1. Pray Like a Child (Seven Steps for Better Prayer)
1. Pray Like a Child (Seven Steps for Better Prayer)
Paul is one of the best models of prayer you can find in the Bible. Almost every one of his letters has some kind of prayer in it, and you can see a lot about how Paul prayed and what he prayed about.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul is praying for people he really loves — a small little group of Christians in a poor little town in Greece called Thessalonica. In chapter 2, he says he tried to go visit them again and again, but Satan hindered him. Probably because he was stuck in prison for preaching the gospel. So in chapter 3, it says he sent Timothy to see how they were doing.
Timothy comes back and gives this glowing report: “6 Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love.” Paul’s stoked out of his mind to hear about that: “7 We have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” Now we live. In other words, “You didn’t just make my day, you made my life.”
And so Paul just breaks into prayer right there as he’s writing:
9 What thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
There’s so much here, and over this week we’ll pull out seven things we can learn about prayer from the way Paul prayed.
Seven things that will help us pray more consistently. Pray more enthusiastically. Pray more strategically.
The first step to take to grow in prayer is to pray like a child.
There are four words that Paul repeats twice in this prayer. That means they’re really important. “Our God and Father.” That’s exactly how Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father in Heaven. He’s our God in heaven. He’s “seated on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe fills the temple” as Isaiah said. But he’s also our Father. And Jesus told us over and over again that if we want to approach God, we need to become like little kids: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
How do little kids come to God? With no pretenses. Just as they are. And that’s what will get us into prayer. Just coming to God as we are.
We make prayer into this big production. I have to get my wording just right. I have to follow the right formula: Adoration … Confession … Thanksgiving … Supplication. If I rush into supplication and start asking God for stuff too quick, then I failed!
You know what that makes prayer? A performance! That’s how the Pharisees prayed. It was always a performance. It was getting on stage with a mask on, and putting on a show. And that’s what we do all the time in our prayers. We try to perform. But if you feel like you’ve gotta perform in order to pray, guess what? You won’t pray! You’ll just pick up your phone instead. You’ll surf Insta or fire up Netflix.
So you need to come to God like a little kid does, with no pretenses and no defenses. In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller says, “The real you has to meet the real God. If you don’t begin with where you are, then where you are will sneak in the back door. Your mind will wander to where you are weary.”
That’s what Paul’s doing here. It’s just that he’s coming from the opposite direction. He’s not coming to God out of weariness, he’s coming out of joy. He’s been thinking about the Thessalonians, and he’s totally stoked about what he’s heard about them, and so he can’t help himself. He’s gotta pray about it, and praise God about it.
This is the real Paul we’re hearing right here. This isn’t a performance. We’re just listening to him talk story with his father, like he always does. Just like a child.
If you want to pray more? Start praying like a child.
Posts In This Series
So you’ve taken some of the steps we’ve been talking about this week. You’re planning out your prayer. You’re finding specific things to pray about that you’re passionate about. You’re prayer-walking or you’re journaling. You’re praying in community. You’re doing all...
We've been looking at Paul's prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3, and what's striking is how much joy Paul has, simply because of his relationship with the Christians in Thessalonica. Look at this: Now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of...
We've been learning from Paul's example of prayer in 1 Thessalonians. And the only reason we have that prayer is because Paul took the time to get his prayers outside his head. He didn’t just pray his prayers silently by himself. I don’t know about you, but I can’t...
As we saw yesterday, if you plan specific things to pray for and you keep track of how God has answered those prayers, you’re just going to pray more. But here’s the thing: you need to make it things you actually care about. If you try to pray for the missionaries in...
If the content of your prayers are vague, general requests, you won't be praying for very long. Or very often. If you want to pray seriously and strategically, you need to pray specifically. Look at what Paul asks for in verse 10: "We pray most earnestly night and day...
If you don’t have a plan for your prayer, you just won’t pray. So if you want to get better at prayer, you need to plan out when you’ll pray. There’s evidence in Paul's prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3 that this is exactly what Paul’s doing. He says in verse 10 that he’s...
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