- Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I’ve discovered that routines are equally helpful when it comes to prayer. There are certain patterns that I go to that launch me into intercession. Rather than getting hung up on the question of “what should I pray for?” I have a familiar way with which to begin.
I’ll devote more attention to several helpful prayer patterns in a later chapter, but let me mention a few of these formulas now to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. I’ll start with the believer’s armor. There are six pieces to this protective suit that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:13–17.
How does one put on “the belt of truth” or “the breastplate of righteousness” or “the helmet of salvation”? The writer of the old hymn, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus” knew the answer to that question. “Put on the gospel armor,” his lyrics instruct us, “each piece put on with prayer.” Good advice. Pray on the Ephesians 6 armor.
My kids and I made a practice of doing this on the short drive to school each morning. (My two oldest are now out of the home—and I miss sharing this routine with them.) Until just recently when he graduated, my youngest and I began many of our days with this prayer as we traveled to his high school. I’d ask him to choose one of the six pieces of armor and get us started. He might select the gospel shoes and begin with: “Lord, I’m putting on the gospel shoes. Help me to be a bold witness today. Let me run toward conversations about Jesus and the good news of his salvation.”
Then it was my turn. Perhaps I’d choose the belt of truth. I’d pray something like: “We want to be honest men today, Lord. Characterized by your truth. Help us to walk in integrity—to be the same in private as we are in public. Keep us from using deceitful words….”
Back and forth we’d go until we had prayed through all six pieces of armor (or as many as we could get to before we rolled into the parking lot). Anybody who has high schoolers knows the semi-comatose condition in which they head out the door most early mornings. Trying to engage them in coherent prayer could be a hopeless challenge. But I’ve found that the use of certain patterns, like the believer’s armor, launches us into meaningful intercession in a brief period of time.
Let me give you two more examples. The A to Z list of God’s attributes and titles has already been mentioned. Each day I move through this list by taking the next three entries and praising God for such. If I am in the m’s, I may be exalting God for being master, mediator, and merciful. Within half a minute of dropping into my prayer chair, I have already begun to extol God with heartfelt adoration. My pattern got me started.
The fruits of the Spirit (described as a singular, collective fruit in Gal. 5:22–23) provide another pattern. Knowing these nine traits by heart (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness, gentleness, and self-control) allows me to meditatively scroll through the list and choose one to focus on in prayer. “What do I need most today, Lord? Gentleness? Okay, take away my inclination to be harsh with others. Don’t let my speech be filled with sarcasm. Remind me of how gentle you have been with me—like a shepherd with his little lamb.”
Patterns help us overcome the obstacle of inertia and begin to pray. I’ll cover several more of these in chapter 3. You’ll learn the routines of “body parts,” “a few friends,” “persecuted believers,” and others.
This is not a technique that I made up. I learned it from Jesus. We’ve already looked at the disciples’ request in the opening verse of Luke 11: “Lord, teach us to pray.” His response in the verses that follow has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Most believers are familiar with this model prayer. If they hear the words, “Our Father, Who art in heaven,” they know to continue, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
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