How to pray with confidence

Two suggestions for maintaining confidence with humility

Is there any point in praying if we’re not sure we’ll be heard? We’d all love to have the kind of confidence outlined in the first Epistle of John:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:13–15 NIV11)

What do we do when we don’t feel we have this confidence? And how do we prevent the opposite problem – that of pride? It’s a big subject, so we’ll not try to answer all the subtleties here, but we’ll take a look at one specific prayer of Jesus and see what we can learn.

1. Glorify your Son

In John 17, Jesus prays, “Glorify your Son”. (v1)

Not only does this summarise the whole prayer in John 17, but the whole of Jesus’ purpose on earth! In this longest recorded prayer of Jesus, we find the key to his confidence right here, in the first phrase. He has no difficulty in asking God to glorify him. No false modestly, no pretence that his life does not matter, no hiding from his destiny. Instead he dives right in and confidently asks his Father to glorify him. Sounds arrogant? “No”, you might say, “it’s appropriate for him because he was the Son of God. But we are not perfect, so we cannot pray like that.” Accepted – to a degree – but Jesus is also as human as we are:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14–18 NIV11)

The confidence of his request is not (only) that he is divine, but that he is correctly motivated. The key to his confidence is the second phrase, “that your Son may glorify you”. (v1)

2. Glorify You

Jesus’s greatest desire was to complete the work the Father had given him: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 NIV11; see also John 5.36). It was the Father’s work, so the Father gets the glory. Jesus did not want the glory for himself so that it would point to himself, but so that the Father received the glory. We, like him, are a light and a town on a hill (Matthew 5.15), living differently so that others, “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NIV11)

A Christian lives in such a way as bring glory to God.  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV11) If Jesus had wanted the glory to himself, it would have been an arrogant prayer. But, since he gloried in his Father receiving the glory, his request for glory was actually a humble one. Why? Because the method by which the Father was to receive the glory was for Jesus to die on the cross:

“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:23–24 NIV11)

With these thoughts in mind, I suggest two actions the next time you lack confidence when praying:

  1. Remind yourself that God has many good works for you to do to bring him glory (Ephesians 2.10). Confidently ask him to give you the strength you need. Put aside your fears of arrogance, and trust that he will refine your heart as needed.
  2. Submit yourself. Consciously submit yourself to God’s will, and ask him to show you what he has prepared for you. Pray to act with faith on whatever he ask of you, confident of his support and that he will receive the glory.

What do you think about how we balance confidence and humility? Do you know other ways to blend the two? What are your tips? Leave a comment or send me a message.

God bless,

Malcolm

Do you have prayer questions? Would you like more direct coaching in your prayer life? Why not consider taking me up on some prayer coaching. Click here for details.

Get coached on Coach.me

 

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The Sunday Sample: 21 May 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 21st May

Location: Bracknell

Special occasion: none

Speakers

Jack Legon preached, TJ & Sonia shared communion and Fabian & Gene welcomed us and prayed.

All the speakers were under 30. Their youthfulness was refreshing, and very encouraging for some of us older folks. Jack’s highlight was sharing about meeting his father for the first time. His vulnerability was endearing and helpful in illustrating God’s love for us as our eternal father.

Today’s lessons: remember the value of relevant personal sharing. Continue to put younger people up to speak.

Music

The singing was super today. Of special note was the song Alex Mankoo wrote. There’s nothing like singing a song written by a member of the congregation. We started the service with a prayer based on Psalm 8 which led into the first song – based as it was on that Psalm. An effective way to bring us together to worship as a body.

Today’s lesson: suggest more members write songs.

Connection

The connection was helped by the fact that Jack & TJ were ‘old boys’ returning to their mother church. There’s a special vibe when old friends come back to visit. It made me wonder if we should invite former members back more often. It also helped that they were accompanied by their fiancee and wife respectively. Sonia’s sharing was helpful. We must have Amy share the next time she comes.

Today’s lesson: look through a list of former members to see if we can get them back to speak.

Other Matters

  • The prayer time with the worship team was a delight, and helpful in setting our hearts in the right place.

Today’s lesson: remind people to arrive in time for a prayer together.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service – was not appropriate on this occasion, but we should do it next week in Lower Earley
  2. Teach a cappella harmony songs to the singers – we did that for two songs.

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service
  2. Remind all speakers to share personally.

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

When we pray “Your will be done on earth”, we aren’t muttering a pious hope: we are actually helping to achieve it.

David Instone-Brewer
Premier Christianity Magasine

“How do I keep myself consistent when it comes to daily prayers?”

Two 'why's'

I saw the question above on Quora. Consistency in prayer is something all of us struggle with from time to time. Here’s what I wrote (expanded a little for this post).

Finding consistency in your prayer-life depends on your ‘why’. Or, more accurately, two ‘why’s’.

1. Why you want to pray
2. Why you want to pray daily

To resolve these ‘why’s’ let’s take some instruction and inspiration from Jesus.

We see him praying often (Luke 5.16) and early (Mark 1.35). It’s not stated specifically that he prayed daily, but it seems likely. For one thing, his relationship with his Father was emotionally close (John 17.24). For another, he must have needed a consistent connection with the Father to carry out his will (John 15.9-10), given that it was a tough assignment! Jesus found a motivation that helped him pray at difficult times (Matthew 26.36ff) and at times of joy (Luke 10.21). If we don’t have the motivation we want, we can be inspired by his example. A good place to start when looking for motivation is to study the prayer life of Jesus in the Gospels. Doing so with an open mind is likely to result in the desire to pray, and to pray often.

If we don’t know how to pray we can learn from his teaching (Luke 11.1–13). This is a blog post for another day, since there is so much to discuss in this passage, but for now, we see that Jesus taught his disciples a prayer structure to help them pray. It has become a rote prayer for some, but I doubt it was intended to be used that way. Instead, it is healthier to view it as a set of prayer priorities. These areas of prayer (honouring the Father, the kingdom, daily needs, forgiving others etc.) are hooks on which to hang our own prayers – guided by the priorities Jesus reveals in Luke 11.

From the above it seems that finding the motivation to pray, and to do so daily depends on studying the example of Jesus, and embracing his teaching on prayer (as in Luke 11). Structure can be helpful, and variety of location or occasion can also be beneficial. Can you find a structure that helps you and a different place and occasion to pray than usual?

I hope your find your ‘why’s’.

Malcolm

P S. What are your tips? Leave a comment or send me a message.

Do you have prayer questions? Would you like more direct coaching in your prayer life? Why not consider taking me up on some prayer coaching. Click here for details.

Get coached on Coach.me

 

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The Sunday Sample: 14th May 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 14th May

Location: Helsinki

Special occasion: worship with the Helsinki church of Christ. Yes, you read that right – I was in Helsinki for church yesterday. The occasion was a retreat for the staff of the UK, Irish, Scandinavian and Nordic churches of our family of congregations. We met for two days of meetings and then had our corporate worship together with the very hospitable members of the Helsinki church

Speakers

Mohan preached and Forrest spoke on the topic of communion. Notable from communion was the sharing of Forrest’s wife, Mandy. She helped draw us into the emotional aspects of some of their challenges as a family over the past few years. The connection she made between the spiritual lessons such suffering had taught them helped us to connect with the purpose of the cross.

Mohan spoke with clarity and passion. His conclusion was clever. He wrapped up the lesson by giving us a summary, but using different wording from the actual titles of his points as made earlier in the lesson. This had the double effect of reminding us of the main points, but creating a deeper absorption due to the use of alternative words.

Today’s lesson: remind communion speakers to not neglect the emotional aspects of the sufferings of Christ as well as the physical. Plan my next conclusion better.

Music

The singing was all a cappella. Bruce, Toks, Harri and I led the songs. Bruce & Harri exuded joy. Toks projected passion. It was hard not to be transported into the meaning of the songs with such expressive leadership. The men leading the songs had demeanours and countenances which communicated the heart of the lyrics.

Today’s lessons: remind myself and worship leaders to allow their faces to communicate the meaning of that about which we are singing.

Connection

The connection was strong, even though some of the people could not speak English! Part of this was down to the experience and confidence of the speakers and worship leaders. Confidence in the one leading worship has a calming effect on those participating such that they can relax and enter into the worship more fully.

Today’s lesson: train public speakers and singers in confidence as much as technique.

Other Matters

  • The enthusiasm of the group was greatly enhanced by the packed nature of the room. There were barely enough seats for everyone.

Today’s lesson: encourage people to sit close together.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service – N/A in Helsinki
  2. Teach a cappella harmony songs to the singers – N/A in Helsinki

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service
  2. Teach an a cappella harmony song to the singers

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm