How to Deepen Your Prayer Life Part One

I think most people long to have a deeper, richer experience with God in prayer but we don’t really know how to get there. Simply making more time for prayer often leaves us more frustrated as our mind wanders and we struggle to know what to pray about. I have found in my own life a God-given tool that can help us grow in our experience of prayer. It’s simple enough for a child to use and yet deep enough for a mature Christ follower to benefit from.

In Luke 11, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, His response was to teach them a simple and yet specific pattern for prayer. This prayer tool is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Now the mistake many people make is to think that the Lord’s prayer is only a prayer to recite verbatim—as often occurs in church services. While reciting the prayer can be helpful, what radically impacted my prayer life a few years ago was when I began using the Lord’s prayer as a guide for my praying.

In this prayer, there are 6 areas of focus, each of which functions as a spiritual “mile marker”, letting us know where on the “prayer track” we find ourselves. This is not intended to be a legalistic list of topics that must be prayed for, but rather can serve as a guideline to help us develop a healthy and balanced prayer life. For many of us, our prayer life consists of us asking God for things. It’s certainly appropriate to ask God for things in prayer but if that is all our prayer life consists of, we are missing out on a fuller experience with Him. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are given 6 areas of focus—the first three focusing on God, the last three focusing on our need. This pattern can help us avoid getting into a prayer rut that is singularly focused.

Here are the 6 areas of prayer, plus one bonus area:

The Lord's Prayer

When I have a prayer time with the Lord, I frequently use this pattern to guide my praying. So in this and the next few blog posts, I’d like to unpack further what this looks like practically speaking. Let’s look at the first two in the rest of this post.

Presence: “Our Father in heaven”

When I begin my prayer times, I like to spend a few minutes reflecting on and enjoying the Lord’s presence—the reality of Him being my Heavenly Father. I often begin this section by praying something like this: “Father, you are my abba, my daddy. I love you and I rest in Your love for me. Thank you that Your love for me is not dependent upon my performance, my ability, my worthiness but rather is solely based upon Your Son Jesus.” It is wonderful to just sit in that reality for a few moments, not saying anything. Just enjoy this incredible relationship that is yours in Christ.

In this section, I also will often acknowledge, not only His love for me but also His Lordship. He is “in heaven” which speaks of His position as King and Lord of the universe. I may pray something like, “Father, thank you too for your power and your majesty. You are Lord of all. You are in control. I rest in Your power and presence today.”

Praise: “Hallowed be Your Name.”

I then transition to this second section, in which I focus on Jesus. To hallow His name means to honor it as holy. His name represents the fullness of who He is as Savior and Lord. So in this section, I spend a few moments expressing praise to Jesus for who He is. I might pray something like, “Jesus, hallowed by Your name. I praise You for your mercy, your power, your holiness, your life poured out on the cross. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me.”

Next post we will look at Purpose and Provision.

  3Comments

  1. Sam   •  

    When there is a lack of relationship, there is an emphasis on rules. Or mile markers. Certainly, Jesus gave us sample themes within a sample prayer, but his emphasis still seems to be on the relational aspects of that prayer rather than the “6 areas of focus.” In other words, if helping us remember these 6 areas was so important to him, seems like he could have come up with a helpful alliteration like you have to jog our memory. He doesn’t, which seems to indicate he’s more comfortable with the messiness of relationships and we’re more comfortable with analyzing and dissecting his words in order to create a system.

    In seasons of my life when I have felt distance from God or simply wanted to experiment with how I talk to him, I have tried different methods like the one above. However, they never last long for me because it seems to rob me of any spontaneity, any…romance. It becomes more about the method and less about the heart. I’m sure there are people that this works for, but then I have to ask, “How do you relate to those around you? Do you have a formula like this for talking to your friends? Do you have difficulties in relationships without a list to fall back on?” Are we really so bad at relationships–even with our Savior and passionate Father–that we can’t trust our hearts to lead us in an authentic conversation? I can’t imagine talking like this to my wife or my best friend. Why, then, would I talk like this to Jesus?

    I wonder if using a formula like this allows us to hide behind it instead of truly being exposed and being known and fully knowing our God. I believe this is truly what we want, but can be terrifying, as well. Instead of staying on the safe shore of control, perhaps God invites us to wade deep into the ocean of a relationship with him that is built on trust.

    • alankraft   •  

      Thanks for the comments. I totally understand how this post felt a bit “formulaic”. That is certainly not my heart or my experience in prayer. You’ll notice on the diagram that the center of the diagram is the word “prompting” and that that ties in to each area of prayer. Prayer is a two way relationship with God and in no way is to be a formula.

      It is hard to ignore the fact that when the disciples asked Jesus to pray, He gave them the Lord’s prayer as a guide. He was teaching them key elements of a healthy prayer life. If this is not helpful for you, that’s fine. But I’m not sure it’s helpful to assume that anyone using this kind of “guide” is somehow relationally challenged in their lives.

      One of my pastor friends has the deepest prayer life of anyone I know. When I asked him a few years ago what book or resource had been most helpful in his prayer life, he told me it was when he learned to pray the Lord’s prayer. He was the one who used the term “mile markers” and I thought it accurately described how the Lord’s prayer can help us.

      I wrote this post because of many I know who struggle to know how to pray. When I have shared this teaching with other believers, the response has been amazing. Many have thanked me for helping them broaden their prayer life. That was my desire in writing this post–to share that with those who struggle in this area. ________________________________

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