Prayer is a conversation with God, not a formula. Yet sometimes we might need to use a “method” to freshen up our prayer time. We can pray the Psalms or other Scriptures (such as The Lord’s Prayer), or use the ACTS method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). I recently came across this “Five-Finger Prayer” to use as a guide when praying for others:
• When you fold your hands, the thumb is nearest you. So begin by praying for those closest to you—your loved ones (Phil. 1:3–5).
• The index finger is the pointer. Pray for those who teach—Bible teachers and preachers, and those who teach children (1 Thess. 5:25).
• The next finger is the tallest. It reminds you to pray for those in authority over you—national and local leaders, and your supervisor at work (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
• The fourth finger is usually the weakest. Pray for those who are in trouble or who are suffering (James 5:13–16).
• Then comes your little finger. It reminds you of your smallness in relation to God’s greatness. Ask Him to supply your needs (Phil. 4:6, 19).
Whatever method you use, just talk with your Father. He wants to hear what’s on your heart.
I read about a 5-minute rule that a mother had for her children. They had to be ready for school and gather together 5 minutes before it was time to leave each day.
They would gather around Mom, and she would pray for each one by name, asking for the Lord’s blessing on their day. Then she’d give them a kiss and off they’d run. Even neighborhood kids would be included in the prayer circle if they happened to stop by. One of the children said many years later that she learned from this experience how crucial prayer is to her day.
The writer of Psalm 102 knew the importance of prayer. This psalm is labeled, “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the
God cares for you and wants to hear from you. Whether you follow the 5-minute rule asking for blessings on the day, or need to spend more time crying out to Him in deep distress, talk to the Lord each day. Your example may have a big impact on your family or someone close to you.
My friend Gloria called with excitement in her voice. She had not been able to leave her home except for doctors’ appointments. So I understood why she was so happy to tell me, “My son just attached new speakers to my computer, so now I can go to my church!” Now she could hear the live broadcast of her church’s worship service. She raved about God’s goodness and the “best gift my son could have given me!”
Gloria teaches me about having a thankful heart. Despite her many limitations, she’s thankful for the smallest of things—sunsets, helpful family and neighbors, quiet moments with God, the ability to remain in her own apartment. She’s had a lifetime of seeing God provide for her, and she talks about Him to anyone who visits or calls.
We don’t know what difficulties the author of Psalm 116 was encountering. Some Bible commentaries say it was probably sickness because he said, “the cords of death entangled me” (v. 3). But he gave thanks to the Lord for being gracious and full of compassion when he was “brought low” (vv. 5–6).
When we’re low, it can be hard to look up. Yet if we do, we see that God is the giver of all good gifts in our life—great and small—and we learn to give Him thanks.
The little boy was only eight when he announced to his parents’ friend Wally, “I love Jesus and want to serve God overseas someday.” During the next ten years or so, Wally prayed for him as he watched him grow up. When this young man later applied with a mission agency to go to Mali, Wally told him, “It’s about time! When…
Wanting to mature in her spiritual life and become more thankful, Sue started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small piece of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other difficult days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read through all of the notes. She found herself thanking God again for everything He had done. He had given simple things like a beautiful sunset or a cool evening for a walk in the park, and other times He had provided grace to handle a difficult situation or had answered a prayer.
Sue’s discovery reminded me of what the psalmist David says he experienced (Ps. 23). God refreshed him with “green pastures” and “quiet waters” (vv. 2–3). He gave him guidance, protection, and comfort (vv. 3–4). He concluded: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (v. 6).
I’m going to make a Thanks-Living jar this year. Maybe you’d like to as well. I think we’ll see we have many reasons to thank God—including His gifts of friends and family and His provisions for our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We’ll see that the goodness and love of God follows us all the days of our lives.
When talking about faith in Jesus, we sometimes use words without understanding or explaining them. One of those words is righteous. We say that God has righteousness and that He makes people righteous, but this can be a tough concept to grasp.
The way the word righteousness is pictured in the Chinese language is helpful. It is a combination of two characters. The top word is lamb. The bottom word is me. The lamb covers or is above the person.
When Jesus came to this world, John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). We need our sin taken care of because it separates us from God whose character and ways are always perfect and right. Because His love for us is great, God made His Son Jesus “who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus, the Lamb, sacrificed Himself and shed His blood. He became our “cover.” He makes us righteous, which places us in right relationship with God.
Being right with God is a gift from Him. Jesus, the Lamb, is God’s way to cover us.
Emily listened as a group of friends talked about their family Thanksgiving traditions. “We go around the room and each one tells what he or she is thankful to God for,” Gary said. Another mentioned the last Thanksgiving meal with his dad before he died and went to heaven: “Even though Dad had dementia, his prayer of thanks to the Lord was clear.” Randy shared, “My family has a special time of singing together on the holiday. My grandma goes on and on and on!” Emily’s sadness and jealousy grew as she thought of her own family, and she complained: “Our traditions are to eat turkey, watch television, and never mention anything about God or giving thanks.”
Right away Emily felt uneasy with her attitude. You are part of that family. What would you like to do differently to change the day? she asked herself. She decided she wanted to privately tell each person she was thankful to the Lord that they were her sister, niece, brother, or great-niece. When the day arrived, she expressed her thankfulness for them one by one, and they all felt loved. It wasn’t easy because it wasn’t normal conversation in her family, but she experienced joy as she shared her love for each of them.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful,” wrote the apostle Paul, “so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Eph. 4:29 nlt). Our words of thanks can remind others of their value to us and to God.
Kerri tries hard to get people to admire her. She acts happy most of the time so that others will notice and compliment her on her joyful attitude. Some affirm her because they see her helping people in the community. But in a transparent moment Kerri will admit, "I love the Lord, but in some ways I feel like my life is a façade." Her own sense of insecurity is behind much of her effort of trying to look good to others, and she says she’s running out of energy to keep it up.
We can probably all relate in some way because it’s not possible to have perfect motives. We love the Lord and others, but our motives for how we live the Christian life are sometimes mixed with our desire to be valued or praised.
Jesus talked about those who give, pray, and fast in order to be seen (Matt. 6:1-6). He taught in the Sermon on the Mount to "give your gifts in private," to "pray to your Father in private," and "when you fast, don't make it obvious" (vv. 4, 6, 16
Serving is most often done publicly, but maybe a little anonymous service could help us learn to rest in God's opinion of us. He who created us in His image values us so much that He gave us His Son and shows us His love each day.
Joie started the children’s program with prayer, then sang with the kids. Six-year-old Emmanuel squirmed in his seat when she prayed again after introducing Aaron, the teacher. Then Aaron began and ended his talk with prayer. Emmanuel complained: “That’s four prayers! I can’t sit still that long!”
If you think Emmanuel’s challenge is difficult, look at 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray continually” or always be in a spirit of prayer. Even some of us adults can find prayer to be boring. Maybe that’s because we don’t know what to say or don’t understand that prayer is a conversation with our Father.
Back in the 17th century, François Fénelon wrote some words about prayer that have helped me: “Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them.” He continued, “Talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them: show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them . . . . If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say.”
May we grow in our conversation with God so that it might become our joy to spend time with Him.