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My Armor 30: How 2 Pray

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So, I run the heater during the day and my air conditioner at night.  I think I sleep better when I’m in a cryogenic state.  What this turns into is a great night’s sleep for me, but I wake up in an icebox, so I have to run the heater full-tilt when I wake up.  I don’t know why I sleep so much better when it’s cold.  Maybe that’s why people enjoy camping so much.

Not that any of this has to do with our topic at all.  Because this week’s topic is prayer.

If you’re not doing it, you need to be doing it.  It’s really that simple.

As Christians there are a number of things that we should be doing in order to get through life.  That way, when the storms come, We are better equipped to handle life’s storms.  And prayer is one of them.

But, still some people – even Christians – don’t even really know how to pray or what it is. 

Let’s start with respect.  Never, ever approach the Lord in any way with disrespect.  He is to be held in the utmost respect at all times!  At the same time, when you pray, speak to Him like you normally speak – unless when you normally speak you cuss, then you need to eliminate that both from how you pray and how you speak to other people.  Out of respect, you don’t want to cuss when talking to God.

My point is that when you pray, you don’t have to use flowery, sophisticated words if you don’t speak like that in normal conversation.  God wants you to speak to Him just as you normally would talk.  There’s no need for speaking “King James-ish” when you bow your head.  Don’t feel like after saying, “Dear God…” you need to start using “thee, thou, thine, whosoevereth, goeth…”

Think about it, God has seen you eat macaroni and cheese at 2:00 am; so don’t try to be and speak like someone different than you are day-to-day.  He knows you.  The Bible tells us that He knows how many hairs are on each of our heads, so of course He knows how we speak and think. 

All you’ve got to do is just talk to Him.

“God, this thing I’m going through is really tripping me out.  I don’t know how else to put it, but it’s got me screwed up in the head.” 

If that’s how you would confide in your best friend, then that’s how God wants to hear from you as well.

Image: St. John's Orchard Park

Image: St. John’s Orchard Park

In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus actually gives us a tutorial on how to pray. Among other things, He tells us to go somewhere private so that you’re not even tempted to show off or use flowery language in an attempt to impress other people. 

Personally, I get up early in the morning and pray with a cup of coffee.  This helps me be fresh and alert when I go before God.    

Not that there’s any wrong time to pray, in fact 1 Thessalonians tells us that we should “pray without ceasing”.  I just don’t want to fall asleep when I talk with God – I’d never talk to my dad with the lights turned off and snuggled in my blanket – so I want to make sure that I am awake, alert, and not prone to doze off when I’m talking to my heavenly Father.

I’m also a big believer in Daily Devotionals.  I find them very motivational and they also help me to stay focused.  And focus is key when you are trying to remain “in touch” with God.

Besides prayer, another key to staying in touch with God is staying in touch with His people – other Christians.  Call each other on the phone, exchange text messages, meet for coffee or lunch…

Not only does this help set the stage for when tough times come and you begin to feel alone, but you never know when your are being called by God to encourage someone who is going through a tough time themselves.  We all need a network of fellow Christians surrounding us in good times, bad times, and all days in between. 

But, getting back to how to pray…

I was taught by Pastor Miles McPherson a strategy he called AWCIPA

  • The A stands for Admire and Worship;

  • The W stands for Wait and Listen;

  • The C stands for Confess;

  • The I stands for Intercede, or pray for others;

  • The P stands for Petition for yourself;

  • And the final A stands for Admire and Worship some more.

This is just a suggested way to organize your prayer, especially when you don’t know where to start or what exactly to say.

So, let’s break AWCIPA down.  Admiring and worshipping God is simply telling Him how great He is.  He is wonderful, great, powerful and perfect.  Without Him, you and I are nothing but a joke.  That’s worship and admiration.

Waiting and listening can be difficult.  This is sitting in silence and simply waiting to hear from God.  Then, when you hear from God, write it down.  My pastor at the church I attend now says that sometimes, you’re not certain that what you are hearing is from God, or just a result of the pizza you ate the night before.  One key way to solve this riddle is ask if what you are hearing coincides with the Bible.

So, if I think I hear God telling me, “Mikey, you’re going to win the lottery!”, I’m going to have a hard time finding Scripture to back this up, so it’s likely just the pizza.

Then again, if I feel like the Lord is telling me, “Mikey, I need you to be kinder to others”, then I can back this up in the Bible and know that it’s more than likely God talking to me at that moment.

Or, if you are married and you think you hear God telling you to get out of your marriage and leave your spouse… that’s probably not God.  That’s not backed up in Scripture.

And, at least for me, these “words from God” aren’t typically audible voices speaking to me, but usually they are just thoughts that come to me when I engage in silently waiting and listening to God.  More often than not, they are thoughts like, “Be still.  Be quiet.  Try not to worry, but rely on Me to take care of your needs.”

Sometimes, I’ll get Bible verses.  In fact, recently, I was struck with a book, chapter and verse of Scripture, but I didn’t know what that verse said.  So, I wrote it down and when I checked it out later, the verse said the exact same things that God was trying to get through to me in my prayer times.

Next on the AWCIPA model is Confession.  And I don’t mean just skirting around the minor issues of your life.  I mean CONFESSION.  It’s so easy to tell God, “I made a mistake and did _______”. 

But that’s not confession. 

True confession is saying, “I didn’t make a mistake.  I WILLFULLY did this.  I WILLFULLY sinned.  I apologize and I want to turn away from it, never do it again!  Please forgive me, God.”  It’s kind of like, as a parent, you look downstairs and you see your kid sneak into the kitchen and steal some cookies.  With their handful of cookie crumbs behind their back, you ask them if there is something they’d like to tell you.  Then, imagine them saying, “Nope.  There’s nothing I want to tell you.  I’m good.”

You see, God sees everything we do.  He already knows when we sin, so confession isn’t about telling Him smoothing that He already is aware of.  He’s never going to be shocked or surprised with what you confess to Him.  He knows our strengths and our weaknesses and He understands.  But His heart melts and He is incredibly pleased when we confess, repent, ask for His forgiveness and His help to avoid that sin in the future.

Next is Interceding for others.  This simply means to pray for other people.  This could be people you are close to, or people you have never met (like people in the military or our government officials, or people you have read about).  I have a book with a list of people who are close to me whom I pray for.  Some of them have specific things they are going through and I pray for those situations, while others I just pray that God knows what they’re going through I and just want to lift them up to Him.

Then there is Petition for yourself.  Most people don’t have any problem with this part.  But there are some who have been taught to feel bad about praying for themselves.  This is ridiculous and not Biblical. The Bible is full of examples including Job, King David, Paul and Jesus, Himself coming to God with their own problems and concerns.  God wants to hear these from us, so pray BOLDLY for yourself!

Then, wrap up your prayer in the same way that you started – by telling God how much you love Him and how great He is.

I don’t always stick to this order.  In fact, I typically end my prayer times by silently waiting and listening to God.  So, whatever works for you is great – the point is regularly, daily, even multiple times a day, immersing yourself in prayer.

Talking with God throughout the day, even a quick sentence here or there, or a running dialogue all through the day.  And, all decisions should be run through Him. 

I know this takes a lot of practice and a change of mindset – to constantly talk to Him, asking Him questions throughout the day, and waiting for His answers.  But, before long, it will become second nature!

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