The Elements of Prayer
Today we will continue our look at the book by Dr. M.R. DeHaan, The Chemistry of the Blood. We will continue our look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer contained in the book of Matthew. This teaching was in response to the disciples’ request to be taught about prayer. Last week we looked at the negative teaching on prayer.
Do not pray like the hypocrites, prayer is not to make us look good in our neighbor’s eyes. It’s not to elevate our status. Long public prayers are not a necessity. Less is more. Jesus did pray for hours on end, but he did that in private. In public, remember, less is more. Finally, no vain repetitions.
Let’s pick up here, now we will go to the positive teaching on prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus is speaking here,
“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
I would venture a guess that in one version or another, each of us has this memorized. Yet, Dr. DeHaan believes that our common use of this prayer is as a vain repetition. I understand his point of view, but I disagree with him. My prayer is that our Sunday use of this prayer is not your only prayer during the week. If it is, this study on prayer is just for you. It is a vain repetition, IF this is your only prayer.
However, if you have an active prayer life, this prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, when done corporately at church, unites the church body in communion, not just in the present tense, but also with the historic church, back to Jesus himself and the disciples. This cannot be a bad thing.
Also, there are times in our lives when this prayer is all we can muster. Life’s circumstances may be overwhelming us, and this memorized prayer is all we can muster. I think of soldiers in battle, first responders in the midst of a dangerous response, or any of us in an ER with a loved one. Our brains are so focused on other things, that this is all we have. During these times, The Lord’s Prayer seems like a lifeline, linking us to God, and sometimes our sanity. In these instances, this prayer reassures us, it reminds us that God is indeed in charge, and that he loves us.
The next point I agree with Dr. DeHaan, The Lord’s prayer is a model prayer to show us how to pray. Prayer is a universal gift for each and every believer. I wish we all understood this. In addition, prayer is a science. There is more to prayer than most would think. Let’s dive into this by looking closely at this prayer by Jesus.
Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray.” This prayer is a model, not in the sense that it is to be our only prayer, but that the structure of the prayer should be the model for our prayers. The structure of all of our prayers should contain the same elements that The Lord’s prayer contains. Our prayers should follow it’s pattern, not the exact same word usage. It is a very brief prayer, no vain repetition, it covers the whole scope of our needs for spirit, soul, and body in under thirty seconds. This prayer is definite and to the point.
Looking at this prayer reveals that it easily divides itself into three “LOOKS”. There is first an UPLOOK, then an INLOOK, and finally, an OUTLOOK.
The first element of prayer (in verses 9-10) looks to God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the uplook.
Then comes the inlook, our look to self and need. This is in verse 11, “Give us today our daily bread”. This is for us and our provision.
Then comes the outlook to others around us in verse 12. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
The uplook, the inlook, and the outlook are each representative of the Three Elements of Prayer:
Communion is that phase of the prayer in which we turn our attention to God. Do I need to even state here that when it comes to God, each of us has an attention deficit? Communion is the first essential element and the one on which the others are based. It is foundational.
The second element is Petition. Here our attention is turned inward to our needs.
Intercession is when our attention turns to others, where we become concerned for the needs of others to the point of losing every element of selfishness.
I mentioned that Communion is essential and foundational. Until the soul is established in communion of prayer there can be no power in our petitions or our intercession. Think about this. Let it sink in.
Communion is that part of prayer which removes every hindrance between God and ourselves. It is an act of worship and adoration which seeks only the glory of God and subordinates all our personal petitions to His will and to His glory. This is an attitude of complete submission. It seeks nothing for self, but is only occupied with Him and His goodness and His loveliness.
Communion is necessary to establish the CONTACT so that our petitions can reach Him and our intercessions for others can be heard and answered by God. Communion is the power cable that connects our soul with the battery of God’s power. When this cable is not connected, our petitions and intercession are just idle chatter.
Here we have this great dynamo of the omnipotence of God. We do have access to this power. We are a poor and needy people. We don’t have this power ourselves. We must tap into God’s heart and run a power cable to ours before the power of prayer can flow into our lives. This power cable is our worship. It is the first duty of all men and women.
I’ll give you an example. Look at the order of the first five books of the Bible, usually called the “Pentateuch”. In Genesis we read of mankind’s sin and ruin. In Exodus we see God’s redemption by blood.
Then follows Leviticus with its ritual for worship of the children of Israel. Leviticus is the Great Worship Book of the Old Testament. Then follows Numbers, the book of Israel’s walk from Egypt to Canaan. And then comes Dueteronomy, The Book of the Law, also known as the Book of Works.
Hear this please, this is God’s order. After a man or a woman is redeemed, they must first learn to worship before they will be able to walk and serve. Until they learn to worship, they will produce little to no fruit for their efforts. Before we can preach, or teach, or serve in any capacity, we must first learn to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. This is the lesson from Mary and Martha.
Let’s face it, if we are honest with ourselves and God, most of our prayers, if we pray, are prayers of petition, where we are asking God for stuff like he’s a cosmic vending machine.
Do you ever go to the Lord in prayer just to admire Him and thank Him for what He is, not for what he’s done for you? Do you ever go to Him just to tell Him how precious He is, and how you admire Him for what He is, not just what He is to you?
Communion does something to us, whereas in petition we have something done for us. Do you hear the difference? In intercession we have something done through us.
But before something can be done for us or through us, something must be done to us. And this we receive through our communion in prayer. This is how important our worship and adoration is. It maintains our line of power between us and the Lord. If our line is down, we lose access to God’s power, at a time when we may need it most.
Communion hooks up our power cable with God. Petition throws the switch and turns on the power of our prayer. Intercession connects others with our machinery of prayer and power.
Before we need something done for us we all need something done to us. We need to have this heart connection with God. If the cable is not there, we are just speaking words, idle words of no significance. But if we are plugged into God’s heart, via His Holy Spirit, well then, the power is available to us. It is then time to start praying and keep on praying.
We need to develop a consistent flow of communication between us and God. This keeps the lines up and running for every emergency. This is what Jesus meant when he said, in John 15:7-8,
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC