The "how" and the "what" of prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Ro 8:26)

I was very blessed to be in a great prayer meeting last night. It was full of life and faith and the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit. We felt the presence of God, heard him speak to us through the prophetic word, and spoke out words into the heavens that will make a difference on the earth. I love meetings like that!

I hope it's not too controversial, though, to say that over the years I have been in many prayer meetings that I have not loved. Ones that have done more to stir a yawn than a prayer of faith!

I was thinking about this a couple of days ago, and it occurred to me: We need instruction to guide us how to pray; we need the Spirit to guide us what to pray. This is how is laid out in the Scriptures. When the disciples wanted to know how they should pray, they went to Jesus for instruction. When it comes to what we should pray for, Paul tells us that we need the Holy Spirit's help.

I believe the reason why many prayer meetings fall short of the mark is that they try to do things the other way round! The only instruction that comes is a list of what should be prayed for (sometimes this takes the majority of the meeting!) Very little guidance is given on how prayers will be ordered or made most effective; that is left to the Spirit.

I know that some direction on what to pray for is required. I'm not disputing that. But I don't want to go to a meeting just so I can say I've ticked all the boxes in the to-pray-for list. That has more to do with religion than faith. I'd rather leave a meeting with most of my boxes unticked, but knowing that that there had been a genuine encounter with the presence of God, and those things that did get prayed for made an impact in the heavens that will change the earth.

1 comment:

Ricky Carvel said...

Great observation Chris!

So often we do get bogged down in our own agenda of the what and never question that we might need teching on the how.

Having said that, many years ago I endured a sermon series on the how of prayer (or one aspect of it, at least) that I would say actually damaged my ability to pray. I approached the series thinking I knew how, and came away confused and (for a while) actually unable to pray. So care is needed there!