I look at prayer as part of my journey in being holy. I want to be holy because God has asked me to be holy.
Keep yourselves holy, because I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 20:7 GNT
John Wesley and his brother Charles were at Oxford University in England when they became part of a group dedicated to prayer, Bible study, self-examination, and works of charity. The group was called the “”Holy Club,”” and it included the great preacher George Whitefield. But even though John Wesley practiced rigid spiritual discipline, he grew increasingly frustrated. After three years in America, he wrote in his journal: “”I went to America to convert the Indians; but oh, who shall convert me?”” It wasn’t until after Wesley returned to England in 1737 that he realized he had been trying to practice holiness without a saving relationship with Christ. He was converted in 1738. John Wesley’s attempts to please God by religious activity and self-discipline put him in a long line of sincere, well-meaning people who have tried to manufacture holiness.
This is why I hear from those who pray everyday, read their Bibles daily, and go out and serve in the community and their lives are not transformed – they are so frustrated because they do not know why. I experienced this in a much smaller scale as a child – went to Sunday School every Sunday, memorized all the verses, tried my best to be a good student and yet something was missing.
As important as holiness is – being dedicated to and set apart for God – it is not meant to be achieved by human effort – God is the one who makes us holy.
Obey my laws, because I am the Lord and I make you holy. – Leviticus 20:8 GNT
Now I can engage in what I call “soul” prayers. Let’s see if I can share what they look like with the help of Psalm 25.
“Prayer is the ascent of the soul to God; God must be eyed and the soul employed” – Matthew Henry
True prayer may be described as the soul rising from earth to have fellowship with heaven; it is taking a journey upon Jacob’s ladder, leaving our cares and fears at the foot, and meeting with a covenant God at the top. Very often the soul cannot rise, she has lost her wings, and is heavy and earth bound; more like a burrowing mole than a soaring eagle. At such dull seasons we must not give over prayer, but must, by God’s assistance, exert all our powers to lift up our hearts. Let faith be the lever and grace be the arm, and the dead lump will yet be stirred. – Charles Spurgeon
I trust God to keep me from shame.
In you, my God, I trust.
Save me from the shame of defeat;
don’t let my enemies gloat over me!
Defeat does not come to those who trust in you,
but to those who are quick to rebel against you. – Psalm 25:2-3 GNT
I am open to being being taught and guided by God.
Teach me your ways, O Lord;
make them known to me.
Teach me to live according to your truth,
for you are my God, who saves me.
I always trust in you. – Psalm 25:4-5 GNT
I ask God to forgive and forget my sins as I confess them. I appeal to the character of God.
Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love
which you have shown from long ago.
Forgive the sins and errors of my youth.
In your constant love and goodness,
remember me, Lord!
Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins,
for they are many. – Psalm 25:6-7, 11 GNT
“You or I may take a hold at any time upon the justice, the mercy, the faithfulness, the wisdom, the long suffering, the tenderness of God; and we will find every attribute of the Most High to be, as it were, a great battering ram with which we may open the gates of heaven.” – Charles Spurgeon
I focus on how God works and how He moves.
Because the Lord is righteous and good,
he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
He leads the humble in the right way
and teaches them his will.
With faithfulness and love he leads
all who keep his covenant and obey his commands. – Psalm 25:8-10 GNT
I experience intimacy with God.
Those who have reverence for the Lord
will learn from him the path they should follow.
They will always be prosperous,
and their children will possess the land.
The Lord is the friend of those who obey him
and he affirms his covenant with them. – Psalm 25:12-14 GNT
I love getting closer to God when I pray. It is one of my most cherished thoughts that I could be a friend of God and through that friendship He shares things with me that are dear to His heart. Maybe even to the type of friendship that Abraham had with God.
I ask, I pour out my heart to the Lord to rescue me from danger, from loneliness, from my worries and distress and from the consequences of my sin. My eyes are on Him.
I look to the Lord for help at all times,
and he rescues me from danger.
Turn to me, Lord, and be merciful to me,
because I am lonely and weak.
Relieve me of my worries
and save me from all my troubles.
Consider my distress and suffering
and forgive all my sins. – Psalm 25:15-18 GNT
In order to continually lift my soul to the Lord, I need Him to guard it for without His help everything else can get out of order and turn into chaos. In Him I find refuge.
Protect me and save me;
keep me from defeat.
I come to you for safety.
May my goodness and honesty preserve me,
because I trust in you. – Psalm 25:20-21 GNT
The evil that can present itself can be thwarted by the power of the Holy Spirit moving on my soul. As I wait on the Lord and seek Him continually, He will preserve me with integrity and honour and I will be in right standing with Him.
“Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” – Eugene Peterson
“What they mean is that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying…If we “pray until we pray,” eventually we come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will. Even in dark or agonized praying, we somehow know we are doing business with God. In short, we discover a little of what Jude means when he exhorts his readers to pray “in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20)—which presumably means it is treacherously possible to pray not in the Spirit.” – D.A. Carson
I ask on behalf of others.
From all their troubles, O God,
save your people Israel! – Psalm 25:22 GNT
I remember the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus taught us “our Father”, “give us”, “forgive us” and “do not bring us”… This is the kind of prayer that connects us to the entire faith community.
When I pray at home, which is the place where I am safe, to search for meaning and identity, I deepen my interactions with family and from there find strength to face the increasing demands of life. We learn to pray and pray together and that enables us to be hope to other families who are in need for what we have found in Christ.
But if any do not take care of their relatives, especially the members of their own family, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8 GNT
Our faith community is a place from where God can speak to us. As we pray for answers and guidance they can become instruments of divine counsel. There is wisdom there and experience.
To pray “give us – all the people of our land –
daily bread” is to pray against “wanton
exploitation” in business, trade, and labor, which
“crushes the poor and deprives them of their
daily bread.” – Luther