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Attentive Prayer: Part III

 

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 in order that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.

 

Introduction

This morning we conclude our study on Attentive Prayer.

 

Now remember, in Part I of our study we introduced the notion of Attentive Prayer. Attentive Prayer is prayer that is attentive to the specific person/situation you are praying for and attentive to God’s hand at work in that situation.

 

Last week, in Part II of our study, we saw that Attentive Prayer is the very sort of prayer that we see modeled over and again throughout Scripture. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer provides the perfect model of the very sort of prayer that we are calling attentive FN#1.

 

This morning, in Part III of our study, I want to look at some concrete tips to help you get started.

 

IV. How to Get Started- Hands on Tips for Attentive Prayer

Note: the idea here is not to offer longer or more dramatic prayers nor is it to add empty religious sounding clichés or to spiritualize everything. Instead, the idea here is to be attentive both to the needs of the specific person/situation you are praying for as well as to your heavenly Father’s work in that person/situation. Therefore, begin by asking:

1.    Why- Why am I praying? What is the specific need and what is the deeper Kingdom aspect to that need FN#2. Notice, here we are attending to the specific details that the person is going through as a part of their trial (In other words, we are praying for both what they are going through and how they are as they go through it). Not only that the best way to accomplish this attentiveness is to listen, ask, and remember FN#3

 

2.    What- What does God want to see happen in this person/situation? What is the point of the thing for which you are praying FN#4? Notice that here we are attending to God’s will/hand. Not only that, the only way to accomplish this attentiveness is to spend non-superficial time in God’s Word every day.

For example, when you are praying for:

Nursery- what is the point of nursery? Why do we have a nursery (train child/facilitate parents’ worship).

 

3.    How- Ask, how can I be a part of the solution- think about it: if God has brought this need to your attention and put this matter on your heart, there is a very good chance that He has done so because He intends you to be a part of the solution/blessing that He is providing.

 

4.    Finally, follow up- If you have asked for prayer, give an update. If you are praying ask how things are going (be attentive to the person/situation and to God’s hand at work in that person/situation)

 

 

V. What do you do when you get stuck and don’t know what to pray?

A] What not to do- First, don’t make up a bunch of empty religious sounding clichés just to have something to say. Second, don’t revert back into old (“be with”) habits. Instead:

 

B] What to do-

1.    Stop, slow down, refocus, and ask the Spirit to fill and help you

2.    Pray for the very thing that God has been showing you in your own quiet time FN#5.

3.    Return to the Lord’s Prayer as a templet, praying through the pertinent requests reflectively and with discernment (vs merely fill in the blank style) FN#6

4.    Ask: ask the person and ask the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers

 

 

VI. Be Vigilant- Attentive Prayer takes discipline, practice, and genuine caring. Therefore, be self-aware of how you are praying and be vigilant against:

1.    Falling back into old habits (lazy unreflective “be with” prayers)

2.    Praying less- you may find yourself shying away from prayer and thus praying less. Therefore, remember, you are called to pray. As such, the solution is never to pray less. Rather, the solution is to work on praying better.

3.    Simply praying dispassionate theological tracts- notice, while it is vital that we seek/attend God’s will in all our prayers, prayer is never a matter of simply stringing together theologically correct requests (that was the problem with Job’s friends). Instead, just like our walk, our prayers are to be motivated by a genuine knowledge and love of God and a genuine knowledge and love of the person

 

VII. Sundry points

1.    Remember, not all prayers are Attentive Prayers. There will be times when reflection and attention are not in order (e.g. corporate prayers, on the spot prayers, situational prayers). However, you will find that when your spot prayers are based on prior attentive prayers that those attentive prayers will inform, refine, and be given summery by any other prayer you pray on any other occasion

           2.    Last, remember our Ash Wednesday Lenten challenge: work on and grow                 in praying attentively- with this one addition: throughout Lent commit to                 pray attentively for one unbeliever

 

Bottom line: Attentive Prayer takes discipline, practice, and genuine caring. You will need to focus, slow down, and constantly ask the Spirit’s guidance. You will need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting as well as listen to the person giving you the request. In turn you need to be grounded in Scripture. Notice the result:

·      Attentive Prayer is how we will be praying for our church, outreach, and each of its ministries

·      Attentive Prayer is how we will be praying for our specific ministry

·      Attentive Prayer is how we will be praying for each other

·      Attentive Prayer is how we will be praying for our covenant children

 

Footnotes:

1] The Lord’s Prayer is not a formula of prayer. That is, it is not a prayer that we are called to mindlessly recite/incant like a spell. Notice then, in all the prayers we hear throughout the New Testament, we never again hear the Lord’s Prayer. Yet the Lord’s Prayer informs and shapes each one of those subsequent prayers. That said, it should be noted that the reason we recite the Lord’s Prayer in corporate worship and teach it to our covenant children/new converts is because- if this is the templet Jesus gave us for prayer, then it is a good idea that we know that templet well and have it close at hand as we shape our own prayers.

 

Second the Lord’s Prayer is not a form prayer That is, we are not called to simply fill in the black with a person’s name as we pray each request: Thy Kingdom come they will be done in and through Ralf Jonson as it is in heaven.

 

Instead, the Lord’s Prayer provides the sort of things that are to fill our hearts and minds as we pray for a specific person/situation. In other words, these are the things we are to attend as we pray for someone/thing particular. As we do so, some of the categories provided by the Lord’s Prayer will be more prominent that others given the particulars of the situation we are addressing. None the less, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to attend to God and the specific person

 

 

2] Think about it: if God often uses a situation or trial to minister to a person (teach, correct, draw, assure them) then is it not proper to use the occasion of praying for that situation to also seek God for the ministry He is providing them through that situation as well as the fruit of the resulting maturity.

 

3] i.e. remember what it was like when you went through something similar and the sort of things that you needed God’s hand to do for you

 

4] In other words, what is the point of a worship service, Epistle reading, snacks, healing, nursery, and etc… . What is God’s purpose in granting/establishing/ providing the sort of thing that you are praying for

 

5] The idea here is that we are all being conformed to the same image of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Therefore, there is a good chance that God, in some form or fashion, is currently working the same sort of renewal (trust, faith, obedience, etc) in the person that for whom you are praying that He is working in you. If not, chances are, it will not be long before He does.

 

6] When you don’t know specifics, it is harder to use the Lord’s Prayer as a templet without falling back into making up empty clichés, rote recital, or unreflective fill in the blank. This is why point #2 (praying what God has been showing you in your own quiet times) is so good. It is concrete and specific. Regardless, pay attention to how you are praying and avoid bad tendencies.

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