I've just returned from spending two weeks at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference which sits on the shores of Lake Michigan. I was privileged to take long walks on the beach pictured above without encountering another soul. The whole vacation, which is intentionally free of TV and video games and endless outings, is akin to stepping out of this world for a bit. Each year while I am there I am wholly uninformed about what is going on in the world, and there's something really healthy about that. It is easier to commune with God when we take a break from the informational bombardment that so characterizes life in the 21st century. Most of what flows into our brains in day-to-day life is less than helpful. In fact, much of it only serves to distract us from what is truly important. On vacation, it was refreshing for me to have time to think, to walk without my iPod, enjoy God's creation, pray and contemplate His plans for me.
One topic that I thought about a lot at Maranatha was purposeful prayer, and it occurred to me that Spur best be moving on to another topic. After all, many volumes have been written by great and inspired saints; I could hardly touch all that's been said if I only blogged about prayer. So instead I'd like to close out this glance at how we communicate with God -- how we go about communing with Him and making His will ours -- with a few thoughts and a few book recommendations. And I'd love to know your favorite books on prayer as well.
I don't believe purposeful prayer is formulaic, but I think we should regularly include certain elements in our prayers. A helpful little acronym is ACTS. A for adoration, which is really the kind of worshipful prayer I described in my last post. Many of the psalms are prayers of adoration, and we can easily adopt these prayers as our own. C is for confession. Obviously we need to confess our sins before a holy God and we should aim to be specific. The higher call is really for repentance, not confession. And since repentance requires turning away from our sin, not just laying it out there, we must know what we are turning away from. T is for thanksgiving. If you've ever tried to innumerate the blessings in your life, I'm sure you've quickly realized that it is an impossible task. But a heart of gratitude is a heart that God speaks to so spending some time recognizing how God has been faithful to us personally is essential. Finally, the S is for supplication. This is our list of action items, where we want God to intervene, to change our circumstances or the circumstances of others (click here to listen to a great sermon about how and when God intervenes in our lives which was recorded on 8/16/09). Many times our tendency is to skip right to supplication, telling God what we want and need, but if we let requests dominate we will miss the ultimate purpose of prayer, communing with God and making His will ours. Psalm 19 comes to mind, which reminds us that the goal is to have the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to God.
As for books, one entitled Prayer Power Unlimited by J. Oswald Sanders is a good overview of prayer and is written in a very accessible style. Ken Boa's Handbook to Renewal is a useful aid when you find it difficult to pray. And although it might seem rather surprising I have found inspiration in two very different autobiographies. George Muller's is an amazing testimony of dependent prayer, and Chuck Colson's, Born Again, beautifully recounts the life-changing power of corporate prayer. I highly recommend both of these transformative books.
May we spur one another on to love, good deeds and purposeful prayer.