Growing in Grace: Prayer
Welcome back to our “Growing In Grace” series. We are currently discussing the Christian disciplines that help us grow in receiving the grace of God fully available to us through Christ on the Cross. The big question of this series is “What helps us know and grow in God’s grace, and how do we do that in our lives every day?” Today’s topic is prayer.
Growing in Grace is part of the Theology in Action program at Enlightium Academy, an accredited, online Prek-12 school. This is the third chapter of the Growing in Grace series and is also available in audio and video formats.
Setting the Scene
Before we get started in discussing what prayer actually is, I think it would be great to share a little bit about myself to set a very important tone for this topic. Prayer is often misunderstood or even forgotten about in our spiritual lives. We walk around without praying, and ultimately we become Christians who have the opportunity to communicate with God but we choose not to.
Until almost the age of 20 years old, I was an atheist. I did not believe in God and when people talked about the idea of God I hated it. I believed that humanity was simply the product of impulses and blood flow. In the winter of 2007, Jesus came crash-landing into my life, a “reluctant disciple.”
When I came to Christianity, spiritual things seemed very odd. I was moving from a place that nothing spiritual existed to a place that I was able to talk to the infinite God. Prayer was especially odd, because it offered me something I had never had before: Access to and relationship with God.
But once I began understanding what prayer actually was, I was filled with a sense of wonder and surprise. When I realized I could share anything on my heart with God, I was flooded with comfort and excitement. How amazing is it for us that God doesn’t just want us to come to Him, but that He asks us to come to Him when we are “tired and burdened” (Matthew 11:28)? No one had ever told me they wanted me to come to them when things were bad, and during those early years as a Christian things were very bad. I was so grateful to have such a kind and merciful God near me in prayer.
This is what I, and we, never want to lose: surprise, wonder, thankfulness, and authenticity. Prayer can become something stale and boring. Now having been a Christian for almost ten years, not every prayer had the same amount of passion or excitement in it. In fact, there were times when I was flat out bored with God and prayer was a mechanical function.
So, what is prayer?
At its root definition, prayer is communication with God. Now, through the grace and sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, you have the opportunity to communicate with God that you could not before. This is something going back to the Old Testament temple that only the temple priests could do. In the New Testament there is a big difference: God has given us access to pray to Him at any time. We no longer need to go through the temple.
Yes, at its root, prayer is communication with God, but when I look at the bold statements of Paul in the New Testament, like Philippians 4:8, prayer is communicating with God about everything. One of my brilliant professors chided me in class, “You know, it’s not nothing that Paul says we pray.” He was right. He knew the way I was talking about God, that I was not sharing and entrusting everything in my life to God. With a smile, he gently changed the trajectory of my life. I began praying to God about “all things”, including when I was “tired and burdened.”
Prayer is so much more than communicating with God. It is opening up and entrusting ourselves to God with all of our hopes, dreams, fears and worries. As I grew closer to God and He became more like a friend, I found a lot of my prayers weren’t answered, and I can happily say that I am glad I did not receive everything I have prayed for. It was Donald Whitney who said, “God’s power seems to be displayed more frequently by changing people rather than changing circumstances.” Oh, how that is so very true.
How do we pray?
The model I follow is something I’ve heard over and over again: C.A.T.S. This acronym stands for “Confession,” “Adoration,” “Thanksgiving,” and “Supplication.”
Confession – I begin with confession to simply acknowledge my sins and wrongdoings before a holy and perfect God. I love saying, “God, you are right, and I am wrong.” Recognize all the ways you have not done what he has asked, and believe that God forgives those sins through the mercy on the cross. This could be big things like anger, hate, bitterness, unforgiveness, or a lack of love for others, but it could also be simply things like not thinking of others before ourselves or not doing the chores we were asked to do.
Adoration – Adoration is recognizing who God is and how great God is and praising Him for that. The thing about adoration is that it stirs us to love and adore God. We’re not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know, but it is so good for our souls to praise God with our words. A great place it to begin with a simple passage like Psalm 23, Genesis 1, or John 1.
Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is thanking God for what He has done and what He has done for you. The first thing we can always thank God for is telling us who He is through the Bible! The next thing you can thank Him for is all the blessings you have in life. If you are alive, you have plenty of things to thank Him for.
Supplication – Supplication is a big word for simply asking God to provide what we need on a daily basis. This can go from everything we need in life like food and a place to live, down to small things like asking God for the strength and focus to complete a big homework assignment. We are humans, and are made to be needy. There isn’t a single day where you don’t need God providing everything you have in life. Asking God for those things also helps us see that we so love and need God to give us all that we need for life.
The last thing I’ll say is the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: carry a prayer card with you everywhere you go. If you’ve got a moment, pull out your phone and begin talking with God about your day and what you need. It doesn’t matter what you record your prayers on. What matters is you begin praying and investing in a deeper relationship with God.
Thank you for continuing in this series on the disciplines of grace! It is so great to know you all care about your walk with Christ. Please ask us questions below or send Enlightium staff or faculty emails if we can pray with you about anything.