Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to Pray

I'm no expert on this subject - in fact, after reading the following passages from a book during my Sabbath reading time today, I feel like an absolute beginner. The thought of this kind of prayer reminds me of the publican and the Pharisee in Mathew, where Jesus praises the attitude of the publican as evidenced by his inability to even raise his head. His thoughts were obviously more on God's majesty and Holiness than on whatever his request was.

This is from the book How to Pray by R.A. Torrey -

"In the 12th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we have the record of a prayer that prevailed with God, and brought to pass great results. In the 5th verse of this chapter, the manner and method of this prayer is described in few words:

"Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."

The first thing to notice in this verse is the brief expression "unto God". The prayer that has power is the prayer that is offered unto God.

But some will say, "Is not all prayer unto God?"

No. Very much of so-called prayer, both public and private, is not unto God. In order that a prayer should be really unto God, there must be a definite and conscious approach to God when we pray; we must have a definite and vivid realization that God is bending over us and listening as we pray. In very much of our prayer there is really but little thought of God. Our mind is taken up with the thought of what we need, and is not occupied with the thought of the mighty and loving Father of whom we are seeking it. Oftentimes it is the case that we are occupied neither with the need nor with the One to whom we are praying, but out mind is wandering here and there throughout the world. There is no power in that sort of prayer. But when we really come into God's presence, really meet Him face to face in the place of prayer, really seek the things that we desire from Him, then there is power."

Continuing on from Torrey (and getting more and more convicted -yet excited...!),

"If, then, we would pray aright, the first thing we should do is to see to that we really get an audience with God, that we really get into His very presence. Before a word of petition is offered, we should have the definite and vivid consciousness that we are talking to God, and should believe that He is listening to our petition and is going to grant the thing that we ask of Him. This is only possible by the Holy Spirit's power, so we should look to the Holy Spirit to really lead us into the presence of God, and should not be hasty in words until He has actually brought us there."

"One night a very active Christian man dropped into a little prayer meeting that I was leading. Before we knelt to pray, I said something like the above, telling all the friends to be sure before they prayed, and while they were praying, that they really were in God's presence, that they had the thought of Him definitely in mind, and to be more taken up with Him than with their petition. A few days afterward I met this same gentleman, and he said that this simple thought was entirely new to him, that it made prayer an entirely new experience to him."

If then we would pray aright, these two little words must sink deep into our hearts, "unto God."

Wow! Doesn't that make you wonder why God has answered any of your previous wimpy, distracted, half-hearted prayers? Or is it just me?!

More tomorrow. I have a whole new insight into what it means to pray "without ceasing" after reading Torrey's thougths on those words.

And speaking of prayer- thanks to all of you who prayed for me to live throught the flu.

I did.


Laura said...

The other book I like on this subject is "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray.


Cathy said...

That's why I sometimes wonder if the actions of the flesh (posture, gesture, even atmosphere) aren't tools that we dismiss because we KNOW are of the flesh - and yet would help us train ours.

If I practiced prayer with the actions that made me FEEL I was entering into the presence of God my flesh might be better prepared?

I'd forgotten about these thoughts until now, but after reading a string of Catholic home schooling books I wondered if the by making our focus relational and not liturgical we've lost some of what helps us to focus on the Presence.

And by we, I mean me. ;) Thank you once again for adding another book to my list. :)

Sarah said...

Mrs. Pittman,

Prayer is one of those things that I've been constantly in Christ's school learning, lately (the past several months).

I HAVE to HIGHLY recommend Pastor Ben Miller's (Daddy went to seminary with him) Sunday school lessons on The Larger Catechism on Prayer. They are EXCELLENT! I have already listened to them twice and have listened to some of the cds way more than that. You can listen to them by going to and searching for Ben Miller and then searching for those lessons. I think they're on page 6. Anyway, I can't even recommend them close to enough and I have several buddies who have also listened to them with me and have been floored by how excellent they are.

Also, Calvin's Institutes Book Three, Chapter Twenty is on prayer and it is really awesome. Especially the first several sections.

I was so blessed by your post (there are others who share my like-common faith and ALSO the like-common struggles) and so I wanted to share with you some things that have ministered to and refreshed my soul exceedingly.

So Lord, "teach us to pray."

Under Mercy,


Mar said...

I have to stop quite often during prayer to refocus on the Lord. I am hoping one day to be less selfish and more God focused.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite bits of instruction on prayer is from C. S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters: "Let me pray to You not as I imagine that You are, but as You know Yourself to be." He calls that mindset "the nakedness of the soul in prayer."
May God give it to all of us.

Miss Leah