Our whole church recently worked through the devotion book “Growing in Prayer: Learning to pray with dependence and delight” by Stephen Shead. It is a small book with 28 Biblical reflections and four small groups. We worked through the reflections individually at our own pace and worked through the studies in small groups.
What is prayer?
It was refreshing to look at what prayer is and dwell on God and why and how we communicate with Him. The most precious thing for me was to reflect on who God is and what He has done for us. His love, His pursuit of us, his character and that He wants us to know and love Him more and more. The Bible verses were an amazing compilation of everything we need day to day to remind us of Him and who we are before Him.
I went on a journey of reflection on God and His glory impacting our world. “…life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:23) started us off. This drew us away from our to do lists and into our relationship with God our Lord. We looked at our God, who is worthy of our praise. And in doing so, were able to delight in who He is. Shead helped me understand that we don’t pray because God owes us an answer, but because we belong to Jesus. We talk to him and meditate on Him not just to know Him but to experience Him (taste and see that He is good Psalm 34.4-8).
In this exploration of Christian prayer, we discovered that is so different from the prayers of those who hold other religions and beliefs. As Christian, we pray as people approaching their heavenly Father. And our Heavenly Father has extravagantly reached out to save us and bring us to Him. We approach God with freedom and confidence. God is keen to hear from us, our feelings, our doubts, our worries, our confusion as well as our joys, excitement, and peace.
How to pray
Then we reflected on not just talking to God but experiencing Him. Sharing our lives with God. “…our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3b).”We were encouraged to meditate on scriptures as a way to dwell on God and experience Him. It was noted that knowing God more builds our identify in Christ. We were encouraged to know and remember who we are in Jesus. Passages such as Ephesians 1:3-7, 13-14 provided us with a joyous reflection of who God is and who we are before God.
We were encouraged to consider who God is, and who we are as His children, through the gift of salvation. We were reminded to pray to the Father, in Jesus’ name, through the Spirit.
We reflected on The Lord’s Prayer as a model of how we should pray, and a platform to learn more about prayer in accordance to God’s will. The Lord’s prayer begins with “Our father in heaven, hallowed by your name.”Shead helpfully connects this to Psalm 99:1-3 which starts off with “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble,” and finishes with “let them praise your great and awesome name- he is holy.” It was such a precious week reflecting on the Lord’s prayer, meditating on related scriptures and slowing down to study each section. I found it helpful to grasp the power of prayer and it motivated me to pray more. Thankfully, Shead didn’t shy away from unanswered prayer. Day ten of the book helpfully deals with this difficult subject.
The habit of prayer
Shead had helpful advice on developing the habit of prayer. The basis was “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:15-18) He encouraged the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) format for our committed time of prayer, noting it includes a combination of delighting and depending on God – the main stays of our relationship with God.
Praying for others
When asking God for the needs of others (intercession) we were reminded that Jesus intercedes for us (Heb 7:24-25). What a privilege we benefit from daily. As we trust God we can be assured of Jesus’ prayers for us. Romans 8:33-34 reminds us again of this truth. John 17was held up as a source of prayers for others, using some of Jesus’ words from His prayer. We were also reminded of Paul’s prayers for others such as Philippians 1:9-11. Shead helpfully provides many prayer from Scripture in an appendix.
Finally we were encouraged to consider the greatest need of all people– to hear about Jesus, believe and be saved from coming judgement. We were encouraged to pray for specific people, for our own witness, that God would raise up workers for the harvest (Matt 9:37-38) and for those we know proclaiming the gospel, both in our churches and cross culturally (Col 4:3).
I commend this little book to you and your small groups as not just another instruction manual on prayer but a delight of dwelling on our heavenly Father who loves us, provides for us and wants to spend time with us.
Sheree serves as secretary for the Women’s Ministry Committee and is a member of St Aiden’s, Wagga Wagga.