Lesson 13: Practicing Daily Prayer
Note: This is a Sunday School lesson by Scott Carr, Jr based on ch. 15 in Dr. Tim Keller's book, "Prayer".
* We’ve talked about various elements of how to practice prayer. Now, we are going to put it all together.
* 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:16-17
* Daily prayer is an ancient practice (Daniel 6:10). Monastic communities had seven fixed hours of prayer in the Middle Ages. As time has gone on, the number of hours have been reduced, but they still maintain regular times of prayer. English Reformer, Thomas Cranmer, in the Book of Common Prayer, retained times of morning and evening prayer that everyday people were meant to follow. The calendar had two chapters of Scripture read in the morning and two in the evening. Other Protestant groups followed suit and had a Daily Office structured around the reading of Scripture. Calvin set up five times of prayer each day; in the morning, before work, before meals, after meals, and when going to bed. Most Protestants developed a habit of private morning prayer and evening family prayer. Throughout the 20th century, there were numerous pamphlets offering guidance on how to conduct daily devotions. They suggested finding a quiet place and to spend time considering what it means to meet with God. The person would have a journal to jot down their thoughts during Bible study, and then give the same amount of time in prayer.
* George Mueller’s Meditation Questions:
1) Is there any example for me to follow?
2) Is there any command for me to obey?
3) Is there any error for me to avoid?
4) Is there any sin for me to forsake?
5) Is there any promise for me to claim?
6) Is there any new thought about God Himself?
* Prayer was outlined as first confessing sins, thanking God for the salvation of the cross, petitions for others, and concluded with petitions for oneself. However, the emphasis in these pamphlets was studying a text, not so much meditating and coming to experience God, and prayer was focused more on confession and petitions, with very little adoration. To remedy this, many Protestants have gone to more Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. These guides have four recommended times of prayer, rather than two, but have less focus on Bible reading. It seems that doing prayer twice daily is more helpful than 20th century evangelical practices and should be more biblical than Catholic and Orthodox traditions (Note: We do believe Catholic and Orthodox believers are true Christians. The spiritual lives of Protestants would be greatly enriched by our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters, just as they can be enriched by Protestant practice). Systematic readings of Scripture should come before prayer.
* Prayers also need to be more informed by the prayers of the church. Our prayer lives should not be completely privatized. Modern evangelical churches tend not to give examples of carefully considered prayers.
* We also need to add meditation to our practices and have more expectance of experience in prayer.
* Pattern for Daily Prayer:
* Evocation-“to bring to mind”, think through what it is you are about to do, think about who the God you are about to address is (see earlier lessons), use the prewritten prayers of others or a Psalm.
* Meditation-the more we have read and studied the Bible, the more enriching this will be for our prayer lives
* Word Prayer-use the text you have meditated on as the form of your prayer, pray the text (see Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray).
* Free Prayer-simply pray what is on your heart, of course keep in mind a balance of praise/confession/petition.
* Contemplation-this is where we have previously talked about having a sense of the truth of what we have studied and prayed. What happens here will vary a great deal. It is a time to reflect on what has happened during our prayer time and what we have learned.
* See the pattern for daily prayer (pp. 252-255).
* Praying the Psalms:
* The Psalms were used in Judaism and from the early days of Christianity as aids in prayer. They reflect every kind of situation and emotion we can experience. Using them provides a “grammar” for prayer and is the best tool for teaching us how to pray.
1) Verbatim praying-as they are written as prayers, we can pray them just as they are written.
2) Paraphrase and personalize-most common, use the ideas of the psalm to guide your prayers through specific situations in your life.
3) Responsive reading-the psalms that aren’t written as prayers can be used to give us themes that promote adoration, confession, and supplication.
* One of the most important elements of the Psalms is how they point to Jesus. We can use the Psalms to point us to Christ in prayer by remembering He Himself would have sung and prayed the prayers during His life. We can consider what role a particular Psalm played in His life, how it spoke to His identity and mission. When we come to laments that speak of suffering, we can consider the sufferings Christ underwent to procure our salvation. There are also Messianic Psalms that serve as direct prophecies of Christ.
* Where are you?
1) Is God real to your heart?
2) Are you finding prayer and Bible study more of a duty than a delight?
3) Are you in a time of spiritual dryness and are neglecting prayer and Bible study?
4) Is your heart hardened towards God?
* There are things here we are not responsible for, and there are other things that we are responsible for. It is our responsibility to maintain Bible study and prayer so that we are ready for those times God makes Himself real to us.
* Isaiah 25:6-8
* At the end, God will remove the shroud of sin, death, and suffering that covers us as a result of the Fall and we will enter into eternal fellowship with Him. We will have a close, intimate relationship with Him. Christ’s blood is the basis for that joy, for it is the wine of the feast. We are invited to partake in small samplings of the feast now.
Assignment-figure out a way to structure your daily prayer time and keep it up until you die, revising it as you need to. Look at the recommended resources in the back of Prayerand at times, purchase one of the recommended books to further deepen your understanding and practice of prayer.