Petitionary prayer is the most commonly used and the most commonly abused form (or type) of prayer. It needs to be returned "to its privileged and powerful place in the lives of God's children" (p. 21, emphasis added). This chapter shows up where petitionary prayer belongs and the right and logical order for all types of prayer.
The Bible shows us five different types of prayer (aka ways to communicate with God). First there is relational prayer. This is not just a simple start your prayer with "Our Father" type of relationship. This is a deep and intimate relationship. "This is what Jesus had in mind when He told us to remain in Him, to abide in Him" (p. 21). This is turning your heart constantly to God, getting to know Him (and wanting to get to know Him) deeply, as deeply as you know your best friend, your spouse, your parents or siblings or children; no, it's getting to know Him better than you know them! It is the great obsession! And how can we get to know Him better? Through spending much time with Him reading His word and praying!
Next we find prayers of worship and adoration. These naturally follow relational prayer. When we know God, really know Him, we want to worship Him. Yes, you can worship God in song but that is not the primary way to give prayers of worship and adoration. Worship Him with your words that flow from your relationship with Him. Pray with adoration!
Our third type of prayer is prayers of thanksgiving. When we are in relationship with God and worship Him, we desire to thank Him for His blessings BUT also thank Him for Himself! "It should be noted that only when we're first overwhelmed with who God is can we be properly thankful for what He provides" (p. 22). Sometimes things happen that we expect or want to happen and we thank God but with an attitude of 'of course that happened! That's what's God's supposed to do!' This is not a truly thankful attitude! Instead, it's an attitude of entitlement! A long, but good, quote from Dr. Larry Crabb on this type of prayer: "Efforts to worship God without first getting to know Him tend to reduce worship to mere appreciation when God cooperates with our agendas. And thanking God without true worship, without first being stunned that the holy God who has every right to abandon us instead draws us closer, leaves us still thinking that at least a few things ought to go our way. But when true worship is the spring from which gratitude flows, we take nothing for granted. The fact that anything is right in our lives becomes a cause for celebration, and we feel humble gratitude for undeserved blessings - which, of course, all of them are" (p. 22-23). I think that, too often, we think that relational prayer and prayer of thanksgiving are all prayers of worship, and we miss out on the rich beauty that each of these three types of prayer offer us.
When we know God and are filled with worship and thanksgiving, we think of others selflessly and this is a true and right prayer of intercession, the fourth type of prayer. "The mind o fChrist takes over, and we become more concerned for others than for ourselves. ... But if we intercede for others without attending to our own relationship with God, our intercession will have more to do with our well-being than with theirs" (p. 23, emphasis added).
Finally we come to prayers of petition. When we get the process right: know God, worship, give thanks, intercede "with other-centred love" (p 23), then petition comes from a surrendered heart. "When I want to be like Jesus more than anything else, then I pray, 'Not my will but Thine be done. Above all else, may Your kingdom come'" (p. 23). Then we are really praying in the Spirit! Then our prayers of petition are in line with God's will for our lives!
I end with one final quote from Dr. Crabb: "I do want you to first delight yourself in the Lord, to love Him with all your being, and to then ask boldly for whatever desires arise out of your God-obsessed heart. If your relationship with God is not the growing foundation for asking things of God, then petitionary prayer will become hopelessly bewildering and frustrating. If you try to get things of God without first praying to get more of God Himself, your petitions will sound more like the rantings of a spoiled brat than the requests of a dependent child" (p. 24, emphasis added).
Though it is taking me some time to get through this book, I am really enjoying it! I hope that the next chapter doesn't take as long to get through and to get my thoughts written! :)
You can view the other posts in this series here.