Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Challies evening

Earlier this evening I posted a prayer based on a Puritan prayer I found on Well, after thumbing through the site some more, I found a review on a new book titled "Praying Backwards." Apparently, part of the book focuses on the typical Christian's use of "in Jesus' name" in prayers.
[The words] "In Jesus name, amen!” [typically] close prayer and for most of us mean something along the lines of “well that’s done, open your eyes!” or “I really mean it!” Chapell premises his book on taking “in Jesus name” and placing it at the beginning of the prayer (hence “praying backwards”).
I have not read the book, so I will not try to critique its ideas in any meaningful way. Instead, I will put on my constructivist thinking cap (for all you educational theorists) and share what comes to my mind as I read the blog post.

I tend to end my prayers with "in Jesus' name," but I also try not to let that statement become a formula or trite conclusion. I try not to let it be a way of saying, "I'm done now Lord." For that reason, I sometimes try to adapt the statement to the specific prayer. For example, in my prayer for those affected by the cyclone in Myanmar, I closed with:

I ask all this in the name of Jesus, who suffered so much and now stands as a high priest who is able to sympathize with our needs. Amen.

And when I do not necessarily adapt the statement to the specific prayer, I often try to address some specific aspect of Jesus' character that gives me the freedom to approach God with my prayers. For example, in tonight's prayer on patience in the fruit of the Spirit, I closed with:

Father, I praise you and honor you in the name of Jesus whose death bought me the redemption my soul needed, and who became the firstborn among many children you have adopted into your family.

May all the glory and honor and praise be to you. Amen.

After all, the point of the statement is not to meet some prayer formula, that if we say it, forces God to respond in a certain way. This isn't the Prayer of Jabez. The point is to communicate our reliance on Jesus as the sole reason we have any claim to God. And we do have a glorious inheritance from God because, and only because, of the work of Jesus (Eph 1). Without Jesus, we approach God as defiled sinners who are repugnant to God. But, through Jesus, our Advocate (Zech 3), we approach God as pure and blameless. And this is true whether we put those statements at the beginning or the end of the prayer.

I have also heard of the ACTS method of prayer--Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I think the method is based on the Lord's Prayer, but seems to generally be found in many biblical prayers. In my prayers, I usually try to address those major themes, but again I try not to pray by formula.

In my mind, it makes sense to begin with adoration. It is good for me to remind myself why I am praying to God. He is great; he is in control; he can meet my needs; he deserves my worship. Obviously, confession is part of prayer. We all fall short of the glory of God and must rely on his eternal, unwarranted, free mercy and grace. That leads necessarily to thanksgiving. And supplication is a major aspect of prayer; you have not because you ask not.

Another quick idea I'll share is from the Autobiography of George Muller (highly recommended!). He wrote that he previously had trouble staying focused while reading his Bible. But, he found that if he prayed as he read, about the things he read, it helped him stay focused. I have tried this and find it to be an amazingly simple and profound concept. Actually, I just remembered that I previously posted on this idea.


Father, may I never treat prayer as a formula or an obligation. May I see prayer as a way of growing closer to you, and expressing my heart to you and learning your heart. May I always remember the glorious gift you have given me through Jesus that allows me to approach you with confidence. Because, I know that you who gave your Son for my salvation will not withhold any good thing from me. May your will be done and may I always have faith that you hear my prayers and answer them according to your loving kindness. Amen.

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