A Handbook to Prayer

Introduction

The Purpose of this Handbook

Spiritual growth is impossible apart from the practice of prayer. Just as the key to quality relationships with other people is time spent in communication, so the key to a growing relationship with the personal God of heaven and earth is time invested in speaking to Him in prayer and listening to His voice in Scripture.

As central as these twin disciplines of prayer and Scripture are to our spiritual life, most believers in Christ are frustrated by hit-or-miss approaches to both. As a result, their time in prayer and the word can become unsatisfying, routine, and even boring. It is no surprise, then, that most people spend a minimal amount of time in either of these disciplines and fail to develop intimacy with the One for whom they were created.

The problem with prayer is heightened by the fact that people often succumb either to the extreme of all form and no freedom, or the opposite extreme of all freedom and no form. The first extreme leads to a rote or impersonal approach to prayer, while the second produces an unbalanced and undisciplined prayer life that can degenerate into a litany of one “gimme” after another. Handbook to Prayer was designed to make prayer a more enriching and satisfying experience by providing both form and freedom in the practice of prayer.

The Structure of this Handbook

Think of this handbook as a tool that combines the word of the Lord with prayer and guides you through the process of praying Scripture back to God. It will enable you to think God’s thoughts after Him and to personalize them in your own thinking and practice. It will also provide you with a balanced diet of prayer by guiding your mind each day through eight kinds of prayer. Because it is based on Scripture, you can be assured that these prayers will be pleasing to God. This book will encourage you in your walk with God by enriching and enhancing the quality of your experience of prayer.

Years ago, Max Anders and I were profoundly influenced by the Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, a seventeenth-century Anglican bishop and prominent translator of the King James Bible. Andrewes adapted Scripture into various forms of prayer, and this idea prompted us to create a guide to prayer called Drawing Near. In the years since that book appeared, I have become increasingly impressed with the need to create a more powerful tool for personal and group prayer. Handbook to Prayer contains approximately three times as many biblical passages and utilizes a three-month Daily Prayer Guide rather than a one-month cycle. In addition, it contains a One Week Prayer Guide which you can use occasionally when you want a more in-depth time of prayer.

To create this collection of biblical prayers, I consulted several translations as well as the original language of every passage. The result is essentially my own translation, though it shares much in common with existing translations. My intention in doing this was to remain as close to the biblical text as possible while still retaining clarity and readability. I then adapted the passages into a personalized format so that they could be used readily in the context of individual and group prayer.

As in Drawing Near, this handbook is structured around eight forms of prayer which are based on the model of The Lord’s Prayer. Our Lord told His disciples to pray in this way:

Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come;

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. (Matthew 6:9–13)

The eight forms of adoration, confession, renewal, petition, intercession, affirmation, thanksgiving, and closing prayer are all illustrated in this model prayer:

“Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name”—The prayer principles of adoration (praise for who God is) and thanksgiving (praise for what He has done).

“Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—The principle of affirmation, that is, agreeing with God’s will and submitting to it.

“Give us our daily bread”—The principle of supplication, in which we make requests both for ourselves (petition) and for others (intercession).

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”—The principle of confession in view of our need for forgiveness of sins.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”—The necessity of renewal as we face the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”—A closing prayer that honors the Lord and completes our thoughts.

The prayers of petition are formatted around a seven-day cycle:

Growth in Christ

Growth in Wisdom

Spiritual Insight

Relationships with Others

Faithfulness as a Steward

Family and Ministry

Personal Concerns.

The prayers of intercession are also based on a weekly cycle:

Churches and Ministries

Family

Believers

Evangelism

Government

Missions

World Affairs.

How to Use this Handbook

Handbook to Prayer consists of five parts: Morning Affirmations, a Daily Prayer Guide, a One Week Prayer Guide, a Topical Prayer Guide, and Personal Prayer Pages.

Part One: Morning Affirmations

This set of affirmations is a tool designed to help you renew your mind at the beginning of each day. It guides you through a biblical perspective on the fundamental issues of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? In this way, you review God’s perspective on your faith, your identity, your purpose, and your hope.

Don’t feel compelled to go through all the passages in Morning Affirmations every time. As the content becomes more familiar, avoid the trap of reducing these affirmations to a set of words you repeat by rote. Use them as a preliminary to prayer and Bible reading, not as a substitute.

Part Two: Daily Prayer Guide

This is the heart of this handbook. Because these prayers are on a three-month cycle, you will encounter each passage only four times a year. Thus, this guide can be used indefinitely without excessive repetition.

Be sure to use the prayer prompts so that you do not merely read the prayers. It is essential that you personalize them so that they can be incorporated in your own thoughts and experience.

You can adapt the prayers in each day to differing time formats. They can be used with profit in a short period of time, or you can move through them more slowly, as you see fit.

Although you can tie these daily prayers to the day of the month, there is no need to do so, particularly if you find yourself falling behind. You may decide to mark your place with the ribbon and continue wherever you left off.

Part Three: One Week Prayer Guide

This seven-day prayer guide is particularly appropriate for longer times of meditation and devotional prayer. You may wish to move through this cycle on an occasional basis.

Part Four: Personal Prayer Pages

I encourage you to use these pages to add your own thoughts and prayers as they come to mind when using this handbook. You can also use this section to record your petitionary and intercessory prayer lists as well as specific answers to prayer.

The Philosophy Underlying this Handbook

The God of the Bible is infinite, personal, and triune. As a communion of three Persons, one of God’s purposes in creating us is to display the glory of His being and attributes to intelligent moral creatures who are capable of responding to His relational initiatives. That which can be known of God—His attributes and the glory of His being—has been clearly displayed through the creation of the world, so that mankind is “without excuse” (Rom. 1:19–21). In spite of human rebellion and sin against the Person and character of the Lord, Christ bore the awesome price of our guilt and inaugurated “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) by which the barrier to personal relationship with God has been overcome. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).

Since God is the initiator of a loving relationship with us, our high and holy calling is to respond to His offer. Our Lord, in encapsulating the Law and the Prophets, gave us the essence of this response: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39). The quality of our vertical relationship with God has a direct bearing on the quality of our horizontal relationships with others. As we grow in His grace, we will have an enhanced capacity, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to respond to others with the Christlike qualities of humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance (Ephesians 4:2). This agape, which we receive from the Lord and which flows through us toward others, is rooted in volition (our willingness to receive and display it) and is expressed through thinking and feeling in the deeds of other-centered love.

Another way of summarizing our calling and purpose as followers of Christ is to love God completely, to love self correctly, and to love others compassionately.

Loving God completely is a growth process that involves the personal elements of communication and response. By listening to the Holy Spirit in the words of Scripture and speaking to the Lord in our thoughts and prayers, we move in the direction of knowing Him better. The better we know Him, the more we will love Him, and the more we love Him, the greater our willingness to respond to Him in trust and obedience.

To love ourselves correctly is to see ourselves as God sees us and to allow the Word, not the world, to define us by telling us who and whose we really are. The clearer we capture the vision of our new identity in Christ, the more we will realize that our deepest needs for security, significance, and satisfaction are met in Him and not in people, possessions, or positions.

A biblical view of our identity and resources in Christ moves us in the direction of loving others compassionately. Grasping our true and unlimited resources in Christ frees us from bondage to the opinions of others and gives us the liberty to love and serve others regardless of their response.

Since we cannot serve two masters, the focus of our heart will either be the temporal or the eternal. If it is the temporal, we cannot love God completely because of a divided heart. When Christ is a component instead of the center of life, things become complicated; the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things choke the word of truth in our lives and we do not bear lasting fruit (Mark 4:19). If the focus of our heart is the eternal, we will love Christ above His created goods and pleasures and begin to fulfill the enduring purpose for which we were created.[1]

 


[1] Boa, K. (1993). Handbook to prayer: Praying scripture back to God. Atlanta: Trinity House.

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