Step 2 – Start your prayer with God. Remind God of His greatness and what He has already done, especially in your life
…O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand Thee? Art not Thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend for ever?
II Chronicles 20:5-7 (KJV)
Speak to God of His greatness, and remind Him of what He has done in the past – for you.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “I thought we were praying! When do I get to tell God all MY problems, and everything they did to me? Doesn’t that come first?” Yes, I used to think so too. But we’re looking at the pattern of an answered prayer. The time for petitioning will come.
You and God have a history
So – speak to God of His greatness. Now, it’s got to be personal. Some prayers, only you can pray, because what God did He did only for you. That’s partly why you can’t always be prayed for; because only you can tell Him, in your own special, personal way, the things that He has done for you.
Many times in His dealings with the children of Israel, in the Pentateuch, God refers to Himself along these lines: “I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 20:2, Exodus 29:46, Leviticus 11:45, Leviticus 19:36, Leviticus 22:33, Leviticus 25:38, Leviticus 25:55, Leviticus 26:13, Numbers 15:41, Deuteronomy 5:6.) Rather than refer to Himself as the Creator of heavens and earth (which He is) or the Captain of the hosts of heaven (which He also is) God repeatedly reminded them of a momentous event in their own lives during which they had personally seen His Power. That’s it.
In other words, if God was writing to me about Himself, He would say: “Samuel, I am the God that saved you that Saturday evening in Campus, and visited you in your room in Hall 7 the following evening.” Blessed be God forever. Away with a nebulous and hazy understanding of God! God would have us remember the reality and the Power and the Majesty of “Him with Whom we have to do.” He that cometh to God must believe (a) that He is, and (b) that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Don’t guess at it, friend, for you do not have to. He has done things for you in the past. Remind Him of these things. Did He not save you – bring you out of Egypt and the house of bondage – too? Has He not blessed you in many, many ways? Recount these things to Him. Perhaps you should not be surprised if you find yourself saying “Thank You, Lord,” and getting up, after this step! Our problems seem to shrink when set beside God. In any case, remind God about what He’s done for you in the past. You and He go way back. There is a history. Draw on it. You’ve got to start somewhere, and it will increase your faith.
The Lord’s Prayer
This pattern of beginning prayer with God and not us is repeated in the Lord’s Prayer as well. I imagine things went a little bit like this. The disciples, future Apostles, overheard Jesus pray (Luke 11:1). Man, I’d have liked to hear Him pray. There was something about His prayer that was not like other men’s prayers. Amen, have you ever heard a prayer like that? Sure, I have too. The prayer of somebody who is connected. I like those kinds of prayers. The prayers that you know are getting heard. So the disciples heard Him pray and they began to feel like their own prayers were inadequate. I am acquainted with that feeling. So they asked: “Lord, teach us to pray.” That kind of humility is worth learning from. They saw their failings, and they asked for help. That was prayer, too. So Jesus answered their prayer (amen). And He said:
“After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…“
Matthew 6:9-10 (KJV)
It is so unfortunate that too many of our prayers have precisely the opposite format:
“Jehovah Lord, Righteous Redeemer
It’s been a while since I
last told You what I want spoke to You, but I’m sure You understand. We had a fight with my spouse – no, no – auditors/exams/visitors/office deadlines and it’s been so busy. It wasn’t my fault, as I’m sure You saw.
So Lord, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Make my name great. Make me great! Let others see, Lord, let them see. I’m tired of being small. When will things change?
May my destiny/job/house/car/wife/husband/child come. I know You can do it. You said You would give me the desires of my heart, anyway.
Let my will and desires be done; first things first, Lord.
Gotta go Lord,
it’s time for [insert relevant TV programme here]. Thank You for listening. I know You’ll answer.
In Jesus’ Name,
Ok, I admit this is a bit extreme, but it is not entirely made up, either. It is not wrong to ask God to help us. But you see, Jesus said: pray after this manner. Not pray these words (this is vain repetition and is to be avoided as per Matthew 6:7), but use this format. The first four statements He said after saying that are not even requests, they are about God – His Fatherhood, His Name, His Kingdom and His Will. Not so much as a whisper about our needs, though these immediately follow. But that’s how we should pray folks. Not those shallow “gimme prayers”. Let’s pray prayers that concern themselves with the Almighty, first. That’s it – that is how to start a prayer. Begin at the right place, with the right Person. You will find that Person isn’t me, or you (or them, for that matter). It’s Him.
The Apostles’ prayer in Acts 4
Let’s look at the prayer of the Apostles in Acts 4, a prayer they prayed when they got into trouble with the priests for preaching the Gospel. The Bible says when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken. How did this building-shaking prayer start? Did they say: “Now, O great Jehovah, look these priests! Enemies of the Gospel and of You. They even got Jesus killed. Now move O God! And move them preferably…” Er… not quite. They said:
“Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said…”
Acts 4:24-25 (KJV)
In other words: “Lord, You’re God. You’re the Creator. You made all things. And this is what You said…” In fact they said a very great statement later on in the prayer: that everything that happened to Jesus Christ was actually in fulfilment of whatsoever God’s hand and His counsel had determined before should happen.
Let’s make our prayers less about us and more about God. Let us start with Him. His greatness. What He’s done for us, personally. His will. His plan for our lives. Then we can go on into Step 3.