It has been said that in human relationships it is better for communication purposes to listen twice as much as we speak. Now this is true for human interaction, but not so much when it comes to prayer between Christians and God. Last month we saw that for us to have a healthy relationship with God, we must take time to listen to Him speak to us, like we must attentively listen to others around us for healthy human connections.
God no longer speaks to us audibly or through dreams or visions. To listen to God then, it is necessary to hear, read, study, memorize, meditate upon (through SPACEPETS – check out last month’s article!), and apply the Bible, God’s Word, to our lives on a daily basis. But unlike human relationships, we should spend at least as much time speaking with God as we do listening to Him. 1 Thess. 5:17 challenges us to “pray continually,” that is, make prayer a part of our necessary routine. So, how do we daily and practically get into the routine of talking to God? Furthermore, for whom and for what should we pray when we pray?
While prayer is a simple matter to perform, it takes intentionality to make it part of one’s daily lifestyle. We know as Christians we are to pray but getting into a consistent, workable habit of doing so often evades us. While there is no singular approach to prayer, let me suggest that you use the Lord’s Prayer found in Matt. 6:9-13 (NKJV) as a guide to pray incrementally throughout the course of each day, thus maintaining regular conversation with God.
While the Bible tells us that David (Ps. 55:17) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10) prayed three times a day, and others prayed at least twice a day (Neh. 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:3) there is no set amount or limit to prayer in Scripture. The Lord’s Prayer naturally divides into seven parts so that you can pray at least seven times a day in the approach I’m suggesting. Again, how often we pray is not the primary issue nor should prayer be a legalistic, mundane practice, but if you wish to move off center and get into the practice of prayer, an intentional regimen of praying at set times throughout the course of each day is a wonderful place to start. We will look at the first part of daily prayer now and complete the other six parts in the seven-step process in next month’s article.
So, how does this work?
First, when you get up each morning, in addition to listening to God in His Word and seeking His will & wisdom for the day, let prayer be the first thing you do. Start by praying the first segment of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven.” I suggest you employ the acrostic CATS (i.e., confession, adoration, thanksgiving, specific requests) as a part of your initial prayer of “good morning” to God. Confess any known sin you might have, express adoration or praise to God for who He is and thank Him for what He has & is doing in your life, expressing confidence in His sovereign control of all. Then, either as a part of your early morning prayer or at some more opportune part of the day, ask specific requests of God for which you have need.
This leads to the question of for whom and for what should I make request? There’s a straightforward way to remember the answer to this question using your hands. The fingers on your left hand represent for whom to pray, and the fingers on your right hand represent for what you pray. When you hold up your left hand, your thumb will be the closest finger to your heart. The people closest to your heart are your family and friends. Your thumb reminds you to pray for them first. Next is your index finger. This finger is the one that points the way. It represents the teachers, mentors, and leaders who direct your life, including spiritual leaders who point you to Jesus. Pray that they will help you and others make wise, godly decisions. Your longest finger is the middle finger. It should remind you to pray for people in authority and people who influence society, such as local, state, and national leaders. Your ring finger is usually your weakest finger. It helps you remember to pray for people who are most vulnerable physically and emotionally including the elderly, the sick, and the poor. Your pinky finger represents you. It’s okay to pray for yourself, but you shouldn’t start there. But for what should I pray for myself? As the left hand represents for whom you should pray, the right hand guides us on what I should pray for myself (and for others for that matter).
Just like your left hand, your thumb is closest to your heart on your right hand. So, the first thing you pray for is—your heart or mind. The Bible says to guard your heart because it controls your life (Prov. 4:23). Ask God to help you keep your mind clean and to reveal any areas of sin or weakness for which you need to repent and turn away. The index finger usually signals the number one. Use that finger to remind you to pray for your priorities, pursuits, and problems in your daily schedule. Your tallest finger, the middle finger, is the one that most stands out. It reminds you to pray for your positive influence on others for Christ and for opportunities to share the Gospel The ring finger reminds you to pray for your close relationships. Ask God to help your relationships to grow and heal and bring Him glory. Finally, your little pinky finger is a reminder to pray for God’s blessing on your life (His best for you) as He sees fit. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to bless your life —it’s just not the most important thing, so it’s the last thing for which you pray. I suggest you check out the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chron. 4:10 as a good prayer in seeking such blessing.
Well, that’s it for now. We will look at the last six steps in praying the Lord’s Prayer throughout the day next month. Until then, use your two hands and the information above to jump start your prayer life for your good and God’s glory.