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Why should we pray? Besides several obvious answers like God tells us to pray and prayers matter to God and prayer glorifies God, we should pray so that we can participate in our world’s spiritual battle, be humbled, and finally, because it will change us for the better. Christ prayed and offered us a great template to use for prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is a common name for the Our Father, the prayer that Christ taught to His disciples when they asked Him how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). It is an outline, not a special incantation. The Our Father is meant to help guide us during our communications with God.

(Luke 11:1-4) 1 – “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

The outline intended for our use is this:

1. First, to understand who we are praying to, God our Father who is in Heaven.

2. Hallowed means “to make holy.” Prayer is personal and recognizes our Father’s holiness when we pray. He is close and caring, but not our equal. Awe and humility are the correct emotional responses.

3. What do you want? God is not an ATM machine. Christ tells us the focus our requests for God’s Kingdom to come to our world, His Will to be done in our world now as it is in His world, Heaven.

4. We pray for God to meet our needs, to take care of us. There should be a sense of trust here that God knows are real needs.

(Psalm 38:9) – “All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.”

5. We ask God to forgive our sins, search our hearts, recognize that we need His forgiveness. Just as our Father graciously forgives us, we to must also forgive one another’s shortcomings.

6. Resisting temptation takes strength. Our world is full of temptation. It is through the Holy Spirit’s guidance that we can overcome sin. Our supplication is for the Holy Spirit to be part of our prayer life. It is in prayer that we ask for guidance.

(Romans 8:26-27) – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

7. Finally, Satan is real, he is the master of Spin. We end our prayers with a request that God deliver us from Satan’s cunning traps.

With Christ’s own words as a guide, there is also a concept of prayer called Contemplation. Ignatius of Loyola 2, born Iñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola, lived between 1491 and July 31, 1556. He was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian, who together with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Jesuit order dedicated itself to teaching and missionary work. Ignatius recorded his methods of prayer in a celebrated treatise called the Spiritual Exercises, a simple set of meditations, prayers, and other mental exercises, first published in 1548. It is known as “Ignatian spirituality“.

Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us as surely through our imagination as through our thoughts and memories. In the Ignatian tradition, praying with the imagination is, therefore, called contemplation. In the Spiritual Exercises, contemplation is an active way of praying that engages the mind and heart and stirs up thoughts and emotions. Through Contemplations, we enter a life event or story, a passage of Scripture by way of the imagination. By this method, we can recall and be present at the mysteries of Jesus’ life, or the lives and events of other Biblical characters and their stories. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit is active in prayer. As Jesus’ own prayer outline, and the “Our Father” teaches us, we can become part of God’s Word through our own imagination.

Let us look at praying again, using Contemplation as an additional guide:

  • In contemplation, enter a story, the Word of God, as if you were present.
  • Place yourself in the same location, observing what is happening, listening to what is being said.
    • Was it outside, a simple room?
    • A warm or cold day, can you smell fresh grass or the sea breeze.
    • How do you feel? Fearful, happy, confused, in awe?
  • Your role is to become part of God’s mystery, to assume the role of one of the people if possible. Become part of the Scripture story, part of your prayer.
  • Next, look at each of the individuals who are present.
    • What are they experiencing? Who is speaking? What are their emotions?
  • Enter into a dialogue with those who are present.
    • Because you are there, you can listen to those who are speaking God’s own Words, listening, learning.
  • Then respond to them. Become part of the conversation. God knows your heart; share your feelings.

If you ask God His name and the answer is “Abba (Father)”, you will soon find the God of the prodigal son, the God who will forgive you and love you no matter what you may have done in your life.

If you come to know Jesus through the Bread and Wine of Communion, you will know that God sent His one only Son into the world to save you (John 3:16-19).

It can be through Contemplation that you can see God’s invitation:

(Ephesians 3:17-20) – “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

It will be through God’s Word and prayer that we can feel God’s unconditional love for us. When praying, we often find ourselves searching for something. It may be healing, justice, refuge, peace, mercy, love, or simply good old fashion guidance. To help, click on Lost Pine’s list of God’s characteristics. Here you will find an excellent place to find your journey to contemplation and God Himself. Scriptures, the Word of God, provide an excellent place to begin your prayer journey. Give it a try, see where God leads you. It is not your carefully chosen words in prayer that God seeks. He is after your heart, “Imagine That!”

Contemplations

  • What is easy and what is hard about prayer?
    • Items to Explore: Time, interruptions, family, work all make it hard to carve out time to pray. Yet, faith, the Word of God, can often provide a beginning point for one’s imagination and journey with God. Do you have a set time? Do you use Scripture as a guide?
  • Is it wrong to ask God for worldly things?
    • Items to Explore: What are the differences between needs and wants? How does trusting God as the ultimate provider help us sort out our priorities?
  • When would a request for God become problematic?
    • Items to Explore: Is a request based on our perception of need? Where did the perception come from? Is hatred or anger involved in our prayer?
  • Do you have a favorite Psalm?
    • Items to Explore: Psalms are prayers, many set to music. They can provide comfort, reinforcing the true characteristics of God. If you do not have any one Psalm in mind, try reading Psalm 119. Place yourself with King David. Try Contemplation.
  • How do you feel about listening to others pray?
    • Items to Explore: Do you lose your concentration during long and complex prayers? Are you worried that you will not sound eloquent or have the right words? What do you think God expects from you?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Loyola
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