Part 1 of a Series
First of all, let me say that the finest book I have ever read on prayer is this one, "Praying Backwards" by Brian Chapell. (That link goes to the Kindle version on Amazon. The book is also available in traditional formats.) Get it. Read it. Re-read it. Often.
Chapell's book, along with Paul Miller's excellent book "A Praying Life," have forever changed the way I pray for myself, my family, my neighborhood, my church, my country, my world.
How? Did they offer better formulas, better acrostics to help me remember what to say next? Did they tell me how to gain more power, how to use positive thinking, affirmations, The Secret? How to better manipulate God, how to make sure my will gets done?
To seek to ensure that "MY will be done" is to seek power over God. My will, not His. Such power seeking can often be recognized by its use of earthly currencies, whether money, ungodly influence, dishonesty, etc. Most clearly, though, it can be recognized by the object of its faith, because in "My will" prayers:
- I have faith in ME to know what's best, and
- I have faith in the thing that I want, believing that it can BE what's best.
- God is just a tool for my use to get myself the things I want MORE than I want Him.
To seek power over God is to seek to usurp His throne, even if we're convinced that we would use that power for good. It is the way of the occult, not the way of any true Christian, as Simon the Sorcerer learned in Acts 8:9-24.
The only power we may legitimately seek is power from Him, to do His will, in His way, in His time.
Chapell and Miller taught me how to seek God through prayer, how to submit to His priorities, how to be shaped by Him as I bring my cares to Him. They (especially Chapell) taught me what it really means to pray in Jesus' name.
In response, I've found myself increasingly gravitating to the Lord's Model Prayer and to the Beatitudes...not as a formula to slavishly follow, nor as vain repetition to earn brownie points with God, but as the best possible expressions of agreement with what God desires to accomplish in and through me and my loved ones, within the circumstances that He's given us.
Who'd have thought it? Jesus actually was onto something.
So here, in case it's helpful to someone else, is an example of how I pray for myself and my family using the Lord's Prayer. (And also, how I pray for my church, my neighborhood, my country, my world, and anything else there might be.)
Oh, and one more thing. I often make reference to "Thinking individually of each member of the family" when I pray certain things. Why is this?
It is NOT a magical sort of way to daub the spiritual equivalent of fairy dust or holy water on each one. I do not "turn the powers of my mind" to each one in order to bestow something on them.
We must guard so carefully against occultic thinking in our prayers!
I am careful to think individually of each one because it changes and informs the way I think of each person during prayer and afterwards. It guides the way that I pray for our individual concerns. It reminds me of what God is up to, so I can see His hand at work later. It increases my love for the God who loves each family member, and it increases my love for each family member that God loves. It gives me the inestimable privilege of being an instrument of good in their lives, if and when God sees fit to use me in that way (it's up to Him, not me or the power of my prayers).
Our Father. Thinking individually of each member of the family, I ask God that those who are not saved would come to know Him as Father, and that those who are saved would grow in their childlike relationship with Him. (I don't have to really know for sure who is already saved, and who is not yet. God knows.) As I think of each person (including myself), I am reminded to think of them as children of my Heavenly Father, or as those that I hope will soon be adopted into His family, and it reminds me to honor and love them accordingly. And when I think (for example) of a fearful child, instead of merely praying that they'd "toughen up" or "get brave," I pray that they would rest in the Father's care. It's a different prayer, isn't it? And praying it makes me look at my children differently. Treat them differently. Speak to them differently. When I remember.
Who art in Heaven. When I remember where God is enthroned, I am reminded of His sovereign power. There is no point in praying to anyone else, or trusting in anyone else. And there is no point in worrying over anything that I have left in His sovereign care.
Hallowed be Thy name: Oh, what a beautiful thing to pray for each family member as I think of them! "Lord, hallow your name in and through my husband, and myself, and this child, and this child, and this child. May we each hold you in proper awe and reverence. May we bring only honor to You in our thoughts, words, and deeds."
Thy Kingdom come. What is a kingdom but a place where a king reigns? I pray for each family member, including myself, that Christ's reign would be strengthened in each life. I think of the sin patterns, false beliefs, and stubborn self-determination that currently affect one or more of us, and pray that each would increasingly yield to the King. This prayer is also a reminder to me whose kingdom I need to be seeking. (Hint: It's not mine.)
Now, this can be confusing. Some people wonder why we ought to pray, if God is totally in charge anyway. Isn't God always controlling things? And if He is, why would we pray for Him to control? That's where the next part of the prayer makes everything clear.
Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Of course God's will is ultimately going to be done on earth. He will crush His enemies under His (and our) feet when He returns. Until then, He does often rule over enemies by bringing them down in one way or another, or (more happily) by winning them over to Himself. And He rules over His people by lovingly winning their increasing allegiance. Jesus did God's will in one way, by gracious, loving submission and obedience. Judas did it in another, because God overruled his evil intentions and used his sin to perfectly fulfill prophecy and bring about the greatest good that ever happened.
Which way do we want Him to rule over us and over our families?
Ah, the vital role a single phrase can play! On Earth, as it is in Heaven. As it's done. The same way it's done.
How is God's will done in Heaven?
So, when I think of each family member's current dilemmas, tough decisions, trials, temptations, triumphs, tragedies, options, whatevers, I pray that God's will would be done in, by, and through that family member in the same way that it's done in Heaven: Joyfully, willingly, trustingly, obediently, immediately, triumphantly.
Notice that I don't have to understand God's specific will for that family member's circumstances (though of course I know His general will, which is revealed in Scripture for the conduct of all His people). I am not to use prayer to impose my will. I am to yield, I am to entrust.
What freedom this offers! And what joy, when the answer comes in some form I never could have anticipated! If I stubbornly hold out for my will, I might not even recognize His will when it is done, and I might frown in the face of Providence. God forbid. God forbid.
I'm going to stop here for today, so this entry won't get too long. Please click here for part 2!