“Modern Christians have a deep desire to be taught how to pray well.
People who have encountered Jesus want to pray, but they don’t know how.
. . .
Among the most noble vocations in pastoral work is teaching people how to pray.”
— Pastor Brian Zahnd, Water to Wine, page 90
My prayer life was challenged about a year ago when I read NT Wright’s book Simply Good News. He includes as the final chapter, “Praying the Good News”, where he contrasts our usual way of praying with the structure of the Lord’s prayer, and shows that they are nearly the reverse of one another!
After reviewing each section of the Lord’s prayer, he writes:
When we turn around and go through it the proper way, every petition creates a context for the next one. When we call God Father, we know in the next line that praying for his name to be hallowed won’t be a matter of a thundering, bullying god giving himself airs while we cower in a corner. Likewise, when we truly pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, we can then move on to pray for bread, forgiveness, and help without the risk that those prayers will collapse into mere selfish or pragmatic petitions. (There is nothing wrong with bringing our own heartfelt needs, hopes, and desires to God. We are constantly encouraged to do that. The thing that can go wrong is to imagine that we can twist God’s kingdom into the shape of our muddled and often misguided longings.)
Praying this prayer, then, and praying it in the right order allows us not only to know and believe the good news but to become part of it ourselves.
Since reading that book, I began to use the Lord’s Prayer as an outline for my morning prayer times.
I have also been learning to pray the Psalms. I’ve been trying to read a few chapters each morning and to pray as I read. In particular, chapter 25 has been a prayer I have been trying to come back to each day:
4 Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
6 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
7 Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
8 The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.
11 For the honor of your name, O Lord,
forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose. (NLT)
More resources on Prayer:
- Dr Greg Boyd, “God Needs Prayer”
Books available online:
- Watchman Nee, Let Us Pray (PDF link)
- RA Torrey, How to Pray
- EM Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, and The Possibilities of Prayer