Five Steps of Prayer

prayerWhen we pray, the Father aligns us to His heart. We acknowledge our dependence on Him. Prayer is communion and communication. Through the Bible we breathe in God’s words, through prayer we breathe out our response.

Prayer is essential to the Christian life.

Our church is taking a class though Tim Keller’s recent book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In it we find five helpful steps. At times all we can do simply cry out “Abba” and we must depend on the Spirit to intercede on our behalf. But at other times, we can be more mindful of our prayer life, and these steps can help bring order to this essential area of growth. Why would we not maximize effectiveness and fruit of our prayer time if intentionality is all that is required? Let these steps be a guide to a vibrant relationship with God.

1) Evocation. To evoke means “to bring to mind,” though it also can includeinvocation, calling on God. Keller says that there is almost, “universal agreement that prayer should be started by ‘thinking over who it is that you will be addressing, what he has done to give you access to himself, and how you stand related to him …” Think before you pray.

2) Meditation. To respond to God in prayer, we must listen to his Word. This means taking some time to meditate on some portion of the Bible as a bridge to prayer. Meditation is a form of reflection and self-communion. Take a verse or two, or an entire section, and meditate on it as a way of fueling your heart to prepare you to pray.

3) Word prayer. Keller received this insipiration from Martin Luther. And this is a step that is often overlooked. After meditating on Scripture, Luther takes time to “pray the text” before moving on to more free-form prayer. Luther advises that we take the Lord’s Prayer and paraphrase each petition in his or her own words, filling it out with the concerns on his or her heart that day. Keller advises that we do this at least once a week.

4) Free prayerFree prayer, as Keller explains, means simply to pour out your heart before the Lord in prayer. This is where we bring on all the supplications, petitions, prayer-lists, and anything on our heart that we want or need. This is the kind of prayer that we’re probably most familiar with. Helpful — indeed, God is our Father and we are his children and he loves it when we ask him for things — but J.I. Packer would warn us that this kind of prayer is only life-changing if it is not merely running down a “grocery-list,” but instead lifts each cause to God with theological reasoning and self-examination.

5) Contemplation. Here, Keller points us to Jonathan Edwards who points us to the Lord: “Edwards described contemplation as times when we not only know God is holy, but when we sense — ‘”see’” and ‘”taste’” — that he is so in our hearts. Luther would say that this is like getting “lost” in some aspect of God’s truth or character. Either way, prayer is always enhanced when we end with praise and contemplation.

“Don’t be intimidated by these plans,” Keller adds at the end. He finishes with saying, “Follow the steps … without feeling the need to do all the specific proposals or answer all the questions within each part. Prayer will grow and draw you in.”

Are You Having Conversations That Really Matter?

What kind of conversations are the most common between adults and children? Here is a graphic that shows the types of questions asked at what ages. Interesting. As a father of young children and a full time youth worker, I simultaneously see both ends of the spectrum. I’d say in an over-generalized kind of way, it is pretty much right on.

Do you notice any blaring deficiencies? Where are the questions about God? Where are the conversations about faith? Where are the opportunities to really know why you believe what you you believe?

I am reminded of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This is the Sh’ma (or Shema). It is the most important prayer in the Jewish faith, past and present. The word “Sh’ma” is the hebrew word for “hear” which is the opening call to action in the text.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b]You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Notice the intentionality to be used when talking to our children about God, faith, and matters of first importance. This text is a vivid reminder that we should be taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to initiate conversations about God.

We should do this at home. This is where our kids see the “real” us. It is where our guard is down. When we are simply ourselves. Does it show in those moments, though our speech, that God is the most important thing in our lives?

We should do this when we “walk by the way”. Ok, we don’t walk much anymore. But one great time for quality conversations is what I call, “windshield time”. You can really get a teenager to open up when you are driving and both staring out the windshield. Don’t be afraid to ask some probing questions now and then. In the car you have a captive audience…but remember, its equally about listening as it is talking.

We should do this when we “lie down and when we rise”. Let it be the last thing on your lips at night and the first thing on your lips in the morning. What is “it” you say: the Glory of God and the awesomeness of Jesus Christ! Say bedtime prayers together. Small habits like that have big influences on kids. On the morning side, a memory that will forever be burned in my mind is dragging myself out of bed everyday as a rebellious teenager only to see my mom reading her bible at the breakfast table. She never force that on me, but her example spoke volumes. Now as an adult, looking back on those years I thank God for her faithfulness and see its influence in my own life.

So what kind of conversations are we initiating with the children in our lives? Both our biological children and any of those whom we have influence over. Maybe you are a small group leader, a soccer coach, the minivan mom who gives rides to every kid in the neighborhood. How are you using your words to push the next generation closer to an authentic relationship with the God of the universe? I pray you will “hear” the call to do just that!

Your fellow worker in the field, Adam

New “Rules of Engagement” for Teenage Communication

In a brave new world of social media and wireless devices there are new rules of engagement for communication within the rising generation.  Here are some trends that are developing with today’s teenagers.  Click HERE for a link to Fuller Youth Institute article or here for the original article.  Or just suffer through my commentary on these 7 points.

(FYI, this write up doesn’t even touch the dinosaurs known as landlines and email.)

 1.    Face to face communication is tops among teens.

Despite what you may think, real interaction is still the best get to know a teenager. And they seek it out with people who offer it to them. Will you offer?

2.    They keep their phone calls brief.

Losing an understanding of the “unwritten rules” of the phone conversations, teens typically keep calls under four minutes.  Voice calls are considered more appropriate for adults.

3.    Video chats (facetime, skype, oovoo…) are becoming more popular.

From study groups, to roommates home on summer break, this is real face-to-face.  Non-verbal queues are conveyed here making phone/text deficient.

4.    Facebook and texting are important tools for dating. 

The relationship status on Facebook is a public announcement of the beginning and end of relationships.  Texting allows quiet communication in most any context. Beware.

5.    Teenagers use Facebook emotionally.

Adults use it as just another (possibly lesser) avenue of communication, while teens see it as an extension of real relationships.  The comments, statuses, and photos are a collective part of the relationships therein.

6.    The most common Facebook activities are “liking” and creeping.

That means checking out other people’s profiles without commenting…

7.    Mobile phones are the new smoking.

Not that phones cause cancer, but smoking was once a social tool for status and belonging, like your phone is now.


Why even bring up these trends in communication among teens?  Because Romans 10:14-15 reminds me, “But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!”

Are we doing all we can to effectively communicate the Gospel?  Are we speaking their language?

Teenagers are natives to the digital age, adults are immigrants.  Having been born and raised in a different culture, adults must intentionally learn how to relate to the natives we live among everyday.

Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam