A daily practice of prayer can be instrumental in anchoring us in awareness of adoption and in a life empowered to love others. Until you both understand and regularly experience the love of God and your adoption in Him, life will remain tit-for-tat, on the endless wheel of The Human Paradigm and the cycle of “trying to be good enough.” But life can be so different, and so can prayer. I have found that the following order for daily prayer, when approached from a posture of openness each day, is a wonderful way to connect with the Spirit of Jesus. It is an order of prayer firmly grounded in scriptural instructions for prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer.
Here is the Order:
Confess Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Remember You’ve always been faithful. You’ve adopted me in! (How can You be so good?!)
Remind There are amazing things you want to do.
Declare You are good.
Request Let your Kingdom come, let what you want be done.
Give me/us what we need.
Forgive me, as I completely forgive others.
Lead me away from temptation.
Deliver me from evil and the evil one.
“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Confession is our starting point. This confession is not fashioned from The Human Paradigm. We don’t pray it disdaining the fact that we are sinners or vowing to work our way out of being sinners. Rather, we practice with awe and wonder and joy confessing that apart from God, we will always be sinners. It’s not a doingthing we confess, it’s a beingthing: “Father, apart from your love and generous grace, I will never be satisfied.” Starting our prayer here allows us, through a confession about ourselves, to get our eyes off of ourselves! This is because the fact that we have a Savior is implicit in the confession that we are sinners. This movement from “me” to “God,” from “How am I doing?” to “How can You be so good?!” helps us posture our hearts to hear the loving voice of God our Father.
This is also a time to confess and turn from anything we’ve done that’s violated our conscience, that has taken us out of our awareness of union with God, or that has disconnected us from ourselves and others.
“I recall all you have done, O Lord.”
Scripture repeatedly tells us to remember. The entire book of Deuteronomy is about the people of God taking time to remember their past in order to prepare them for their future. By remembering how Jesus has been faithful, we start clearing away the clutter of our minds in order to focus on the story that Jesus tells, the story of new life through adoption. Bring to mind (or listen for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind) reminders of how Jesus has been faithful to you, specifically. Meditate on the ways he has demonstrated to you that he sees and knows you. Is there a particular event in your life through which the Holy Spirit imprinted the infinite love of God on you? Bring this memory to mind. Let it create confidence in you. Own it, give thanks for it. Let it remind you that you have tasted and seen, and that Jesus wants you to know and deeply trust his faithfulness. Remind yourself of the story you are invited to live from.
This is also a good time in the prayer to stop and simply give thanks. Gratitude is one of the best ways to make ourselves aware of God’s presence within and around us. It literally warms up the circuits of our brains. Spend time allowing your heart to stride or stumble into rooms of thanksgiving and gratefulness.
“Apart from me you can do nothing.”
After remembering how Jesus has been faithful, begin to focus on all the ways he will be faithful in the present and future. Remind yourself that God is wanting to do amazing things, in and around you. Remind yourself that you did not dream up longings for blessing or visions of the reign of God becoming reality. Your longings are echoes of desires that begin in God. You are the vine, he is the branch. Remind yourself that, despite the brokenness of the world around us, God is only light and He writes a story of life.
“Pray like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven…’”
Having anchored ourselves into the story of new life in God through confession, remembrance, and reminding ourselves of God’s goodness, we are ready to turn our attention fully to the face of God. Jesus tells us to pray, “Father, let Your name be blessed.” In our modern language, it might sound simply like this: “Father, You are good.”
What a simple but profound declaration. Bound up in it is the heart of faith: You are good and I trust You. And because I trust You, I can be vulnerable before You.
Notice that we enter into the heart of prayer by calling God “Father.” Jesus is teaching us to relate to God not as some distant deity but as an intimate, caring parent. He is revealing the tenderness of God toward us. Jesus teaches us to begin not with requests, but with surrendering into trust, which means saying “yes” back to the “yes” the Father has spoken over us through our adoption in God. Indeed, Henri Nouwen said that prayer is simply “listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’” By calling God “Father,” we are posturing our hearts to commune with the source of all love and hope, our good Father.
During this time of addressing God as Father, let your heart move into adoration and worship.
Request: Your Kingdom Come
“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Begin to make requests according to the pattern that Jesus has given us.
“May your Kingdom come, may your will be done” means simply Let what you want be done.The kingdom of God is the place where what God wants is. It is the place of abundance, wholeness, and thriving. Because we trust God as a Father who sees everything (an idea which Jesus continually reiterates in the Sermon on the Mount), we don’t even need to list out all of our specific concerns, although of course we can if that helps us. Peter tells us, for example, to “cast every care and worry on God;” now is a good time to name and release those concerns to God that are only released through naming and labeling. Still, we may simply say, “Father, let your Kingdom come here, and in this area… and here… and here,” without demanding that it look a certain way. In other words, even as we make requests, we are able to practice surrender. It’s not about our having the perfect words to pray or knowing how to pray for each area of need or concern. Perhaps this is a place where you will feel the Spirit calling you into the place beyond words.
This may also be a good time to pray for others, like your People of Peace, even if it’s simply saying, “Let your life come in _____’s life, and in ______’s.” And to pray, “Let your Reign come to others all around me, Jesus.”
Request: Daily Bread
“Give us today the food we need.”
“Give us today our daily bread” simply means, “Give us what we need.”Not every whim or longing, but give us what we need to thrive as we seek the coming of your Reign. This is a vulnerable request that acknowledges dependence on God and an implicit commitment that we will not build our life on just getting all of our own needs met (something at the heart of “the American Dream”), but that we will orient our lives around seeking the kingdom of God first. The Sermon on the Mount takes up this theme right after the Lord’s Prayer, as Jesus tells us to be like the flowers of the field, “who don’t work or make their clothing.” This is about a posture of dependence and humility, as we request daily manna of provision, physically, spiritually, and in every way that matters.
You might make this request with open hands, remembering that what we do with our bodies matters, acknowledging that ultimately everything is a gift and giving thanks that God has special and unique provision for us.
“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
“Forgive me my sins just as I forgive those who sin against me” means simply, “Forgive me for all the things that I’ve blindly or willfully screwed up and for hurting people, just as I completely forgive them when they hurt me.” Forgiveness is at the heart of Jesus’ description of a heart that lives in the Reign of God. If we aren’t willing to forgive others, we close the spigot of mercy and grace that God, from His end, has already completely opened and filled. It’s we who refuse the mercy, not the other way around. When we fully extend forgiveness, we are trusting that, since our Father is good, we can release even the greatest pains done to us, because our God will hold them and will hold us with them and, ultimately, will make things right both within us and on our behalf.
This is a constant pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, with each of its requests: each one requires us to relate to God as a loving Father. At each request, we must still be standing in the beginning of the prayer, calling God our Father. We can forgive even if we don’t feel like it because of who our Father is. As we put words to this trust in prayer, it will help us discover and become aware of how deep God’s grace and mercy is toward us.
As you pray this part of the prayer, examine your conscience before God. Through the grace of the Spirit, release forgiveness to those who have hurt, betrayed, or offended you, as far as you can, even if you don’t feel like it. With your will, extend this forgiveness, even if your mind and heart don’t yet feel aligned with it.
Request: Out of Temptation
“And don’t let us yield to temptation…”
“Don’t let us yield to temptation” (or “Lead us away from temptation” as it’s sometimes translated)means not only to be led away from the places where we would stumble, but also, in its New Testament context, to be delivered from times of suffering. Since we all know that suffering is not only a part of life but also the catalyst for our transformation, we are asking Jesus that we would pass the times of faith-testing that inevitably come, and that he would surround us with mercy, that we would not needlessly suffer or be afflicted.
As you make this request before God, think of areas where you need special grace and mercy.
Request: Out of Evil
“…but rescue us from the evil one”
“Rescue us from the evil one” (or “from evil and the evil one”) means just that: that we would be delivered from evil and the worker of evil and would be preserved by the mercy of God. That we would, instead, as the writer of Psalm 91 wrote, “live in the shelter of the Most High,” where there is only abundance and life.
As you make this request, think about your own life and the lives that are dear to you. Give thanks that while God’s goal is not simply to make us comfortable at the expense of our spiritual maturity, He also cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, body, soul, mind, and spirit. Give thanks that He longs deeply for our wholeness and deliverance from evil. Rejoice that God desires good things for His children.
Into the Practice
By the time you have come to the end of the prayer, you have reoriented yourself to yourself, embracing the crucial both-andthat you are both a sinner anda child of God. You have reoriented your relationship to God as Father. And you have reoriented your relationship with others, releasing forgiveness, praying for those near to you, and praying that the Reign of God would come through you.
While we can make this prayer into something rote and lifeless, this daily practice will not become mechanistic if we pray in the moment, learning to pray with our head in our heart, because howwe pray it will change each day based on the winds of the Spirit blowing through our lives. This is critical to the heart of prayer: you must create time and space to move slowly, unhurriedly, so that you can pause and respond to the leading of the Spirit. Two unhurried minutes is better than fifteen rushed minutes.
With this in mind, think of this template as just that: a template with general categories. As you pray it, you “fill out” the category depending on both your concerns for the day and the leading of God’s Spirit. Sometimes, a certain section of the prayer will give you pause. This is often the Spirit saying, “Let’s dwell here for a moment, I’m doing something here.” For example, when you pray, “Father forgive me just as I forgive others,” you may have a sense to pause and camp out. You may have specific people come to mind whom you weren’t thinking of at all when you began praying. When you pray, “Let Your Kingdom come,” you may have specific areas of concern that rise up in you. These names or concerns will change from day to day, which means that you can’t rush through it or pray it on automatic. To be in the prayer, you have to slow down and pray from your heart. Indeed, some days you may not get past the words of confession. Or God may stop you altogether as you address Him as Father. You might spend the rest of your time simply breathing, your hands open before God, receiving comfort from His Spirit. This posture of openness and “what’s going to happen today?” is part of what makes prayer exciting. Each day, you are stepping into something new, an adventure in which God’s Spirit will meet you in new ways.
Each time you pray, then, listen for the leading of the Spirit. As you pray slowly and consistently, you will train yourself to hear the Holy Spirit as He leads you. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit will use the practice of prayer to remind you of the story that Jesus writes within you, the story of new life through adoption and of a life as an ambassador empowered to love others. After all, a great mystery of prayer is that it is actually God working in us, “giving [us] the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
This week, take the prayer template outlined above and practice it daily. You may spend anywhere from five minutes to half an hour in prayer. Don’t rush. To help you enter with an unhurried heart, take a few deep breaths before you pray to slow down your body and your mind and to remind yourself that Jesus is as near to you as your breath.
As you pray, notice how the Spirit will call you into the place beyond words. Through practice, learn to abide there. This can be vulnerable! And it will be beautiful. Indeed, one of the most courageous things we do as human beings and as followers of Jesus is to allow ourselves to feel our desire and to pray in response to it—to enter into the mystery of God—rather than running away from it. As we make time and space to connect and commune with God in prayer, we can be sure that the Reign of God will break out in, around, and through us.
For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'
The same part of your brain that “lights up” when you give thanks is the same part that is activated when you connect deeply in intimate conversation.
Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Faith and Wisdom. HarperCollins, New York, NY. 2006. Reading for January 13.
I Peter 5:7.
Cf. Matthew 7:11, also in “The Sermon on the Mount.”