This week our question comes from a conversation about prayer. The discussion centered around the prayer life of Dr. David Cho, the pastor of the largest church in the world. Cho is known for prayer and it is said he prays five hours daily. Indeed, his expects his leaders to pray three hours each day. During the conversation the questions came up, "How could anyone pray for five hours a day? And what on earth would you pray about?"
The issue of how to pray for any length of time is a common one. It's probably the issue that was the basis for the disciple's request in Luke 11. There we read that Jesus had been praying and apparently his disciples had been watching. The Bible shows Jesus praying for lengthy periods of time and the disciples probably asked the same question posed during our conversation-how do you pray so long and what do you pray about?
The answer is found, I believe, in the teaching Jesus gave to his disciples. Jesus taught them what is called the Lord's Prayer. This prayer can be used as an outline, which may well be what Jesus had in mind since nowhere else does he give his disciples an incantation or mantra to recite. Using the Lord's Prayer as an outline, we might pray something like this.
Our Father in heaven, holy is Your name. Begin the prayer by offering words of praise. This prayer begins by addressing God by one of the many biblical titles that helps us relate to the fullness of God. You may offer words recognizing God's divine parenthood. Or you may express your understanding of God's holiness. You could reflect on some of the other names of God in scripture and the attributes they reveal. For instance, the Rock of our salvation. God the Almighty. Jesus the Son of God. The Good Shepherd. The Great Physician. The comforting Holy Spirit. The Power of God. And so on. This is a time of offering adoration and recognition of God's awesome nature and God's love.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The next part of the prayer focuses on obedience. The prayer reflects our commitment to seeking whatever it is God wants for us. Begin with the recognition that it is God's Kingdom we're seeking and continue the prayer by asking what God's will for your life is. This is the time to ask God about any decisions you may have to make, asking God to show you what to do. You may also want to pray for God's will to be done in your family, in your church, at your job, in your community, across your nation, and around the world. Pray for the leaders by name and about whatever circumstances come to mind. You may want to close this portion of the prayer by committing to God whatever it is God desires in your life.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Now is the time to ask of God those things you need. It's also a great time to thank God for the things you have. Note this part of the prayer begins by asking for things we need. Before asking for the desires of your heart, pray for the needs of others. If you keep a prayer list of people who have asked you to pray for them, go through that here. Pray for the needs of your neighbors and your friends. Continue by praying for others you know who are in need, and then for those whom you don't know. When you've finished with that, then it's appropriate to ask God for whatever it is you desire.
Next, go through the list of things you're not proud of. Seek God's forgiveness for those things you've done that have hurt others: the unkind word or deed, the broken promises, and the breaches of trust. Then consider those who have been hurtful to you and the grudges, wounds, or scars you still carry because you have yet to forgive them.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Now pray about those temptations that call your name: the bar, that good-looking temptation, the fridge. Ask God to help you steer clear of them, and when you can't, that you'll have God's willpower to overcome any temptation to do evil. And don't forget to pray for those you know who are struggling too.For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. This final part of the prayer recognizes that it's God's Kingdom we're praying for. It's not our responsibility to do more than God has called us to, and we don't get to take personal credit for Kingdom building either. Here we surrender our lives and our will over to the care and the will of God. You may also want to pray over those things you're committing to during this time-share with God what you're going to do and what you're going to be avoiding. And then, when you've made your last "Amen," go forth and do what you've said you'd do.