I was tempted to title this article, How to Pray, but that implies there is only one way to pray. Clearly, because our prayers are intimate and personal, there is not a single way to approach God. This article is written based on something that works for me, and it might help you develop an approach that works for you.
To be clear, I am not talking about different channels to the ear of God because Scripture is very clear that Jesus is the only way we have access to the Heavenly Father. What I am talking about are different internal visual tools you might use to aid in your prayer life. The visuals I use are loosely based on the structure of worship and prayer found in God’s Word.
For example, when the people of Israel approached God in the wilderness, there were steps they had to go through to go into the presence of God. This is the way God established worship in the tabernacle, and it can be used as an example. First, there was the outer court. Here, much of the business of worship took place. It was the place where the people offered sacrifices for their sins. From there, priests would enter into the Holy Place where the candlestick and showbread were kept. This was reserved specifically for the priests, so it represents a more personal closeness to God. Finally, the High Priest alone would go into the Holy of Holies. This represents the most intimate contact with God.
Likewise, the Model Prayer found in Matthew, has different layers. The first is worship, followed by confession, then petitions. Sometimes it is easy to look at those stages, understand them intellectually, but find it difficult to implement personally. With that in mind, I want to tell you what helps me. Again, this is personal and may not work for everyone. The key is to find something that works for you, and be consistent.
When I enter into daily prayer, I first have to settle my mind and heart. We are all busy and there are many distractions in life, so I find it helpful to simply take a few seconds to shove those random thoughts swirling around in my mind out of the way and focus on my prayer. Once settled, I step through the door of the throne room of God.
It will take longer to write this, and longer for you to read it, than it does for me to picture it. Directly in front of me is a magnificent dais with steps leading up to the imposing throne. Upon that throne sets God in all His majesty. In my periphery, I see saints who have gone on before me worshipping Him; angels are also worshipping and singing His praises and are busy about doing the work He has assigned them; overhead, the stars in the sky twinkle and shine and make beautiful music to honor Him.
But my focus is on the One sitting on the throne. In Him, I see majesty, power, and strength. In His bearing, I see justice. He is the King that all other kings defer to. He is the Lord that all other lords submit to. He is the creator of all, and it is only by His will that everything stays in its place and performs it purpose. It is in this setting that I know He is worthy of all worship and glory. Here is where I praise Him for all He has done for me. As blessings come to mind, I lift up praise to Him as my gift to Him. In return, I find joy and excitement. But I also see mercy in His gaze as it rests on me, and I experience the unbounded love in those eyes.
That is when I take my next step toward the throne. Now, my vision changes. Gone are the worshippers. All that is in the room is the throne, but God is no longer on it. He is now standing in front of me. I see Him as my Heavenly Father. Still shining through those eyes is the love I know He has for me, but I also see concern and disappointment. You see, there are barriers between Him and me; barriers of sin and rebellion. It is time for me to confront my shortcomings, to see them for what they are, and to understand how they affect our relationship. These sins must be removed in order to fully experience His presence. As they are revealed to me, I confess them and ask for strength to not do them again. I don’t want to see the scolding in His eyes for those things again. Admittedly, there are faults I must address again, but I find that each time I confess them and see in His eyes how they affect Him, I find myself more resistant to their influence.
Finally, all the barriers are removed, all the sins confessed, and there is nothing between God and me. That’s when I see the smile on His face, and the joy in His eyes. And He opens His arms wide. I run into those arms for the hug of a father for a beloved child. As I enter His embrace, I step even closer to His throne. In that embrace, I find that my vision changes again.
God and I are sitting on the steps of the dais. We are no longer Father and child; we are now best friends, confidantes. We are in easy conversation as we exchange thoughts and ideas. Here is where I make my desires known. As we talk, I know that He knows more than my words; He knows my heart, the things I can’t put into words. We talk about my dreams and what I want to accomplish. I receive from Him positive feedback on those things that are within His plans. He directs my aspirations to things that will bring Him glory, and I am grateful. We talk about my cares in life; the situations I find myself in that I am not sure how to handle, and I wait for a sense of direction to come from Him. These are the close times that mean the most to me. This is why I come back every day, because there is nothing like the joy, peace and love I experience during this time.
As a pastor, I bring to His attention each of my church members. We are small now and I don’t know how I will handle it when God allows us to grow; but for now, I bring them one by one to Him and pray for them and ask for His blessings for each one. And, I bring to Him those prayer requests that have come my way. Sometimes they are people I don’t know, but I know the concern of the ones who brought them to me, so offer them to Him, also.
This is an intimate time that has become a vital part of my life and my ministry. The more I engulf myself in this kind of prayer, the stronger I feel; and in spite of my limitations, I have faith and trust that God will give me what I need to accomplish what He has given me to do. The prayer never truly ends, but other things intrude upon the moment. The tasks of life and the activities around me pull me back into the life He has set before me. The difference now is that through His strength, I know I can handle it.