It’s all too common to approach prayer as an obligation. It’s like a duty we know we should fulfill, rather than a joyful engagement. If you’re like me, you wish there was more to our experience of prayer. How do we change prayer from being like placing just another “online order” for our list of needs?
As a new believer I learned a Scripture that said Jesus “ever liveth to make intercession” for us, quoting the King James Version of Hebrews 7:25. Sadly, I didn’t really realize the implications of this verse for many years.
There’s a powerful picture here. You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” (from Charles Sheldon’s famous book, In His Steps, published in 1896). It became popular again a number of years ago with the acronym WWJD. The verse from the Letter to the Hebrews made me think of a variation on that: “What would Jesus pray?”
Here’s a contemporary translation of that verse in context. “Because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. (Hebrews 7:24-25 New Living Translation).
My prayer life has been energized by mediating on how Jesus is praying (interceding) for us.
As I enter into prayer, I begin by centering on this verse, picturing Jesus seated on the throne of heaven with our Heavenly Father. It’s a holy conversation. They are lovingly discussing their family members.
I picture them discussing the person on my heart. What does our holy, loving Lord want to do in his or her life? It’s like the breath of the Holy Spirit inspires my prayers. Instead of a list of “Please, Lord…” or “Lord, I hope…” phrases, I begin to pray with confidence rooted in God’s promises of mercy and grace. I pray like this:
“Lord, thank you for interceding for my friend, and carrying their burden with them. I am so grateful they are not alone and that you are making your presence known to them…”
“Lord, thank you for hearing the heart desires of my loved one. I know you are asking us to trust your timing, your wisdom, your power…”
Jesus’ prayers in the gospel give us numerous examples of how to pray. I have found praying the Lord’s Prayer over a person opens new vistas for creative intercession. Here’s a paraphrase I use as a framework. For convenience and clarity, I’ll frame this in terms of a prayer for my wife, Sarah, and include the New Living translation of Matthew 6:9-13 as a heading for each petition.
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy (Matthew 6:9);
Our Father in heaven, thank you for adopting Sarah into your family and caring for her as your precious daughter. Come in the power of your Holy Spirit to bring honor to your name through her by the way she thinks, acts and lives.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10);
Our Father, I pray Sarah will experience the love and power of your sovereign rule in her life. I know you want to work through her to bring your love, your care, your power, your life into ever relationship and every responsibility.
Give us today the food we need (Matthew 6:11);
Lord, Sarah and all of us rely on you to provide for our needs: physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially, vocationally, in relationships and in every other way. You provided manna in the wilderness for your people during the Exodus, and provide yourself as the Bread of Life for us through your life, death and resurrection. Reassure Sarah that you are with her to provide her every need and continue to give her a spirit of confidence and gratitude, trusting you at all times.
and forgive us our sins (Matthew 6:12);
Our Heavenly Father, we are still all-too-human. Your work in us has begun, but is not yet completed. Let Sarah know the cleansing gifts of your mercy (in not giving us the judgement we all deserve) and your grace (in giving us the favor none of us deserve). Release her from regret, shame and self-condemnation. Silence the voice of the Accuser of your children, the evil one.
…as we have forgiven those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12);
Merciful God, we are all quick to keep records of wrong done against us and to hold grudges instead of holding on to you. Heal Sarah’s wounds, her sense of being devalued, and whatever other pain has lodged in her heart. Give her both the willingness and the will to release others from the consequences their words and actions have generated. Help her surrender her right to hurt them in return.
And don’t let us yield to temptation (Matthew 6:13).
Lord, there is an enemy eager to trip us up and see us fail. And too often we all-too-willingly go along with him. Awaken your power within Sarah to resist temptation. Give her eyes to discern the evil lurking in the shadows of the world and even in her own heart. When the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, come in your power to keep her heart, mind, soul and body stayed on You.
…but rescue us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).
Almighty God, we are so vulnerable to the powers of darkness. Dress Sarah in your amour (Ephesians 6:10-18) so she will stand strong against the evil one. Above all, Lord, protect her by your power and might.
When we begin to pray with holy imagination, inspired by God’s Spirit using God’s Word– prayer becomes an experience far beyond an online order! I invite you to make a simple sign to post in a number of places: WWJP.