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Prayers


Quincy Brown

2/19/2020

 

Prayer

Do you remember the bedtime prayer, “Now He lay me down to sleep?” If you’re like me, this nightly ritual was the first prayer that you learned. And of course, at the end of the prayer, I would ask God to bless every person that I could think of, often trying my parents’ patience.
 
After I mastered this prayer, Daddy taught me how to offer the blessing over the meal by saying, “Lord, thank you for this opportunity to eat, I pray that you bless this food to nourish our bodies. Amen.” Ironically, I’ve since moved passed the bedtime prayer, but I continue using the blessing at every meal. How do you pray? Recently, I asked Rev. Leah Cunningham, pastor of Mt. Pleasant UMC, and the director of the North Georgia PrayerForce, for the past sixteen years, about prayer. I’m pleased to share her responses with you.

What is prayer, and why should we pray?
Prayer is a spiritual discipline that, when practiced by the individual or the body allows us to connect with God through Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit. It is a means of grace that is a beautiful and fragrant offering that is pleasing to God. 

In the Old Testament, the people asked Samuel to pray for them. Samuel considered it a sin against God if he did not pray and teach them in the right way (1 Samuel 12:23). If we genuinely care for and are concerned for others, we must pray for them.

Most importantly, we pray because Jesus did.  If the very Son of God, part of the Godhead, prayed to His Father, how can we not be compelled to do likewise?  Jesus prayed for Himself, for His followers, for His enemies, for all of creation. Jesus taught His disciples to pray so they would not lose heart. As disciples, we pray by following the example of Christ.

What are the benefits of prayer?
Prayer allows us to take inventory of our spiritual condition and seek the revelation of God’s will and instruction. Prayer can free us for joyful obedience or quicken us to wait. Praying for others encourages the person you are praying for and you, the intercessor. The most significant benefit of prayer is knowing that when you have reached the very heart of Jesus with adoration, confession, and petition, all is made well with your soul. Prayer gets us to where we need to be to handle everything this world throws at us and keep us connected to God so that we don’t lose heart.     
             
What is the best way to pray in public (e.g., asked to give the prayer during a morning service at church)? 
Prayer should never be an add on or accessory to worship.  It requires planning and order.  When possible, write your prayer out ahead of time and take time to think about what you are praying.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray. Practice it so that you hear what you are praying to ensure that it flows well and makes sense to the congregation. Don’t be afraid to read it. It will keep you from wandering in the weeds and forgetting something important. 

When requested to pray for a specific thing or event, stick to the subject.  In other words, if you receive an invitation to pray for the blessing of the school backpacks, it is not the time to pray for persecuted missionaries in foreign places.  Likewise, if some ask you to give the grace for the fellowship meal, there is no need to preach a sermon that includes thankfulness for the teachers and doctors and police officers and military servants in that setting.   Keep the prayer in the context of the event and purpose.
 
If you are praying a “collect,” or general prayer during the worship service, keep it concise and straightforward, covering all of the elements of the worship service to the glory of God.  Always glorify God and nothing else. 

If the pastor asks you to lead the pastoral/congregational prayer, here is a pattern that will never fail you:  


1. Start by declaring God’s attributes and character:  Almighty and Powerful God, Loving and Merciful Lord, Holy Spirit, our Comforter, Jesus our Healer, God of all Wisdom, and Love.  Name the One that you are calling upon to hear your prayer with praise and adoration.
 
2. Next, in humility confess the sins of the people and acknowledge God’s amazing grace and forgiveness.  Only in humility do we dare begin to address the petitions of the people. 
3. Be open to the Holy Spirit to pray as the Spirit leads. Listen as you pray, being cautious not to let the prayer become a sermon or a performance. It can be merely powerful to pray, “We ask for Your healing mercies upon those who have requested Your touch” without going down the list of people on the prayer list. Get specific only if the Holy Spirit has given you the lead.

4. Close your prayer by glorifying God’s goodness and presence and anticipating that God will honor the prayers of the people.
 
The PrayerForce, a ministry started by Rev. Roger Vest, is a team of laity and clergy who pray for all of the pastors and churches in the North GA Annual Conference throughout the year and send daily notes of prayer to pastors who wish to receive them.  Every week we pray for at least one church in every district and cover extension ministries as well.  The PrayerForce offers workshops and training on prayer and is a resource for you at prayer events at your local church.  
 
Please be on the lookout for more opportunities to learn about prayer in the district in the upcoming months. For more information on the PrayerForce, check out their website at  www.ngumc.org/prayerforce  or contact Leah at leah.cunningham@ngumc.net.

On the Journey,


Ross Boone (aka Raw Spoon) is a Christian writer/illustrator in Atlanta. Check out his “Stations of the Cross Mandalas” project at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stations-of-the-cross-mandalas--2#/.   Order your 14 mandalas and the animated video in time for your congregation, for Holy Week 2020.


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