that we are actually speaking to and listening to Almighty God. Slowly, incrementally, with each passing day, with each sincere prayer, we are rehearsing certain truths about our relationship with God, not just because the truths are verbalized, but because they are enacted. Through the progressive soul-shaping dialogue with God we gain a spiritual consciousness that we are under God, we are with God, we are in God, and we are for God.
Peter Marshall, the Scottish-American pastor who was also Chaplain to the United States Senate, offered this prayer about prayer in the 1940’s:
Lord, teach us to pray. Some of us are not skilled in the art of prayer. As we draw near to thee in thought, our spirits long for thy Spirit, and reach out for thee, longing to feel thee near. We know not how to express the deepest emotions that lie hidden in our hearts.
Follow up: you are invited to a 4-week email series with many more teachings about prayer, and resources to help. More info HERE.
1. Prayer and Our Relationship with God
- Prayer as position: “we are under God”
- Prayer as presence: “we are with God”
- Prayer as power: “we are in God”
- Prayer as purpose: “we are for God”
2. Prayer in All Circumstances of Life: James’ Final Words
- Praying when we are in trouble (5:13)
- Praying when we are happy (vs. 13)
- Praying when we are not well (vss. 14-15)
- Praying when we are guilty (vs. 16)
[Earlier posts in this series about responding to atheism:
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive . . .
“Forgive us our trespasses” (v. 12). Now you can be an atheist and believe in repentance and forgiveness, but they can never amount to anything more than a reconciliation between human beings. That would be a good accomplishment and better than nothing. But there are a couple of major problems. First, how high is the motivation for reconciliation between us and other people? If there is no God, if there is no moral absolute above us and apart from us, why should I go through the work of seeking forgiveness or granting it for that matter? An atheist may argue that reconciliation and peace is a better state of affairs because reducing injury between people or groups is a more desirable way to live. But
Your kingdom come, your will be done . . .
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer, this manifesto of theism, says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 10). If you pray that, then you are saying, “I believe God is a ruling king. He is leader over what he has created, he has a plan, and he knows how it all is supposed to work, so that means that he knows how my life is supposed to work. When I am confused or feel strung out or discouraged or feel like giving up, he is the Protector and the ruling Sovereign.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .
The Lord’s Prayer begins simply: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (v. 9). Now you could say nothing more than that and have a belief system that fills in the deep cracks and fissures of atheism or materialism. Four truths: There is a God, He is personal and benevolent, He is above and apart from this finite world, and He is great and worthy of adoration.
Perhaps the most pervasive kind of atheism is what some have called practical atheism, the life stance of many who may say they believe in God, but for all intents and purposes, the reality of God never enters their minds, never influences a decision, never shapes a value, never prompts them to worship. Not atheists formally, they might as well be—there is no conscious thought of God or interaction with God. And one might even wonder if practical atheism is more dangerous than dogmatic atheism. Which is more dangerous: to admit you don’t believe in God, or to say you do and then absolutely ignore Him? Remember that Jesus reserved his strongest words for those who claimed righteousness but who defined it in their own terms.
Another face of atheism in the modern world is the worldview known as secular humanism. Two words here: “humanism” and “secular.” Humanism, broadly viewed, can either be hostile toward God or accepting of God.
The starkest religious alternative to Christian faith is atheism. While it may seem strange to even describe atheism as a religious alternative, doing so is accurate because atheism is the dogma that there is no God, a position that usually requires a great deal of talk and debate about God.
At the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the organization called American Atheists, its 44-year-old president strode to the lectern and opened with the words: “Happy Vernal Equinox and good morning. My name is Ellen Johnson and I am the President of American Atheists.” A very different picture from the previous president, Madalyn Murray O’Hair (who disappeared in 1995 and was recently confirmed murdered for money), Ellen Johnson is a newer picture of atheism. Slender, blonde, a self-described soccer mom, she nonetheless carries on the message of being freed from the restraints of religion and of wanting tolerance in a free society.
Here in my home state of Wisconsin, Tuesday is voting day. In all the political commentary these days, once again there is one quality that is almost never mentioned: wisdom. Young Solomon pleased God when he said, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” That is the issue for today, especially because the next president of the U.S. will be not just the most powerful person in the U.S., and not just in the world, but in all of history (given ever-increasing military might). Here, then, is a prayer we may pray for any election day…
You have said in your word that whenever we know we need wisdom, we should ask for it, and that you will give it generously.
As we take the extraordinary step to vote for our local, regional, and national leaders, we pray for your wisdom from above.
Teach us to pray. That is what Jesus’ disciples said to him one day, and it should be our longing as well. Jesus’ answer was the so-called Lord’s Prayer. In it is a world of truth, a pattern of behavior, and a perfect picture of a godly disposition. It is good to let these words sink in…
Our Father in heaven…
Whenever we pray we should address God in personal terms.
Many believers say they pray best when prayer is a continual dialogue with God during the course of the day. As one person put it: “I do not often pray for 15 minutes straight, but hardly ever does 15 minutes pass without me praying.” This is obviously not the kind of prayer where someone is down on his knees in a quiet room of his house. It is, rather, the idea that one can say a sentence or two to God anytime, anywhere, out loud or silently.
Done many times over during the course of a day, this develops in us a steady heart-openness to God. It allows one to respond to God at the moment one sees any special act or blessing from God. It is to ask God questions during the day, the whole day, about what you’re seeing, the decisions you’re making, your choice of words before they come out of your mouth.