To introduce our second key to daily positive living, I would like to share with you two verses. The first is Luke 11:1, ‘And it came to pass, as He [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of his disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”.’ Then in Luke 18:1 we read, ‘Then he spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ There are two powerful statements from the ministry of Jesus.
In the first incident the disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ It is interesting that this is the only place in the Gospels where the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them something. They never asked Him to teach them how to perform miracles, such as how to walk on water or how to feed five thousand people. But they did ask Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ They recognized that one thing they needed to know was how to pray to God. Then later Jesus said, ‘Men ought always to pray and not lose heart.’ Or as some other translations have it, ‘not to give up or faint’. These two statements refer to an activity that we need to engage in on a daily basis. Every day we need to pray. But you say, ‘I’ve done that many times but with little success. How should I pray?’ And that is the subject of this article.
The first key to a daily positive life is to Let God Talk To You through the Bible. Take a verse or a series of verses, meditate upon them and let God talk to you through His Word. Now let us consider the other side of what should be a two-way conversation, and see our need to talk to God. In one of my annotated Bibles it is stated that there are 221 recorded prayers in the Bible; that is, 221 occasions where there are actual words recorded of a person engaged in prayer to God. That fact says to me that prayer is important. In addition, there are many other occasions where people prayed but the Bible does not record the words they uttered. The people in Bible times knew the importance of prayer. I believe that we also need this key to daily positive living.
We need to ensure that every day we have a conversation with God. I like the definition of prayer as a conversation between two persons who love each other. Every young couple knows the thrill of such a conversation. Perhaps many who have been married for a number of years still enjoy such a conversation every day. Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. As a young Christian, I was taught by the example of the older Christians in the church to pray in a certain way. ‘Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we implore Thee…’ We had all the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ in the right places and, of course, we started our prayers with Adoration, we came to Confession, we spent some time on Thanksgiving, and we concluded with Supplication — A.C.T.S. This kind of prayer was not a conversation between two people who love each other, but a structured lecture to the Creator.
You and I belong to God’s family, and within the framework of a family (provided we observe the common courtesies), it really does not matter too much what words we employ to get our needs known by other family members. It needs only a syllable or two for the parents of small children to pick up just what the child is trying to say to them. In the matter of prayer, it is not the choice of words that is important — the important point is that you pray. We need to talk to God, and I believe God is less concerned with the words we employ than we are. So Let’s Talk to God.
The purpose of prayer
What is the purpose of prayer? Why has God set up this method of communication with Him? What does God want out of it and what do we get out of it? In I John 1:3 we read, ‘That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.’ I would like to suggest to you that the purpose of prayer is simply that we can have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Fellowship, somebody has defined, is having two fellows in the one ship. And I suppose that is reasonable, for two people in those circumstances would talk to each other. The Greek word translated fellowship means ‘a common sharing’. God and I have something in common — we belong to the same family. He is the Father, I am one of the children, and on that basis He wants to have fellowship. It is sad when you see a family where people do not talk to one of the family members, or when one of the family members isolate themselves from the rest of the family. It is vital to maintain fellowship within the family. And it is important in God’s family too, and that is what prayer is all about.
James tells us to ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:8). God really does want to have a conversation with you every day. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’ (Hebrews 10:22). Since I know that the purpose of prayer is fellowship with God, then I will pray ‘in full assurance of faith’. It was God Who set up this effective means of communication and I will engage in it totally convinced that there is purpose behind the exercise.
God talks to us through the Bible and we talk to Him through prayer. This is a conversation with the One we love, and God encourages us to do this. I believe that Revelation 3:20 is one of the most beautiful verses in that book. ‘”Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”‘ That is fellowship. That is God coming into your home, putting His feet under the same table as you, and enjoying a conversation over a meal. I am told that in the Middle East the custom was that if strangers came to your door, you would be obligated to invite them into the house and give them a meal. However, you would not sit down at the table with them because they are strangers to the household. Yet if it was a friend or a member of the family, then you would sit down and have a meal with them.
In this great verse, God is saying, ‘You are no longer strangers to Me. I am looking at you as My friend and part of My family. All you need to do is to open the door and let Me into your life. I will sit down with you and I will dine with you and you with Me.’ There is nothing better than sitting down with friends and having a good meal, is there? So the purpose of prayer is for us to have a conversation with the One we love, to have fellowship with God.
The promise of prayer
Now God promises that when we pray He will hear us. Let me share one or two verses about the promise of prayer. In I John 5:14,15 we are told, ‘Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.’ Prayer is obviously not a one-sided conversation. If we will talk to Him, He will take care of the situation.
In Psalm 91:15 God is speaking, and He says, ‘He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvation.’ That positive verse is a beautiful promise of answers to prayer. What do we have to do? We have to call, we have to engage in a conversation. When we do, He says He will take care of the situation. Isaiah 58:9 is another of my favourite verses on answered prayer. God says, ‘Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am”.’ That is a beautiful, powerful promise too. You call, and God says He will answer. You cry out, and He will say, ‘I am here. You have my attention. What do you need?’
Here is one final verse on the promise of prayer. Isaiah 65:24 says, ‘It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.’ Does that sound as if God has nothing better to do than sit there and wait for you to speak? Yes, that is quite true. Our Father is concerned about you and your life. Before you call, He will answer, and while you are still speaking He will hear and set the wheels in motion. The purpose of prayer is to have fellowhip with God. The promise of prayer is that God hears and answers. Like any other principle, it will work when you work the principle.
The plan of prayer
Now let us get to the practical side of prayer. What is the plan of prayer? How do you go about it? Go into any Christian bookstore and you will find hundreds of books on the subject of prayer, with a multitude of suggestions. I want to share with you the plan that I teach and which has been helpful to many people.
Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. What are the parts of a conversation? Picture this scene. I am walking down the street and I meet a friend. I say, ‘Good day, Todd, how are you? Good to see you. You are looking well. Do you remember the first time I met you? It was when we walked up that mountain to see the largest redwood tree in that forest?’ And he will say, ‘Yes, that was a great day, wasn’t it? I really enjoyed our talk that day.’ There is a conversation going on. We are talking. We greeted one another, we discussed things of mutual interest, we reminded one another of the joy of a past occasion. I would probably say, ‘Well, how is your wife?’ And he would answer, ‘Just great. And how is your wife and the boys?’ And so on. We are having a conversation, and it is flowing from greeting to interest in the other person, to thanksgiving for past events, to concern for others. Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other and it too will flow from subject to subject. Prayer is simply a conversation, so you do not need a theological course in order to pray. You do not need to have graduated from university or even from high school in order to pray. You simply have a conversation with the One you love.
The four basic steps to prayer that follow have appeared in many forms over the years. I have adapted them to reflect my understanding of positive Christianity. I believe that these steps will help you to apply the key of prayer to daily positive living.
You are here, Lord (worship)
The first step is worship: You are here, Lord. For example, ‘I know you are here, God. You are always here. There is no question about that. I really appreciate your concern for me.’ In this step you talk about His presence and thank God for what He is. So often we think that prayer is asking God to do something or thanking God for something He has done, but God, just like your wife or husband, likes to know that you appreciate Him, and that is worship.
The book of Psalms was obviously written by a nation of people who knew what worship was all about. ‘The Lord is great’, ‘the Lord is mighty’, ‘the Lord is gracious to his people’, and similar statements are seen constantly in the Psalms. This is a good place to start. ‘Lord, you are here and I appreciate that.’ That is the step of worship.
Thank you, Lord (thanksgiving)
Then your conversation with God naturally flows on to thanksgiving. This is the second step, Thank you, Lord. Perhaps it might go like this: ‘Lord, I thank You today for the beautiful roses that were given to me, and I thank You that I can smell the sweet perfume. Thank You for the little things of life as well as the big things.’ If you looked through my library you would not find too many books of actual prayers, but I did find one. I think my wife bought it at a sale one time. I looked through it to see if there was a prayer that would illustrate this second step, Thank You, Lord. I found this one which I thought was excellent. ‘Lord, I would like to thank You for popcorn. That’s right, nice, ordinary, salted popcorn. What would a movie be without popcorn? How exciting would a circus be without popcorn? So thank You for popcorn, Lord. And if You think enough of us to give us popcorn, you must think enough of us to give us the essential needs too. I pray that I will always think enough of You to thank You for popcorn.’ Let us get out of that high-level churchy language and thank God for the little things in life as well as the big things. That is the second step, Thank You, Lord.
You are my Helper, Lord (affirmation)
The third step is the step of affirmation where you say: You are my Helper, Lord. ‘You are the One, Lord, who gives me health and strength. You are the One who supplies my every need.’ Now we start thinking about our own particular world and situation. In this step of affirmation we are not begging or pleading God that we need a thousand dollars this week to pay for this or that. We are affirming that God is the One who is our Helper in every need. However, God knows how to get one thousand dollars. So if that is your need you say, ‘Thank you, God. You know just the way that I should go about raising one thousand dollars. So I thank you, God, for the guidance that is going to make the first hundred of that thousand become available quickly.’ It is a period of affirmations, a time when you are working on your own opportunities.
Lord, bless… (intercession)
Next you think of other people, and this is the fourth step of prayer: Lord, bless… ‘Now, Lord, I thank You for so and so. They may have had it tough lately but they are blessed, Lord. I see them with plenty to meet their every need. And thank you for blessing Grandma Schultz in hospital. Today is going to be one of her best days.’ You have a conversation with God about the needs of other people. In this final step, you stay positive. See the good in other people, see them as having the supply of their every need, see them already blessed with heaven’s best. Do not pray the problem, but pray the solution.
Here is the four-point plan of positive prayer in outline form:
- You are here, Lord (worship).
- Thank you, Lord (thanksgiving).
- You are my Helper, Lord (affirmation).
- Lord, bless… (intercession).
This four-point plan of prayer is only a crutch to get you started, but it really works. In actual fact, you do not even need that much of a plan. You just need to have a conversation with the One you love. Yet if you want to use this plan, do so, because it will help you to see what prayer really is all about. It is just like an ordinary conversation. You greet the person. You say something nice. You thank them for whatever they have done for you. Then you talk about your own situation, and about mutual friends.
Talk to God in the same way. Have a conversation with Him. It is an important key to daily positive living. It is said that an atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support. We Christians do have support, and by praying to an invisible God on a daily basis we recognize that. There is a beautiful Christian poem by Ralph Cushman that starts by saying, ‘I met God in the morning, when my day was at its best’. That is a good time to have a conversation with the One you love. Then right through the day remember He is ready to listen to you. You do not have to go into a church and kneel down to pray. Talk you Him quietly in every situation in your day. When something good happens, however small, say, ‘That’s great, Lord. Thanks!’ And, after you have had a great day, you can say at night, ‘Thanks, Lord, its been a good day. And thanks for a refreshing sleep’, and slip into bed.
Let’s Talk to God on a daily basis. If you set the same time every day for your conversation, then you are more likely to have it. Read a verse or verses of the Bible every day, and spend time in conversation with the One you love. In this way you will be tapping into these principles of daily positive living, and you will really enjoy life.
I will conclude by sharing one final verse, this time from the Living Bible translation of Psalm 116:1, ‘I love the Lord because He hears my prayers and answers them. Because He bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe!’ That should be our attitude to this beautiful principle of daily living — Let’s Talk to God.
Copyright © 1986 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this article, except where otherwise indicated, is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/. From the book “God’s Principles and Your Potential.”