Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
I used to pray every morning. Every morning started with a contemplation from Portals of Prayer, Concordia Publishing. Then I went through my prayer list. That started in earnest in 1981 when I started graduate school. It’s a habit that stuck until a year or two ago.
I still pray, but it tends to be a spur of the moment thing. I try to give thanks for the day as I lay down to sleep. I pray for whoever is in the rescue squad that just went by, siren wailing. As for starting my day with prayer, well, it’s been a while.
I dusted off my old prayer list, editing it to be current. Here’s how I use it. Just sharing my practice in case you find it useful. Every person or issue on the list gets individual attention. This often consists of thoughts more than words, because I can’t think how I want to phrase it. It’s brief.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Matthew 6:7
Once every item has gotten it’s due, I pray the Lord’s prayer very slowly, one petition at a time. I pray with my eyes open, scanning the list and mentally offering up whichever items relate the most to each petition.
That’s it. It is, for me, a very focused way to pray without a wandering mind. Maybe it’ll work for you, maybe not, but there it is. The key is to make it a habit, however you go about it.
Using the Lord’s Prayer is a great way to go. Jesus already gave us the words, so we don’t have to search for them. We go slowly and allow the purpose and meaning of each to resonate quietly in our minds.
Which brings me to a different type of prayer; orders of worship in the hymnal of whatever church you attend. My favorite was always the Order of Matins. If you’re older like me and Lutheran or Roman Catholic, it should ring a bell.
My Lutheran grade school had Wednesday morning chapel every week. Pastor Carl Beuschlein spent weeks going through Matins a piece at a time, teaching us the purpose of every aspect of it. Even today I could do it from memory, if my church would ever decide to use it again. I miss it terribly.
Why? I know it’s been fashionable for decades now to move away from the old orders of worship. A grab bag of elements is thrown together in the bulletin while hymnals sit idle. The phrasing always changes, and that’s a disservice to members. I know… The argument is that keeping it unfamiliar forces people to pay closer attention. I disagree.
What needs to happen is to have a predictable, familiar order of worship like Matins. Then, like using the Lord’s prayer as described above, the words just come while we contemplate what they are saying for us! After all, Matins is largely lifted wholesale from the Bible itself!
The trick, the challenge is to teach parishioners why Matins is organized and phrased as it is, not succumb to the lowest common denominator. People don’t like it, because they were never taught it!
Which brings me to one final thought that I must credit my pastor for. I recently bought Luther’s Prayers, edited by Herbert F. Brokering.
Prayer is a very precious medicine, one that helps and never fails – Martin Luther.
Pastor Chuck mentioned during Bible class a few weeks ago that prayer books can be very beneficial tools. Someone took the time to craft simple prayers for various occasions. That leaves us with being able to pray in a focused way where we are not struggling for words.
That’s it. This Thanksgiving let’s pray for all of the things God wants us to bring to Him thoughtfully, soberly. Let’s pray, giving thanks first and foremost before making the requests our heavenly Father wants to hear.