A Prayer Life for Dummies

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This teaching was spawned from a request. The request came from my 15 year old son. We spoke briefly about prayer the other night and he asked me to give him a basic outline of a good prayer, a place to start, a benchmark. So I must immediately apologize to my son for using the word “dummy” in the title. My precious one, you are not a dummy…at least not all the time!

As you would think, this at first seemed daunting. On one side stands the fact that prayer can be a very private affair or at least should be. On the other side stands the fact that there are many types of prayer. He was asking me not for the ability to pray in front of others, to learn the right, fancy words, but rather what he should be praying for in his personal prayer life. Wow…really?

Now there are some great books on prayer, but my son trembles at the thought. In fact there is a book called “Prayer for Dummies” which I’m sure is great but I have not read it. It seems this question of how to pray has been asked since the very beginning! So I guess I’ll just settle into the reality that this may or may not help you, but it is from my experience and therefore the truest I can be for my children.

So I prayed about it a bit and asked the Lord to give me a simple, yet potently specific model for my curious little rug-rat. The obvious answer these days is to just talk to God like a friend, like you would have a friendly talk with anyone else. And yes, I agree that is a lovely way to pray; I pray this way more times than not. Another model (or rather THE model) is the Lord’s Prayer; but in my experience, it is too easy to recite it by rote memory and miss the personal heart-prayer that God really seeks. Seasoned Christians can literally pour their heart out into the Lord’s Prayer but it requires a revelation from God of the weight and the power of the words. So to try to make it personal and capture the spirit of true prayer, I offer this as another type of prayer that any young believer should be praying. This is not to replace, but rather to give a viable option. It is a serious prayer progression. This is for Christians and therefore assumes you have already come to believe in Jesus Christ and want to get to know Him. So here it is.

  1. Invitation: This first phase of prayer is crucial. We tell God that we desire Him in our life; we invite Him in. The Lord is a gentleman and appreciates the invitation. This prayer phase needs to be done every morning, followed by a prayer before bed. The morning prayer should be something like this: “Good morning Father. Praise you Lord, thank you for another day. Jesus, I invite you into my day; Holy Spirit, I invite you to walk with me throughout my day. Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me. Thank you Father for loving me and wanting to be with me today.” The evening prayer should be something like this: “Father, thank you for your love and for hearing my prayers. Thank you Jesus for being with me today, whether I realized it or not, You were there every step of the way. Holy Spirit, thank you for guiding my steps and being patient with me. Forgive me for my shortcomings. Give me peace as I rest in sleep and in Your Name.”
  2. Recognition: This second phase of prayer is very exciting. We begin to recognize God’s influence around us. We catch glimpses of His hand not only in our heart but also in our daily comings and goings. This prompts us to pray more fervently. We can begin to thank the Lord for showing up in a noticeable way. We ask for more of Him and invite Him into a deeper walk with us. We should never rush in this part of our prayer life. It can last for great lengths of time. When we recognize Him in our day-to-day walk, we should immediately praise Him for His grace and remember it in our nightly prayer. Remember to tell God you recognized Him today; thank Him for showing up; and ask Him to continue to make Himself known to you.
  3. Revelation: This third and most incredible phase of prayer is best defined by God Himself. I could never describe it properly. But I will say that revelation is when the Spirit reveals not only a glimpse of God but also the truth of God. We begin to see not just the “what” but the “why” and the “how”. God will begin to reveal what true love is, what true peace tastes like, what and where joy comes from; we begin to see the traps in life for what they are, we recognize where God is and where He isn’t, and the list can go on. What was recognized by you in phase two, begins to be understood. This is where the verse in Amazing Grace says, “I once was blind, but now I see”; this is where we begin to see the world through His eyes. Faith grows exponentially in this part of our prayer life and I am convinced that it is quite personal in nature; hence, the apology for not being able to describe it properly. Although universal truths will be revealed, it is for you a personal revelation and therefore is as unique as you are. Remember to thank Him for revelation; ask the Spirit to teach you more about the revelation; and invite God to continue revealing as He sees fit.
  4. Sanctification: This is the ongoing phase of prayer in which all disciples of Christ must partake. Sanctification is the “burning up” of all that is sin and perfecting in us what the Bible calls “the mind of Christ”. Once truths are revealed in phase three, we are compelled to be changed by those same revelations! We are told many times in the Bible that our walk with God is marked by a transformation, an upward call into being changed, and the ultimate goal of being “transformed into His image”. For someone just starting, I will spare you the details. But I must at least brushstroke the basics: you will be walking in the spirit as a partnership between you and the Holy Spirit, you will begin to produce what the Bible calls “fruits of the Spirit”, and you will be led into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. At this point in your prayer life, you won’t need anyone to help you pray, as you will be assisted by the Spirit in your prayers. By the way, the Spirit is with us from the very beginning, but by this time you will know Him well, as you have spent much time together!

A Special Note: We must never forsake any of the phases of prayer, even if we think we are more spiritual. This is a trap. We must daily invite the Lord into our life; we cannot leave a “standing invitation” like a note stuck to a door! We must daily ask for eyes to recognize Him in even our most seemingly trivial occasions. We can begin to take this for granted and therefore miss the opportunity to praise Him. We must daily ask for revelation in proportion to our faith. It is crucial to always seek more and more revelation of His truth in the Word, in His creation, in our meditations (thoughts) and in our prayers. The more God reveals of Himself to us, the more in love with Him we become and more trusting we become. Sanctification happens quite naturally after the revelation of Christ, as it causes us to hunger and thirst for more.

Hope this helps whom it was supposed to help, and surely my 15 year old will be able to rest in faith that I won’t steer him wrong!

Parting Shot: You are a dummy. I am a dummy. As soon as you think you are not a dummy any longer, you have entered a whole new level of dummy! The Lord still has to remind me of these same things…a lot…too often really…I’m a dummy. So don’t feel bad son, you are in good company.

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