Do you strug­gle with your prayer life? I do, and I think most peo­ple do as well. Jesus chal­lenged his dis­ci­ples in the gar­den: Could you not wait with me [in prayer] one hour? I have trou­ble with five min­utes! If you’re like me, upon enter­ing a time of per­son­al prayer you might find your mind wan­der­ing or your­self think­ing about the demands of the day. Things to do, con­cerns about loved ones, pres­sures of the day, a twinge of guilt about an insen­si­tive remark or a self­ish deed —these dis­trac­tions inter­rupt my prayer time; I imag­ine I’m not alone. But what if these dis­trac­tions are actu­al­ly the most press­ing items we need to lift to God in prayer? Per­haps our inward dis­trac­tions” are the very things we need to offer back to God as a life-based out­line of a prayer agenda.

I won­der if the lift­ing of these con­cerns to God might even fit a pat­tern of prayer that becomes a part of our spir­i­tu­al growth and trans­for­ma­tion. In my ear­ly adult­hood I came across a pat­tern of morn­ing and evening prayer, ordered around Ben John­son’s pam­phlet The Great Dis­cov­ery” and William Sang­ster’s book­let Teach Me to Pray. Since then, I have adapt­ed it around the Lord’s Prayer, which I’m com­ing to see as less of a text to be recit­ed and more of a trans­for­ma­tive pat­tern of prayer, help­ing us to go deep­er into the life with God. Instead of 5 min­utes being too long, I find that 15 or 20 min­utes for prayer are often not enough. When God works in our lives, all things indeed become new! 

The Bible describes sev­er­al types of prayer, and yet all of them involve some aspect of what Abra­ham Hes­chel calls the human-divine dia­logue. Words may be used if help­ful to us, but God looks beyond our words to our hearts, and the com­mu­nion that hap­pens between our­selves and God is beyond what words can describe. The apos­tle Paul speaks of unceas­ing prayer” (Eph­esians 6:18 WNT) as inter­ces­sion empow­ered by the Holy Spir­it. It is not sim­ply we who pray, but the Spir­it who prays through us (Romans 8:26 – 27). Indeed, we are invit­ed into an inti­mate, ongo­ing rela­tion­ship with 

God, with­in which we go through the day immersed in prayer, while at the same time car­ry­ing on the busi­ness of the worka­day world. Devel­op­ing a life of unceas­ing prayer, though, begins with immers­ing our­selves in the life of the Spir­it, and such is helped by a discipline. 

Real­ly focus­ing on a par­tic­u­lar kind of prayer as an inten­tion­al focus for a few intense moments helps us become immersed in praise, or thanks­giv­ing, or ded­i­ca­tion, or inter­ces­sion, or peti­tion, or prayer for pro­tec­tion, or med­i­ta­tion. It helps us devel­op sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the Spir­it’s lead­ings, and morn­ing and evening pat­terns of prayer can be of great help in our spir­i­tu­al devel­op­ment. In the Gospel of Luke we read that Jesus’ dis­ci­ples come to him and say, Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 – 4 NRSV). In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 6:1 – 15) we find Jesus gives his fol­low­ers an approach to pray­ing that pos­es a con­trast to pub­lic per­for­mances and rote rep­e­ti­tions. Iron­i­cal­ly, Chris­tians some­times use the Lord’s Prayer exact­ly as that to which Jesus con­trasts it. What Jesus pro­vides them involves not a quo­ta­tion to be recit­ed as a vain rep­e­ti­tion, but a pat­tern to be per­son­al­ly embraced, sug­gest­ing how we might approach God mean­ing­ful­ly in prayer.

If you would like to try the fol­low­ing pat­tern based on the Lord’s Prayer as a morn­ing dis­ci­pline of prayer, allow at least 10 or 15 min­utes at the start of your day. Feel free to make adjust­ments as you need to; the goal is cen­ter­ing our lives on Christ.

A Morn­ing Pat­tern of Prayer 

Upon wak­ing, turn your thought imme­di­ate­ly to God. Either breathe a hymn of praise to God (“When morn­ing gilds the skies my heart awak­ing cries: May Jesus Christ be praised!“’) or muse over the psalmist’s words, if help­ful (“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is with­in me, bless his holy name” — Psalm 103:1 NRSV). Find a place in which you can lift your heart authen­ti­cal­ly to God, and spend sev­er­al min­utes on each of the fol­low­ing themes. Brood over each until you are sat­u­rat­ed with this par­tic­u­lar aspect of prayer based upon the Lord’s Prayer. Then, see what hap­pens to the rest of your day. A bal­anced spir­i­tu­al diet pre­pares us for liv­ing each day to its fullest. Noth­ing deliv­ers us from a spir­i­tu­al roller coast­er like devel­op­ing a ground­ed life of prayer­ful inti­ma­cy with God. 

Our Father in heav­en
(Receiv­ing the Divine Embrace)

Dwell on the won­drous fact that Jesus invites us to call God our Father.” This does not mean, of course, that God is not also like a Moth­er to us; indeed, God’s nur­tur­ing and strength­en­ing love embrace us in ways beyond our deserved­ness. Thank God for his good­ness; his bless­ings are far beyond what we know. Else­where, Jesus calls God Abba, Father” — a term sim­i­lar to Dad­dy” in Eng­lish — the sort of endear­ing term a child would use to address a lov­ing par­ent. Paul, in his writ­ings, also uses this term. Come to God open­ly, as a child embraces the love of a divine father or moth­er, first thing in the morn­ing. For of such is the king­dom of heaven.

hal­lowed be your name.
(Ado­ra­tion and Thanksgiving)

We praise God for who God is; we thank God for what God does. Let your aware­ness of God’s majesty, good­ness, and grace fill you with praise and ado­ra­tion. Praise is not part of a trans­ac­tion we pro­duce; it is the only appro­pri­ate response to the authen­tic con­tem­pla­tion of God’s glo­ry. Jesus invites us to join the rest of cre­ation in acknowl­edg­ing the glo­ry and holi­ness of the Cre­ator. Praise God that God is the God God is, and let your life be filled with ado­ra­tion and praise at the begin­ning of the day and oth­er­wise. Also, thank God for what God has done. Our bless­ings are beyond what we can imag­ine; take the time to thank God now for fam­i­ly, friends, health, life, grace. Pon­der each bless­ing until you are filled with grat­i­tude. Thanks­giv­ing is an action that is nev­er wast­ed! Let your life be an ongo­ing cho­rus of bless­ing, thanks­giv­ing, and praise to God.

Your king­dom come.
(Ded­i­ca­tion and Recommitment)

As well as life­long vows to God, offer Christ your life anew— total­ly and unre­served­ly — at the begin­ning of this day. Fore­see and fore­think the oblig­a­tions of your day, and envi­sion God’s pres­ence with you through­out the day as you meet those oblig­a­tions. Respond to all things as though God were work­ing in them and through them; we live by faith, not by sight. You can bet­ter face the already-sched­uled events of the day and even devel­op­ments that are unfore­seen through this dis­ci­pline of offer­ing your life to God afresh. Coin­ci­dences” hap­pen; open­ings emerge; things we’d planned go bet­ter, and even sur­pris­es are more read­i­ly met by a life immersed in prayer. 

Your will be done/​on earth as it is in heav­en.
(Inter­ces­sion and Uplift­ing the Needs of Others)

Lift also the needs of the world and the needs of oth­ers in prayer, inter­ced­ing on behalf of those per­sons and sit­u­a­tions for which God has giv­en you a spe­cial con­cern. Keep a prayer list, if you desire, or sim­ply pray for those whom God brings to your atten­tion as you are mind­ful of such. Lift up fam­i­ly and loved ones, friends and col­leagues, projects and respon­si­bil­i­ties, min­istries and out­reach oppor­tu­ni­ties — as part­ners in fur­ther­ing the active reign of God. The king­dom may indeed come today, even in sub­tle ways, as peo­ple live in dynam­ic respon­sive­ness to his lead­ings and embody the way of the king­dom in the world. Inter­ces­sion is where the his­to­ry of the world is changed; it is there that the true busi­ness and work of life are car­ried forth. Inter­ces­sion is the spir­i­tu­al work — the heavy lift­ing we do as part­ners with Christ in the world, pray­ing in his name because we have dis­cerned and believe that it is accord­ing to his will.

Give us this day our dai­ly bread.
(Peti­tion and Uplift­ing Per­son­al Needs)

Now lift to God your dai­ly needs. God knows what we need even before we ask, and yet Jesus invites us to lift our needs to God in prayer. Amaz­ing! The prayer of peti­tion appro­pri­ate­ly fol­lows our ado­ra­tion of God and our inter­ces­sion for oth­ers, and yet an authen­tic sense of our need before God helps us be ever­more keen­ly aware of our absolute depen­dence upon God for all things — even life itself. Lift­ing our needs to God, indi­vid­u­al­ly and cor­po­rate­ly, also helps us release the par­tic­u­lar ways we feel our needs should be met. In thank­ing our heav­en­ly Father for pro­vi­sion ahead of time, desir­ing that our needs be addressed in God’s ways and in God’s tim­ing, we assert our faith in what God is doing around us and with­in us. 

And for­give us our debts/​as we also have for­giv­en our debtors.
(Con­fes­sion and Forgiveness)

Receive now God’s for­give­ness and grace, availed through Christ Jesus, and extend such to oth­ers. He bore the sins of human­i­ty on the cross, but acknowl­edg­ing our sins and our need for grace leads us into the prayer for mer­cy. Christ died and rose for you and me. Those who extend mer­cy receive mer­cy, and our extend­ing of for­give­ness and grace deserves to be of the same char­ac­ter as that which we have received — or would like to receive. Turn­ing to God with the con­scious request for for­give­ness fur­ther asserts our sense of hum­bled need before God. So, receive now the for­give­ness and grace of God by faith, and extend for­give­ness and grace to oth­ers by your faithfulness. 

And do not bring us to the time of tri­al; but res­cue us from the evil one.
(Deliv­er­ance and Empowerment)

Trust God now for pro­tec­tion and empow­er­ment. The prayer for deliv­er­ance from harm and ill asserts our trust in God’s care and pro­tec­tion, both in ways we antic­i­pate as well as in ways we can­not imag­ine. While tri­als bear with­in them­selves poten­tial for devel­op­ing strength of char­ac­ter, Jesus also invites us to pray for pro­tec­tion and empow­er­ment along life’s way. Affirm­ing the pow­er and pro­tec­tion of God embold­ens our courage and deep­ens our faith. As George Fox often declared, The Pow­er of the Lord is over all!” Abide now in the pow­er of the res­ur­rect­ed Lord; it is avail­able to all who believe. 

For the king­dom and the pow­er; and the glo­ry are yours for­ev­er.
(Cen­ter­ing and Meditation)

Close your time as you began it, with lift­ing praise to God and mak­ing your life a liv­ing sac­ri­fice” offered to his glo­ry. Go through your day attend­ing the busi­ness at hand, but also lift­ing prayers of ado­ra­tion and inter­ces­sion as you feel led. Attend the sub­tle prompt­ings of the Spir­it and live respon­sive­ly to the divine will. This is the cen­tered” life —one that is atten­tive and respon­sive to the work­ings of Christ at the cen­ter of our lives. Give this day to God alone; ded­i­cate it to the fur­ther­ing of the way and work of the king­dom; extend the king­dom today by at least one life — yours.

Ander­son, Paul. 2013. Fol­low­ing Jesus: The Heart of Faith and Prac­tice. New­berg, OR: Bar­clay Press. Used with permission.

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