Becoming a Friend of God
By Dr. Sharon Schuetz
The world expects more from us today than ever before. Mom, the miracle worker, has to sew a costume for the school pageant, bake 12 dozen cookies, and drive her child's class to the zoo on short notice. She does this while writing an annual report, preparing a presentation for a new client, training a new secretary, and studying for her third-grade Sunday School class. If you're a parent and you're not praying, you should be.
Prayer is not a Band-Aid for a busy day, aspirin for the spirit, or antacid one takes after over-indulging in the world. It's powerful, exciting, refreshing and brings vitality to any life willing to commit to seek. Prayer is man's acknowledgement of a higher being. When we pray, we address God, the Creator of the universe; a mere mortal has a personal audience with the King of kings. It is simply spiritual communion with God. As we understand prayer, and pray regularly, we think about God more. Joy becomes second nature and other relationships improve.
A young man visited his brother, a student at a large seminary. He was unfamiliar with the sprawling campus so he asked the first person that passed by, "Is this Davidson Hall?"
Later, the seminary student asked his brother if he realized he had been talking to a world-famous theologian. He had the opportunity to ask any question, and he asked about a building. Christians are like that. We have the opportunity to ask anything we want. Nevertheless, how many of us really do?
Like anything else, our prayer life improves with practice and experience. Any new endeavor takes time and commitment. It's like learning to type in high school. A teacher teaches the keystrokes, how to hold our hands and where to place our fingers. We can only become good typists by practicing enough that we don't need a chart. Eventually, with sufficient experience, our fingers move quickly across the keyboard, often correcting mistakes without affecting our speed or accuracy. Quality comes with practice and experience.
At first, prayer may be nothing more than a child's sweet words: "Jesus, I love you." God hears every cry of the human heart. Our prayers are so important to Him that he calls them incense, as a "sweet smelling odour" going up before his throne. (Revelation 5:8 KJV.)
In this article, I will show you five types of prayer. You won't pray each one every time you pray. However, with an active prayer life, you will use them all regularly, and you will be assured of a well-rounded, sound relationship with God.
The first type of prayer is Praise. To praise God is to glorify Him. As you praise God, you focus on Him and on the splendor of His character and nature. You tell Him how much you love and appreciate Him just because He is God. You draw attention to His holiness, His mercy and His grace, telling Him what these attributes mean to you.
We don't praise God because He needs to hear it (Hebrews 13:15). We praise Him because praise reminds us of His attributes. When you begin prayer with praise, you break your mind loose from the cares of your day. As you speak, your mind begins to concentrate, your random thoughts slow down and constructive images begin to form in your thinking. Doubts, worry and fear loosen their hold as words of hope and encouragement fill your mind with faith. Praise prepares your mind, opening the door of communication between your spirit and God's.
With the door ajar, you are ready for the second type of prayer: Confession. This is simply recognizing that none of us can measure up to God's holy standard. Scripture promises, "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 KJV.)
No one can reach God's holiness. Instead, we depend on His mercy and Christ's blood to cleanse us from a defiled conscience. With a tender conscience, we can walk in holiness, acceptable to God.
Several years ago, my husband and I went to New York. Our second night there, we rode the Staten Island ferry. I was shocked at the filth. Paper, cigarettes, empty cups and puddles of spilled coffee and sticky drinks littered the stairs and walkways. We passed right by the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautifully clear, cold night. We tried to see Lady Liberty from the warmth inside, but the windows were so dirty from years of grease, smoke and filth that we couldn't make out her image. We had to go outside just to get a clear view.
Like the Staten Island ferry, if we allow sin to dirty the windows of our conscience, it will block our communication with God. Our conscience is the hinge on the door between our spirit and God's Spirit. When we confess our sin and repent, we remove anything that blocks our view of God and closes the door between us.
Praising God and confessing our sins leads us to openly Worship him, the third type of prayer. Worship is reverent honor given to God. After he forgives our sins, we want to fall on our faces, in worship. In worshipping God, we adore His majestic power and nature. With the door of communication wide open between us, our spirits share uninhibited communion.
Worship is different from praise. In praise, you verbally acknowledge and speak positively of God's attributes. In worship, you lay prostrate [if only in spirit] before God, in awe of Him, as you profess His might and know your forgiveness. You might weep or sit quietly basking in His presence.
Following closely behind worship is Thanksgiving. In Thanksgiving, you simply appreciate Him for who He is and for all He's done. You can't praise Him, confess your sins and worship Him without true gratitude. When you've seen yourself through His eyes in confession, and received His love through worship, thankfulness floods your being. You want to express your appreciation, and thank Him for His goodness. You have an Attitude of Gratitude.
You can only successfully pray the fifth type of prayer after investing time in praise, confession, worship and thanksgiving. These are what give you the power for Petition. When you've spent time in God's holy presence, you have confidence to ask for your needs, because you will know your petitions match His will for you and for those you bring before Him.
If you go to God with your petitions first--before praise, worship, confession and thanksgiving--you actually limit your effectiveness. We receive answers to our requests because we are His children and we want to please our Father. Praise, confession, worship, and thanksgiving prepare our hearts and minds to know what to ask. We will know God's mind on many matters and will not ask selfishly or fruitlessly. He will drop things into our spirits that He wants to observe happen in the lives of others. This level of communication comes through Spirit-to-spirit unity, reached through the time we've spent in His company: praising, confessing, worshipping and giving thanks.
We can compare praying to the experience of children learning to color. When children are learning to color they have two problems--they often choose inappropriate colors, and they have a difficult time staying in the lines. As they mature, they learn to do both, thus creating a nice picture. Our prayer life is that way. We don't always know what to pray for, and we don't always stay in the guidelines of God's will. As we learn to pray--utilizing praise, confession, worship, thanksgiving and petition--we will learn to ask for the right things. Our desires will line up with His will, and we will stay within His will, creating a good prayer life and an intimate friendship with God.
© 2006 by Dr. Sharon Schuetz
Dr. Schuetz is an ordained minister and has been in ministry with her husband for twenty years. She has a PhD in clinical Christian counseling. She and her husband of 30 years, Michael, have two sons, one daughter, and six grandchildren. You can read more of Dr. Schuetz' writing at http://www.mironministries.com