Talked to God Lately?

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How's your prayer life? Some would answer, "What prayer life? I don't have a prayer life. I'm too busy!" Yes, we are all quite busy, but is that a legitimate excuse? Several years ago, a good friend of mine passed on a phrase that his father used to tell him: "You make time for what you value most."

What do we value most? If what we value most is a relationship with God, our Father in heaven, then we will set aside time in the day to pray to Him.

David was king over the entire nation of Israel. Can we even imagine all the responsibilities that came with the job? Still, he prayed to God morning, noon and evening (Psalm 55:17). Daniel, one of the chief advisers to the Persian governor of Babylonia, found time in his busy schedule to do the same (Daniel 6:10). Both men placed God first in their lives, in spite of their many commitments. Their examples leave us without excuse.

Others might say, "But I don't even know how to pray! What am I supposed to pray about?" That's a fair question. The 12 disciples asked the same of Jesus. On one occasion they saw Jesus praying, and when He finished, "His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray'" (Luke 11:1). The instruction Jesus gave them in the words that followed we could call the model prayer.

This sample prayer (found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4) is not intended to be recited over and over when we pray to God. Rather it is a general outline of the topics to cover with God as we come before Him daily in prayer. Let's take a look at what the various phrases in this prayer mean.

The model prayer

Our Father in heaven—We are to pray to the Father. In the introductory part of our prayers, we are to acknowledge Him as such. We should express our thankfulness for His role in our lives as a loving and involved Father. We can discuss with Him how He works with and helps us just as a human father looks after the needs of his own children. Reflect with Him about His glorious throne where He sits in heaven. Read passages about God's throne in all its majesty (for example, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4).

Hallowed be Your name—We are to revere and hallow God's name. He is described in many ways by His various titles. As we talk with God about the greatness of His name, it helps us consider commandment number three of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain [in an empty, useless or meaningless way], for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7).

Here are some examples in the Old Testament of names of God taken from the Hebrew language, the language in which most of the Old Testament was written. Elohim is a plural term representing God as creator, connected with His creation of all things (Genesis 1:26).

YHWH is the Eternal, the Immutable One, the One who was, who is and who is to come. YHWH represents God in a covenant relationship with those whom He has created. YHWH is connected with a variety of descriptors in the Bible: YHWH who provides, who heals, my banner, who sanctifies, who is peace, of hosts, our righteousness, who is there, Most High and my shepherd (Genesis 22:14; Exodus 15:26; 17:15; 31:13; Judges 6:24; 1 Samuel 1:3; Jeremiah 23:6; Ezekiel 48:35; Psalm 7:17; 23:1).

El is the Almighty in all His strength and power (Genesis 14:18-22; 16:13; Psalm 57:2) [material gathered from E.W. Bullinger's The Companion Bible, Appendix 4].

All of these names give us a better understanding of our Father's majesty and greatness. We are to honor Him as we address Him.

Your kingdom come—We are to pray that God will hasten Christ's coming to establish the Kingdom of God (2 Peter 3:11-12; Matthew 6:33). We are to talk with Him about why we need His Kingdom to come, giving specific situations that we see going on in the world, in our own lives and in the lives of our friends and family (Ezekiel 9:4).

The world overflows with tragedies and God wants us to spend time reflecting on the pain and sorrow in the world today, so we can vividly see the need for Him to send Jesus Christ back to earth to set up His government, a kingdom that will yield peace, joy and abundance.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven—Here we continue to let Him know that we want what He wants. We ask Him to help us seek what He wants for us. And we ask that He do the same for others. We can also ask for God's blessing on His work being done through the Church.

This section of prayer prevents us from becoming self-absorbed. It helps us realize, "It's not all about ME." It's about God, His plan and His purpose. Jesus Christ sought God's will, not His own, as He prayed to God before His trial and crucifixion (Matthew 26:39). We must do the same, never forgetting that God always has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:31; 1 Peter 5:6-7).

Give us this day our daily bread—God wants us to continue asking Him to look after our physical and spiritual needs. He assures us that He will (Matthew 6:25-33), but He still wants us to ask (Matthew 7:7-11).

We are to be specific. It is not selfish to discuss with Him our specific needs. It's acceptable and appropriate to continue asking for something (Luke 18:1-8) if we are seeking His will. Some of our needs include protection at school and work, in the car and at home; guidance in what we say and do; an income for food, clothing, shelter and so we can be in a position to help others in need; strength to ward off the pulls of the world (1 John 2:15-17) and the influence of Satan.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (or forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us)—We are to ask God's forgiveness for our specific sins. We ask Him to help us see areas in our lives where we don't realize we are sinning. We confess to Him our sin, how we fell short, what we did or didn't do that got us there in the first place (Psalm 51).

We are to also thank Him for Jesus Christ whose sacrifice enables us to be cleansed of our sins. Of course we have to commit to change. We have to talk with God about the plan we will devise to keep ourselves from sinning in that area again. We ask for His help and guidance in implementing that plan.

Also, we solicit His aid in helping us to be forgiving to those who have sinned against us. We ask for His help to "let the hurt go." We must both forgive and ask for forgiveness!

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one—This is where we pray for God's spiritual guidance in our lives and in the lives of others. Again, we are to be specific. We know what we and those close to us are battling and can talk to God about those battles. We ask for His help as we develop a plan. We can claim the promise of James 4:7, which is a strategy for victory over Satan's influence.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever—We began with praising God's greatness, and we end doing the same. This portion of our prayer reminds us again that we are not the focus of our prayer—God is. He is great; He is love; His will is going to be accomplished; and we are thankful that He has given us a part to play in His plan.

Here we talk with God about His wonderful plan that will come to pass. Of course, we can't talk to Him about that plan unless we know what it is! Read passages such as Revelation 21 and 22 that reveal to us a much different future than what we experience now. Ask that He keep us mindful of that magnificent plan so we don't lose the vision as we experience trials in our lives.

Amen—"Amen" means "truly" or "so be it." We conclude our prayers in Jesus Christ's name as He instructed the disciples to do in John 14:13-14. He makes it possible for us to pray to the Father.

Final tips

• Become "conversational" with God, being always mindful of honoring Him as we address Him.

• God converses with us as we read His Word, the Bible. One-way-only conversations don't work—with others or with God.

• Pray in private (Matthew 6:6) at a time when there will be minimal distractions.

• It's a good idea for us to clear the cobwebs from our eyes before we pray. Otherwise, we can tend to fall asleep!

• We must strive to become totally dependent on a relationship with our Father to the point that we feel like we can't survive physically and spiritually without Him. In reality, we can't.

• We must make time for prayer daily for it to become a habit. It gets easier as we stick with it.

Do you value the opportunity you have to develop a strong, lifelong relationship with your spiritual Father? To do this you must pray daily. Remember, we will make time for what we value most. VT

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