Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Last week in Letter No. 2: How to Pray, I wrote about praise and confession. This week I conclude the letter by writing about thanksgiving and petition.
Next, I thank God for all the blessings he’s given me and for His answers to prayers. I don’t do this for His benefit. I do it for my own. God doesn’t need me to be grateful. I need to be grateful, because giving thanks gets me to recognize all the blessings God is constantly heaping on me. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes about
the riches of God’s grace which he lavishes upon us. (1:7-8)
The word, GRACE, means “free gift.” God is constantly giving us free gifts. In addition to giving us new life through His Son, Jesus, and the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven, He gives us love and forgiveness, and family and friends, and some really terrific teachers and coaches.
Let’s think some more about His many, many blessings: He gives you the words to say at the right time and the ability to hear and play a beautiful piece of music. He gives you a brand new day, every morning, and a sweet dog to follow you wherever you go. He gives you the opportunity to play sports and your game systems and learn new things in school. He watches over you and provides for your needs. He lets you see the beauty of His creation, from the grand flight of the hawks that circle our neighborhood to the movement of the fish that swim in the lake nearby.
He gives you everything. When you begin to make a point of thanking Him, you get to see how truly blessed by Him you are. Don’t take anything good about your life for granted. God has lovingly bestowed it upon you. It didn’t just happen on its own. In fact, in even the difficult or painful things, God is always working, constantly for good on your behalf (Romans 8:28). As I said in my first letter, try to make a habit of giving thanks throughout the day. That way you’ll feel close to God all day long.
Finally, I talk to God about my concerns and hopes and I ask Him for things on behalf of other people. He wants us to bring Him all our requests. Nothing is too insignificant for God. He wants us to talk to him about whatever is on our heart or weighing heavy upon us. In fact, after Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he goes on to tell them about the importance of asking God for the things we need.
I do not hesitate to bring to God my concerns and hopes, but, I always conclude by saying, “Thy will be done.” Jesus himself says this to his Father. By saying this, I am acknowledging that God knows even better than I what I truly need — and if (and when and how) I need it. He wants me to ask – and to keep asking – and He wants me to trust Him. So, I pour out my heart and then I leave things in His hands to do as He thinks best.
There are times when I pray about something over a very long period of time. I keep bringing it up with God, not because I think He didn’t hear me the first time, or that if I plead with Him I’ll get what I’m asking for. Instead, I keep asking because I’ve learned that some things take time, time for other events or people to line up with the plans God has for me, or time for me to discover that I really should be asking for something else.
There is also the possibility I need time to realize He’s answering, just not in the way I wanted. God always answers. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need at the time. In making a habit of saying, “Thy will be done,” you are on the way to learning how to recognize His answers.
So this is how I start my day of hanging out with God. The greatest benefit that comes from prayer is the gift of His peace. God’s peace is a sense of well-being which assures you, no matter what is going on in your life or around you, you’re going to be O.K. Here is what Paul says about this:
The peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
This gift of well-being is real and prayer is the avenue to take to find it.
Here is a summary of the points I’ve made about Prayer over the past few weeks:
- Prayer is nothing more or less than continually being in God’s presence. I call it hanging out with God.
- Jesus set the example for us to follow when it comes to prayer. He wanted only to do God’s will and knew he could only accomplish this through continual contact with God.
- The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples.
- Four categories of prayer found in the Lord’s Prayer are: Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving and Petition. It’s a good idea to use these categories in our own prayers.
- When we hang out with God we receive the blessing of God’s peace.
The Bible gives us some great examples of prayer. I’m closing with one of King David’s finest prayers, found in 2 Samuel 7:18-29:
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ? What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God. And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you. O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
Isn’t this a great prayer? I’ve learned a lot about how to pray by studying it. Here is a list of more great prayers in the Bible:
- Genesis 32:9-32
- 2 Chronicles 20:5-12
- Ezra 9:6-15
- Nehemiah 1:1-11
- Daniel 9:4-19
- Acts 4:23-31
Next week: What God Says to Us in the Bible.
Discussion Questions for Seventh Installment: How to Pray
- Is there someone you know who enjoys praying? What might you learn from him or her?
- How would you explain, in your own words, each of the following categories of prayer?:
- How easy is it for you to leave things in God’s hands? How can modeling our prayers on the Lord’s Prayer help us with this?