At men’s breakfast recently, we were thinking about men leading in prayer. One of the ideas I talked about was the importance of praying a “full diet” of prayer, when we’re leading in prayer. But this idea is also very relevant for our own private prayer lives. When we’re finding prayer hard, one thing Christians sometimes do is to try and inject some creativity into their prayer time. “Light a candle. Draw some pictures. Get expressive. Turn it into a craft session, with colouring pens, and scissors”. I don’t recommend that. Those things are like looking for the equivalent of sugar rush. What we actually need is to be committed to a “full diet” of prayers.
The Bible is crammed with examples of prayer for us to learn from:
There are prayers of adoration. Psalms 146-150 each begin and end with “Praise the Lord!”. The heavenly worship in Revelation includes pure adoration: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev 4:8). This type of prayer is like your spiritual meat. It’s spending time focussing on the character of our great Triune God and is like protein for your soul.
There are prayers of confession. Daniel humbled himself in Daniel 9, after reading God’s promises to Jeremiah, and prayed a big prayer of confession. Ezra does something similar in Ezra 9. The people of God spend a quarter of the day confessing their sins in Nehemiah 9. Maybe this kind of prayer is like eating your greens; it’s less popular or easy, but really important for our ongoing spiritual health. God wants us to keep short accounts with him, and the Spirit humbles us all the days of our life (Rom 7:24).
There are prayers of thanksgiving. David prayed a prayer of thanksgiving “on the day the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 22). In this type of prayer, we take time to thank God for the good things he’s given us. Regularly taking time to name the good things we’ve received from him is an important part of our diet. I particularly know I’m capable of being ungrateful, and need to be more deliberate here.
There are prayers of supplication.This is the bread and potatoes of Christian prayer. It means simply asking God for things. We should pray prayers of supplication for ourselves, and for others. We should pray for our families, for our church, for our neighbours, for our denomination, for our country, for the church through the world, and for the world. Even here, maybe we need to learn to switch from white bread to brown-bread, or from mashed potato to eating the potato with the skins on! We should aim to line up the things we ask for with the things the Bible asks for (e.g. Luke 11:2-4; Eph 1:16-21).
The Bible really is packed with spiritually nutritious prayers. If you told a nutritionist that you only ever eat starch in your diet, they’d tell you to change what you eat. Why? because a well-balanced diet is important for your health. Well, the same is true for us spiritually. Why not take some time to think: which of these types of prayer are lacking from my regular spiritual diet? Which ones do I need to introduce into my regular praying? Rather than seeking a spiritual sugar rush, aim to pray a “full diet” of prayers.