It isn’t easy to pray for long periods of time. I get distracted by the slightest sound or change. My mind wanders as I try to think of the next thing to pray. Forget about praying for a solid hour. I can reach the limit of my prayer contents in five minutes.
I enjoyed the three internships from my college and seminary years. All of them gave great benefit to a budding minister because of them I learned many practical ministry pointers, such as water baptism and becoming a people person. My most anticipated internship with my current mentor
But from my current mentor, I learned how to pray without ceasing. He challenged me the first day of my internship to pray for one hour every day to prepare for ministry. A minister must be ready for every issue that can arise on our watch. Only through prayer and the power of the Spirit can we be adequate to serve the Lord.
So my first try at focused prayer for an hour fell well short. I couldn’t think of anything else to talk to the Lord about after 10 minutes. I sat in a seat in the sanctuary and read a bit of Scripture, hoping that would get the juices flowing again.
I had some success in the Psalms because I knew they contained many of the prayers in Scripture. Then I remembered Paul’s prayers and prayers in the New Testament. But I realized this would turn into a devotion and study session instead of prayer. I didn’t know where to turn.
And I’m not the only one. I’m sure you’ve been there. Even the disciples could not stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus needed them the most (Matthew 26:40-41, 43, 45; Luke 22:45-46). I learned that distraction doesn’t have to derail your prayers. At least, I haven’t fallen asleep yet.
The keys to an intimate prayer life and enjoying the Lord’s presence come for my mentor. He taught me several prayer models from the Scriptures. This was not praying the Scriptures verbatim. It was using them as a guide or prompt for my own prayers.
Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2-4). I prefer to call it, “The Model Prayer.” Jesus was not telling his disciples the exact words to use in their prayers. He gave them a template for their own prayers.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying this or any prayer in the Bible verbatim. These prayers are there for a reason. But it helps to use them as a starting point or as an outline or guide for our own prayers.
Praying Scripture is a similar practice in which you meditate on the words of Scripture and pray them to God as though they are your own. Passages like Psalm 23 bring peace to the soul when spoken and prayed. And there are many more examples.
In my following blog posts on The Lord’s Prayer I will walk you through this model or template for personal prayer. But it is not the only example we can use as a template for our prayers. Once you see the method of model prayers, you can apply many prayers in the Bible to your situation and use them as templates for your own thoughts.
Some well used examples of model prayers include:
- The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew: 9-15; Luke 11:2-4)
- The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20)
- David’s Prayer of Confession (Psalm 51)
- Many of the Psalms
- The Ten Commandments Coupled with the Sermon on the Mount
- Paul’s Prayers
Model prayers vary depending on the situations of our lives. For instance, if I sin against the Lord, I turn to Psalm 51 and follow David’s lead as I pray. I replace his sin with my own and ask for God’s grace as he did.
Praying through the Ten Commandments and asking God to cover you and keep you from all sin will get you started. What about Commandments you haven’t broken, such as murder or adultery? Remember Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about murder coming from anger and adultery coming from lust.
These outlines and models for prayer help me connect with God. They help me address needs I may not have thought of without their promptings. Praying the model prayers of Paul show me that my spiritual needs outweigh my physical ones.
These prayer models also center us on God, his will, and his mission. Pray them for a while and he will order your needs according to God’s desires. The best part about using scriptural prayer models is that we see our situations and people through God’s eyes.
They teach us the proper rhythm of prayer. For instance, in The Lord’s Prayer Jesus begins with praising the Father, our God is greater than our situation. Then he asks God to bring his will and Kingman in heaven to earth, aligning us with God’s desires.
Only then do we bring our physical and spiritual needs before God. Then we pray for his guidance and leading in our lives. These are the steps we work through as we spend time in God’s presence.
It’s not a quick prayer about our immediate needs and nothing else. It doesn’t put our needs above God’s power. It shows us that God directs our steps. And it teaches us to commune with God before we dump all of our problems on him.
None of us would enjoy a relationship like that and I doubt he does either. There’s nothing wrong with quick prayers in sudden trials but we must mature in the time we spend with God.
It also teaches us to hold a normal conversation with a God who fears and speaks. So many times we think of it as a one-way communication. I have even heard psychologists say that prayer is beneficial “internal speak” for us. Prayer should be a two-way communication where we speak and listen.
But prayer is not a psychological crutch. It is a moment between God and us in his presence. Does it have physical benefits? I’m sure it does. When I hear from God about issues in my life it gives me peace, perspective, and direction.
Have you ever used model prayers? What benefits do you receive from this approach? Leave a comment and tell me about your experiences.