Lord, teach us to pray. (Luke 11:1 NKJV)
In our modern world we have tools at our disposal that our parents never dreamed of having. Take the navigation systems on our cars and smartphones. We simply type in the address of our destination, and it guides us there, telling us an estimated time of arrival. When the disciples asked our Lord to teach them to pray, they were asking for a route, a path that would lead them into the throne room of God’s presence in prayer. The Bible clearly lays out this route for us, and it begins when we pray the prayer of confession.
The prayer of confession
The Bible reveals that our sins have separated us from God “so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2). King David lamented, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). Thus, it is obvious that the place to begin in prayer is to come clean and confess our sins to Him while standing on His promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Spend a moment confessing your sins to the Lord. Perhaps there are sins of the tongue, things you may have said. Perhaps sins of action, something you may have done that transgressed His law and will for your life. What about sins of thought? It is not a sin to have a certain thought pass through your mind. It becomes one when you do not allow it to do that — to pass through — and you harbor in your heart. There are also sins of omission; things we did not do that we knew we should have done. The Bible warns that “he who covers his sins will not prosper. However, the same verse promises that “whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
The prayer of thanksgiving
Once we have confessed our sin, we now can move on to a time of giving thanks. The Bible says, “ Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). You can never enter the throne room of prayer until you first come through the gate of thanksgiving. At this juncture in our prayer time, we pause to thank God for material blessings: our home, our car, our shoes and all that we have. We then give thanks for our physical blessings: eyes, mind, hearts, health. Next, we thank God for particular people in our lives who cause us to be better than we might be otherwise. Finally, we thank Him for spiritual blessings like love, joy, peace and our own salvation. Thanksgiving has a liberating effect. Remember, it was when Jonah offered a prayer “of thanksgiving” that he was liberated from his predicament in the belly of a fish (Johan 2:9–10).
The prayer of praise
Once we have entered through the gate of thanksgiving, we can now stand in the “courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Here we pause to let Him know how much we love Him as we answer the question He once asked of Simon Peter, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15). Here we praise the Lord for His attributes: His goodness, patience, mercy, holiness, love. While we thank God for what He does, we praise Him for who He is.
The prayer of intercession
After confessing our sin, giving thanks, and offering praise, we now move to the prayer of intercession. This is the prayer in which we approach the Lord in prayer on behalf of someone else. Here we pray for our family members, pastors, missionaries, friends, political leaders and so on. I have, through the years, found great joy in praying for those who may have spoken or come against me in some form or fashion. During this time of intercession, we pray for those we may know who do not know the Lord. Here we realize that the person without Christ is blind to the things of the Lord, for “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). Therefore, realizing that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4), we intercede in their behalf pulling down strongholds of pride, prejudice, presumption, procrastination, or any stronghold in which we discern they may be held, thus freeing them to choose Christ.
The prayer of petition
After the prayers of confession, thanksgiving, praise, and intercession, we come to the prayer of petition. Here we ask God for anything and everything that He may have placed on our hearts. We are to delight ourselves in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). This does not mean that whatever our hearts may desire He will give us. But it does mean that those desires in our heart will have been implanted there by Him. He gives and grants the desires that originate at His own throne.
The prayer of communion
After journeying through this pathway of prayer, we come to the place of communion with Him. Here we are simply quiet before Him with an open Bible, listening to His “still small voice” speaking to us at a point of our need (1 Kings 19:12). When my wife, Susie, and I first met, we talked profusely on those first few dates, not wanting the other to think we were boring. But after we had been dating a while, we would sit in my car in front of her parents’ home after a date and not say a word for a good while… but we were communicating at a personal level! The prayer of communion is the prayer we pray that goes beyond mere words when we just sit still before Him and listen.
As you begin to journey through prayer using this route, you, who perhaps have not been able to pray more than five minutes, will find that you will be praying longer and more powerfully than you ever dreamed possible.
Taken from The Prayer Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2021 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
O.S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/