Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Prayer as individual as your fingerprint 10/16

Prayer: as individual as your fingerprint
RUMC 10/16/11

·         82% of all people pray in a given week.
o   For success      36%
o   To listen          41%
o   For healing      45%
o   For personal needs      61%
o   To praise          67%
o   About a job     73%
o   About a personal weakness     75%
o   For forgiveness           76%
o   For others        82%
o   To give thanks 95%
Where do you fall in that chart?  What kinds of prayers do you most often pray?  I think it depends a lot on your personality.

I am very interested in research that has been done that identifies personality types according to the Myers Briggs inventory, and predicts what kind of prayer most closely fits a certain personality.  I happen to be an ISTJ on the Meyers Briggs.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it.  But the theory says that SJ personalities tend toward imaginative, visual kinds of prayer.  I was taken aback by that because one of my favorite forms of prayer is imaginative visualization, like I was describing 2 weeks ago; imaging that Jesus and I are sitting here having a conversation.  Or imaging that I am one of the friends on the roof lowering each of the people for whom I am praying down through the roof in front of Jesus.
I tend to be more than a little skeptical about those models that categorize people based on a couple hundred questions.  But I have to admit it pegged me perfectly. 

All of that is to say that each and every one of us has a different way of praying.  It might be based on personality or on what grandma taught you.  It might be based on your preferences or on what seems to work.  It might be based in habit, or experimentation.  But each and every one of us has a style of prayer that is as unique as our DNA, as individual as our fingerprints.  And that is OK.  That is as God intended us to be.  If God wanted us to all be the same, he would make us with a cookie cutter rather than let the complexities of DNA and genetics enter into the picture.

Our scripture today says as much “But in everything, by prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Ephesians 6:18 has a great passage too.  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
We are to pray “with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving.”  We are to pray “with all kinds of prayer.”  Other translations of Ephesians 6:18 include:   “Use every kind of prayer.”  (Goodspeed )   “Pray with all manner of prayer.”  (AMP)   “Pray...with all kinds of prayers that are available for you to use....”  (RSV)  To assist his people is being closely connected to him, and to help us access God in the best way possible, God has given His people a smorgasbord of ways to pray powerfully.  
   Imagine going through life with only one key.  That key might not work for every door, but if it doesn’t work, you just can’t go through the door.  Or, golfers imagine having only one golf club.  Say a putter.  If you had to use a putter for every shot, would you golf a very good game?  NO.  Or cooks, imagine that you only have one pan.  You can make anything you want, from soup to pie, from casseroles to muffins, as long as you only use that one cookie sheet.  Or that one skillet.  That wouldn’t be any good.  What a joy it is to know that God has provided us with various and wonderful tools to help us grow close to him and to take the gospel to the world!

So, you might ask, what are all these different kinds of prayer?  I wish Paul had gone on to list them.  That would have made my job a lot easier.  On the other hand, I am glad he didn’t because that would have limited us to the 3 or 6 or 12 different kinds of prayer that he happened to list.  With our personalities and spirituality as different as our fingerprints, no list could have ever been exhaustive.

Here are a couple of different ways to look at it though.
We might talk about types of prayers:
·         Prayer of Praise and adoration
1Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness. Ps 151
·         Prayer Of Thanksgiving
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD:
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,
and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.  Ps 95
·         Prayer of Petition  or supplication
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
·         Prayer of confession
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5-7
·         Prayer of Forgiveness
Mark 11:25-26
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
·         Prayer of Committal
22 Cast your cares on the LORD
   and he will sustain you;
he will never let
   the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22
·         Prayer for guidance
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

Another way to understand all kinds of prayer is to talk about prayer styles.
·         There are verbal prayers.  They might be out loud or silently.  The key is they use words.
o   Some of those might be spontaneous, others might be rote like the Lord’s prayer.
o   There are scriptural prayers, like praying the 23rd psalm or praying through the scriptures.  
o   There are conversational prayers and very formal prayers.
o   There are dialogue prayers where not only do you speak often in writing, but you let God speak by writing on his behalf.  It usually doesn’t take long for me to write something that surprises me – something I would not have written on my own.
o   Some pray best while walking or moving or gardening or mowing the lawn.  Those can be very holy prayer times.
o   These might be sung prayers.  Like when I wake up with the choir anthem in my head.
o   These might also include group prayers and congregational prayers and prayer lists.
The list could go on and on. . .
·         There are also mental prayers
o   These might range from meditating on a scripture passage
o   To repeating the same thought or words over and over like the breath prayer, I taught you.
o   There is imaging prayer as I described imaging that I am sitting next to Jesus or lowering friends through the roof.
·         There are also heart prayers
o   For me this is often just sitting in God’s presence quietly being open to whatever he has to say.
o   This might be the prayer as you watch the sun come up.  The WOW prayer.
o   This might be the slowing down and taking a deep breath of God’s spirit prayer.
o   These might also be the crisis prayers- the quick help me God.
I have probably missed 50 different kinds of prayer.  The point is there is no right or wrong.  There is no “better” prayer. There is no “advanced” prayer.  There is no unacceptable prayer.

However, you pray, whatever style, or mode or type, or technique, or method, or variety of prayer you use, if it works for you when you call upon God, Praise God.  God is just so anxious to hear you that your mode or style, whether you are poetic or stammering, theologically correct or just doin’ your best.  God wants more than anything to hear from you.

Now- for those of you who need a little help- I am going to give you a guideline.
Remember this is about finding your personal style, but this might be a place to start if you need help.

A-Adoration- Start by praising God, acknowledging God, loving God, enjoying God.  You might even start with a song if that helps you.
C- Confession- Next turn to your past and present.  Are you ashamed of something, let God know.  Are you struggling with a temptation let God know.  Are you trying to resist making the easy decision because it is wrong.  Let God know.  Let God know how things are for you.  Confession
A-    Adoration , C- confession
T- thanksgiving- you know what to do there.  Thank God.
S- Supplication- Remember supplication is humbly asking God to help.  It might be help you, it might be help a relative or neighbor.  It might be world hunger or peace.  S- Supplication
I often fall back on this simple acronym- Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication as a place to start in prayer.  ACTS- Let’s says them together
C- Confession
T- Thanksgiving
However, you pray- the important thing is that we pray with the same attitude that Martin Luther saw in his dog.
Sitting, under that table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes; he (Martin Luther) said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat!  All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat.  Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope.”  Luther's Tabletalk

That is prayer.  Let us take a moment to concentrate all our thoughts on God.  Otherwise to have no thought, or wish or hope.  Just pray your unique and personal prayer to God.

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