DA Carson has a wonderful, but not widely touted book called A Call to Spiritual Reformation. In it, he teaches how to pray based on the prayers of Paul throughout the Epistles. The following paragraphs are his thoughts about prayer followed by recommendations of ways to improve our prayers.
When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs—and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what He is like, what He expects of us, what He seeks in us. We are not captured by His lowliness and His love; His thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.
In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him…. Just as God’s Word must reform our theology, our ethics, and our practices, so also must it reform our praying.
Ways to improve our prayer life:
- Keep the goal of prayer in mind as outline by Paul’s prayer: “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him” (II Thessalonians 1:12a)
- Plan to pray using set times for consistency at times when you’re most alert and least distracted
- Avoid mental drift by journaling prayers, praying out loud, pacing and/or praying through Scriptures by praying about what you read during the day or using biblical prayers as models to pray for others
- Pray and learn from prayers of others (e.g., Puritans in Valley of Vision, pastors)
- Create prayer lists with specific requests and answers
- Permanent list: family, close friends and church/work place on the topics of spiritual state, character, friends, health, protection, current problems
- Changing list: Short term for current situations including world events, Christian leaders, pastors, government leaders, colleagues, neighbors
- Follow a structure such as ACTS
- Adoration: Praise God for who He is and what He’s done
- Confession: Confess your sins of commission and omission
- Thanksgiving: Thank God for His provision in your life. What we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most value
- Supplication: Tie requests to Scripture passages to align them with the will of God. We must ask our heavenly Father for things because He has determined that many blessings will come to us only through prayer. Prayer is his ordained means of conveying his blessings to his people. That means we must pray according to his will, in line with his values in conformity with his own character and purposes, claiming his own promises
- Pray until you come to delight in God’s presence, rest in His love and cherish His will
If you’d like to explore the topic of prayer further, see what Jesus had to say about prayer.