For the next 40 days we encouraging our church to pray. Our hope is that this booklet will be a boost to your spiritual development. Very few things are as important in this arena of life as prayer. Without this activity, our relationship with God becomes devoid of meaning and passion. One of the most important voices in our generation on communion with God is Richard J. Foster. In his book Celebration of Disciplines, Foster highlights the critical role of prayer:
Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines, prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.
While prayer is central to spiritual growth, the truth is that many of us struggle with this activity. We desperately need a deep connection to God in the moments of struggle and yet we feel alienated from God. Sometimes we convince ourselves we are completely capable of handling life on our own. Our success lulls us into a false sense of security. Other times we are afraid to reach out to God, fearing His disapproval of us. The results of this prayerlessness is tragic. The moment we need the benefits of prayer is the moment that it seems to elude us the most. This situation is compounded by the stresses of modern life tugging for our attention. We have time restraints, relational pressures, topped off with feelings of shame, and inadequacies. We hide from and ignore God when we need Him the most.
Thankfully, God still calls out to us. Psalms provides us a guide to help increase our prayer vocabulary. Within Psalms, the Psalter teaches us how to pray and how to handle real human emotions such as, lament, joy, fear, gratitude, happiness, and sorrow. John Calvin, in his commentary on Psalms, agrees: “It is my custom to call this book ‘An Anatomy of All the Parts of the Soul’ since there is no emotion anyone will experience whose image is not reflected in this mirror.” Adding later, “Whatever can stimulate us when we are about to pray to God, this book teaches us.”
In Psalms, we find wisdom that speaks to the center of our hearts. Over the next 40 days, we will dive deeply into prayer. Through this journey we will discover how to pray more openly and honestly.
Pastor Tim, Pastor Ben, and I have developed these sermons and study guides for you. We have three main targets we are trying to reach.
- For the prayerful, we hope you will continue more intelligently and fervently in your prayer life.
- For the skeptic, we hope you will lay aside skepticism and take a risk to engage in prayer.
- For all, we hope to show that an increase in our personal prayer life will help us understand and cope with our emotions.
We want you to participate. This is what we are asking you to do during these forty days:
- Attend the Sunday morning teachings (either in person or online)
- Take notes during the teaching time
- Respond to the questions and interact with the weekly exercises
- Pray more honestly than you ever have before
ONE OTHER THING
Be patient with yourself. Learning (or re-learning) to pray takes time. I liken this process to learning a new language. In Bible College and Seminary, I had the opportunity to study the language of the New Testament, Koine Greek. I was thrilled to jump into this part of my studies. I could hardly wait to unravel all the mysteries of the New Testament with my quickly acquired skill set. The only thing I learned quickly was how excruciatingly slow this process is. I didn’t translate my first sentence from the Greek New Testament until halfway through my second semester. Learning to pray is similar to learning a new language. First, we must understand some basics. After failed attempts and stuttering starts, we add a new layer of understanding. In time, though, our hope is that we are all fluent in our prayer talk with God. The bottom line is this takes time, but don’t give up. Now, let’s get started.