Greetings once again friends! This is Episode Nine of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Personal Practices of Prayer.”
This is a follow-up to the two-part series focusing on the meaning of several key expressions in The Lord’s Prayer—the prayer Jesus taught his disciples—which were the focus for our time together last week and the week before.
A Little Background
The bulk of this chapter is taken from a book I wrote and published in 1977. Thirteen Weeks tor Riches: (Which Could Be Glory) was my first attempt at writing and self-publishing a book. The last chapter in Thirteen Weeks was titled “Daily Growth.” I have adapted and updated some of the content for My Seven Essential Daily Prayers.
(As an aside, here are the seven prayers I write about in the book:
- Purity in My Mind
- Righteousness in My Heart
- Integrity in My Life
- Joy in My Spirit
- Strength for My Body
- Wisdom for My Counsel
- To Be a Godly Influence in the World
The eighth—and final—chapter in the book acts as a summary where I shared some thoughts about “What’s next? Where do I go from here?” The title/subtitle of the chapter is . . . “Building The Firewall: Establishing a Daily Habit of Essential Prayers.”
The following stories and thoughts are adapted from that chapter.
If you would like to have more information about the book, you can look it up on amazon.com or click on the picture above.)
During the early to mid-1970s my wife and I—together with our two young children—lived in Taiwan as missionaries. The first two years of our residence there were spent learning Mandarin Chinese. We were part of a small group of other young couples who had been asked by the denomination to prepare for ministry among the millions of Chinese people scattered throughout Asia, including—possibly—the Chinese mainland.
Taiwan provided a base for us to learn the language, become acquainted with—and adapted to—the Chinese culture.
Quite frankly, those early months spent in learning the language were often challenging, even discouraging. It seemed all of us desperately need a spiritual lift. Learning how to pray effectively seemed to hold the promise for answers to what we were feeling. We needed encouragement and inspiration.
Well, God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. Several of our fellow language students joined us in praying for God to send someone who could guide our understanding and practice of personal prayer.
Very soon, after we began sharing our need with each other and with God, we received notice that a well-known minister from America was scheduled to hold a prayer conference in Taipei! Praise the Lord! We were excited to know God was answering our need.
The speaker was a retired minister about seventy years old. He had more spark and energy than I’ve seen in many men much younger! His secret was a daily connection with God, giving him a divine enthusiasm for life.
Pastor Glenn Coon told of his experience when he left home to attend college. His father, a godly man, took him to the railroad station. Before they parted they had prayer together, then his father gave him this advice: Spend at least one hour every day with the Lord—no matter what.
When Glenn arrived at the college he got a job milking cows on the college farm. He had to leave for work at 4:00 a.m. A busy school program kept him quite busy with classes and study until quite late at night, so to get his “hour with the Lord” he had to get up at 3:00 a.m.! He did this faithfully every morning all during his college years.
At the prayer conference Pastor Coon told me, “I have continued the habit of spending an hour with God every morning. Not always at 3:00 a.m., but every morning before anything else has a chance to interrupt, my time with the Lord has always had the highest priority. It is this habit—more than anything else—that has energized my life and given me the strength I need every day.”
When I heard Pastor Coon give this testimony I was inspired to follow his example. I set my alarm clock for 6:00 a.m.—a half hour earlier than my normal wake-up time. The following morning I headed downstairs to my den. I was ready to begin this new adventure in prayer. I closed and locked the door behind me and sat down at my desk.
It was only then that I felt the enormity of my ignorance. I realized at that moment I had no idea how I could ever spend a full hour in communion with God.
I sat at my desk and bowed my head.
“Lord,” I prayed, “teach me what I should do here now. I admit, I don’t know what to do or what to say.”
As I prayed those words the thought flashed through my mind that part of prayer is Bible study—and good Christian reading material. So I decided to try dividing the hour into three 20-minute segments: the first twenty minutes for reading; the second period for Bible study; and the third for prayer.
Behind me on the wall was a whole library of books and other miscellaneous materials for reading. I selected a book I’d been wanting to read for some time, opened it, and began.
At the end of 20 minutes I put in a bookmark, and set the book in a special place on my desk and turned my attention to the Bible.
How to study it?
I had read the Bible through from cover to cover a couple of times already. I didn’t want to do the same thing over again. I wanted variety.
I couldn’t think of any special way to study the Bible that morning, so I decided I would read the New Testament in a modern translation. That would be a change. I picked out Today’s English Version. I’d been wanting to read it for a long time.
Now came the real trial. How could I spend an entire twenty minutes on my knees? Twenty minutes! That block of time seemed as formidable as a fortress. Previously, I had never been able to spend even five minutes in prayer without getting bored.
But now, here I was. The time had come.
I pushed my chair back and knelt before my desk.
Lord,” I prayed again, “I don’t know how to pray like this. Help me know—and help me to pray the way you want me to.”
I didn’t hear any trumpets or audible voices, but once again I heard in my spirit the same voice I had heard before in moments of spiritual awakening. I recognized his voice immediately. The Holy Spirit directed my thoughts to Jesus teaching his disciples to pray.
Still on my knees I reached over and got my Bible, and turned to the Lord’s Prayer.[ Matthew 6:9-13] As I studied this model prayer I saw that it was divided into three major parts:
So, that’s my trouble! I thought. All I’ve ever done in prayer is make requests. What I need to do is begin and end my prayer with praise!
I closed my eyes again and started to praise the Lord.
But, the thought crossed my mind, What should I praise him for? What has he done for me?
You know, we usually do just that. Our center is not God, but ourselves! “What has he done for me?” is the question we’re always asking. It’s as self-centered as can be!
Suddenly it flashed into my mind that our praise of God—our worship of him—doesn’t depend on whether he has done anything for us or not. We should worship him and praise him because he is worthy of worship. He is worthy of praise!
After a few moments I remembered some requests I needed to present to the Lord. I spoke them aloud and then thanked him for answering these needs according to his wisdom and love. I ended my prayer time with another session of praise and worship.
I looked at my watch. My twenty minutes were just finishing. I hadn’t been bored at all!
But, before closing this story, I must sound one note of caution. If you are looking for a thrilling experience with God, you must not make the experience primary. You must make God himself the object of your adoration and praise. We must not worship the experience we seek. Instead we must worship our great Creator God. He—and he alone—is worthy of worship.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts more thoughts with you.
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