Rethinking our prayers | Jesus’ Creed

We can all benefit from rethinking our petition prayers, what we ask of God.

My own belief is that we are breaking into the presence of God. Instead of barging in, I recommend that we reflect on what it is about God that would make God want God to answer our prayers. What does God look like when he suggests that God will answer our requests?

The Bible does petitions so well, and church collections have made petitions a formula that can teach us so much about petitioning prayer. I call it in my classes “praying collectively”.

The Anglican Collects learned the “art” of prayer by request by studying the Bible. I am basing myself on my new book titled, To you all hearts are open: revitalize the model of the Church of asking God.

When Kris and I moved our family to Nottingham, England, we attended a small Anglican Church (St Peter’s) near our home. We had never been to an Anglican church even though Kris had grown up Presbyterian and was more familiar with the liturgy.

I was struck by the prayers of the Book of Common Prayer. They are called Collects (as in CAH-lex). I learned a few models from them without really knowing the deep roots of that model.

After I started with the Church of the Redeemer, I started to think about it more seriously and eventually did a study on their relationship to biblical prayers. I have seen how deeply rooted the basic fundraising model is in biblical prayers. Not all biblical prayers, of course, but a lot.

Here are the big ideas: A pattern developed in the Bible became the pattern for the church prayer tradition called Collect. There are a few common elements in the model that has developed, and a very good study is done by LEH Stephens-Hodge, who sorts six elements of a Collect:

  1. Invocation: Addressing God
  2. Recognition: “who, whose, who”
  3. Petition: “Grant” or “Keep” are common terms.
  4. Aspiration: start with “that”
  5. Advocacy: “through” (means)
  6. Attribution: “who lives …”

Let’s face it: we don’t use some of these terms often, so I think it’s easier to teach this deep biblical pattern using the following terms:

  1. Address
  2. Truths about God
  3. Petition
  4. Objective of the petition
  5. Grace (in which I am including the Subscription).

Here is the collection that I use in the new book.

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open, all desires are known, and no secret is hidden from you:
Purify the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may love you perfectly and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Image: Cover photo

Each of the above five elements that I use can now be illustrated:

Address: Almighty God,

Truths about God: to you all hearts are open, all desires are known, and no secret is hidden from you:

Petition: Purify the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

Objective of the petition: so that we may love you perfectly and worthily magnify your holy Name;

Grace: through Christ our Lord. Amen

Notice, now, this prayer in the Old Testament of Hezekiah, which has a few of these elements in (and this is just one example – there are so many:

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned among the cherubim,

you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth.

Give ear, O Lord, and hear;
open your eyes, O Lord, and see;
listen to all the words that Sennacherib sent to ridicule the living God.

It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They threw their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, shaped by human hands.

Now, O Lord our God, deliver us out of his hand,

that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.

(Isaiah 37: 14-20)

I encourage you to notice the prayers in the Bible as I did, not so much the Psalms as those in other books, and see what elements appear. It’s a fun exercise that can help us learn to “ask” God in a more respectful way.

Overall, a pattern is formed. The Collect Prayer Tradition is the church’s wisdom on how best to ask God.

A big problem: most of our requests burst into the presence of God without thinking about the second element. So here’s how I teach prayer. Everything starts with # 3 but we go back from # 3 to # 1 and 2 in the light of # 4 on the basis of # 5.

1 Give God a name

2 Remind God of God

3 ask God what you really want

4 Give your prayer a purpose

5 stand on grace

I hope my new little book can help you learn to pray like those who came before us. That is to say, I hope they will help you learn to pray collectively.


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