“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 (NIV)
Prayer is a powerful means of touching the heart of God. But how do we organize our prayers? How and where do we begin?
First, we need to be right with God prior to prayer. In Psalm 24:3-4 (NIV) we read:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…”
Unconfessed sin is a block to gaining the ear of the Lord. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV) tells us,
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
The only time we can pray when sin is present in our lives is with the intention to confess our sins. In Luke 18:10-13 (NIV) we read about Jesus saying,
“Two men went up to the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed:
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—
robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance.
He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
Humility is the key that opens the door of blessing from the Lord. Listen to the tone of your voice as you begin to pray. A voice that is assertive, loud, or aggressive has no place in the throne room of heaven.
I recall a conference where the chairperson led in an opening prayer and it sounded like the Pharisee in Luke 18. He almost demanded that the Lord give him what he wanted. On another occasion a man who was enamoured by Jesus’ teaching about calling God “Father”, commenced a congregational prayer with the loud exclamation, “Daddy!” In both cases it felt a lot more like a performance than a prayer.
James 4:6 tells us that the Lord resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So, I believe that we need to have confession near the beginning of our times of prayer.
Also, I encourage people to consider the merits of a prayer journal to organize your prayer time under 4 headings. 1. Worship, 2. Confession, 3. Thanksgiving , and 4. Petition. A popular way to remember this is with the acronym ACTS. 1. Adoration (Worship), 2. Confession, 3. Thanksgiving, and, 4. Supplication (Petition).
More importantly, however you pray, be sure to pray. It is too easy to start the day at a hectic pace with no time in your rushed routine for prayer; or to come to the end of a long day too weary and too tired to have clear enough thoughts to approach the Lord in reverent and humble heart felt prayer. God is not expecting long and comprehensive prayers from us all the time, but he is looking for communion with us—starting with acknowledgement of who He is, followed by a request for forgiveness and the offer of thanksgiving for His persistent protection and care.
Times without number have I prayed,
“This only once forgive”,
Relapsing, when Thy hand was stayed,
And suffered me to live;
Yet now the kingdom of Thy peace,
Lord to my heart restore;
Forgive my vain repentance,
And bid me sin no more.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)