Friday, September 21, 2012

A Plan for Prayer

A SUGGESTED PLAN FOR PRAYER (adapted from If God Already Knows Why Pray? By Douglas F. Kelly) After having read a daily portion of Scripture, it is time to turn the promises into prayer. This takes time, planning, and effort. Be Systematic Some believers will be able to spend an hour each day in specific prayer. For those of you that wish to try this, Dick Eastman suggests a plan to divide an hour into twelve portions of five minutes each. During each one you cover a different aspect of prayer, thus making an hour much easier to get through. For my own part, I have made an adaptation of Eastman's method into seven segments: praise, waiting, confession, scripture praying, watching, intercession, and thanksgiving. Each one is perhaps five minutes each, except for intercession, which lasts for perhaps ten to fifteen minutes. At the end of this appendix you will find several pages to assist you in organizing your time in this way, if you wish.

At the top of each page there are suggestions, based largely on Eastman's work, as to how to spend your time. The rest of the space is blank, for your own notes, such as relevant Bible verses, specific items for prayer, encouraging thoughts, or matters and names for intercession. Long-Term Value If we are too busy to consider giving this forty to sixty minutes (or some portion of it) to God, let us say four or five times a week, then we may possibly be busier than He wants us to be, and our busyness could ultimately become counterproductive. There will be many days when you cannot spend as much time as you would like, so that variations in time and approach are fully legitimate. But if you do have something like this as a basic goal, you may be pleasantly surprised at the order and blessing it brings into your life and into the lives of others far and near. Over the years, you will find that these ten or fifteen minutes of systematically reading the Word, followed by thirty-five or forty minutes of planned prayer, are the best, most powerful, and fruitful hours of this short pilgrim life that you spend on earth. They chart your course and set your compass. They make the efforts of your working hours lastingly effective. In addition, they release the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit within you and bring down the blessings of God upon those around you. Most of all, they keep you in tune with and bring joy to the heart of Him who loved you and gave Himself for you. A Forty-Five Minute Outline for Prayer Praise (five minutes) Mentally and verbally honor God for who He is and for what He has done. This is where the Lord's Prayer starts: "Hallowed be Your name." The Psalms are a great repository of praise. At times it may be appropriate to start off by singing: you could use some hymn of praise that you know, or even better, find an actual psalm—praise inspired by God Himself—in your hymnbook that has been made into verse and set to music. Waiting (five minutes) Be still before the Lord (see Psalm 62) and seek to appropriate His presence. Like Brother Lawrence , lift your eyes up to the Lord and speak of your love for Him. Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to concentrate your attention upon the Lord. From time to time it might be well to read a brief devotional chapter during this segment of waiting (such as one of the thirty-one chapters of Andrew Murray's Waiting On God). Confession (five minutes) Remember that you are in the holy presence of the God who "desire[s] truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). From time to time pray through Psalm 51 or Psalm 32 or Psalm 139. Be very honest and specific about your sins. Confess them, name them specifically in order humbly but gladly to claim such promises as 1 John 1:9. Pray the simple prayer that John Calvin often prayed at the end of his sermons: "Lord, help us to hate our sins enough to turn from them." Seek a fresh communication of His Spirit to give you power to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Scripture Praying (five minutes) Take portions of Scripture (or patterns of God's dealings revealed in the Word) and ask God to apply them in your life and in the situations for which you are concerned. In the words we quoted earlier from C. H. Spurgeon, say to the Lord, "Do as thou hast said!" What you read before you turned to prayer will often be of some assistance in this process. Just remember, God loves His Word, and when you turn His Word into prayer, He is hearing His own voice, and that voice will have a good reception in heaven above! Watching (five minutes) Seek to be alert to what is going on around you in the spiritual and material world. Try to understand reality in terms such as those of Ephesians 6, which describes Christian warfare and armor. Enter into the battle and pray for the defeat of Satan and his evil influences both in your own life and in that of the church. Pray for a fresh "binding of the strong man" that his goods may be spoiled, that precious souls may be brought out from under his sway into the glorious liberty of the children of God (see Matthew 12:29). Think of the current local, national, and international news events from this perspective. Remember how Daniel's prayers caused a battle to be won in heaven. This is a good example of what watching means. Intercession (fifteen minutes) Here it is very important to be specific. If people ask you to pray for them, then by all means keep some kind of written prayer list. Write down their name, their specific need, and the date. If and when you find out that the request has been answered, then thank the Lord for a few days and scratch it off your list to make room for others. Keep missionary letters in order to turn them into prayer. Have access to some kind of world map, so that you may pray systematically for the various countries of the world over the weeks. Keep a definite list of your own needs and those of your various family members. Pray specifically for church, school, business, and state. Pray for revival. And never forget to pray for your enemies. Enough prayer for them in some cases may well turn them into friends! Thanksgiving (five minutes) Thank God for His wonderful triune existence and for His infinite goodness to His church in general, as well as you in particular. Thank Him for something He has done in the last day or two. Thank Him for what His Word says He is going to do. Again, be specific and particular. As the old gospel hymn says: Count your many blessings; Name them one by one, Count your many blessings, See what God has done.