"May my prayer be set before You like incense..." Psalm 141:2a (NIV)
Do you ever wonder, with your prayer life, if you're doing it right?? Do you ever feel like you're just an asking machine? Do you ever puzzle as to whether God thinks, "Oh no, here she is again....What is it this time?...What does she need of Me now?"
I've been mulling over that lately.
Over the years I've heard several formulas for praying...given in acrostics.
Honestly, I'm a little baffled by the word supplication. I'm guessing that means asking...could look it up in the dictionary, but choosing to move on.
I want to do it right...Praying.
I feel like I do alright with the admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray continually." Throughout my day I find myself saying things like, "Wow! Thank You, God for this beautiful weather!" or sometimes I am reminded of that little rhyming prayer that I learned as a child that says, "Thank You for the world so sweet. Thank You for the food we eat. Thank You for the birds that sing. Thank You, God, for everything." I think of that often when I hear birds singing in the morning...their praise to Him. I don't think He minds that I recite it. I offer other random words of thanks throughout the day...and at mealtime...and before I go to sleep.
But I feel like so much of what I do is asking. Very little of it is for myself. Most of it is intercession for people that I've told, "I will pray for you." I really try to take that commitment seriously. Of course, a huge amount of my requests involve my family...my daughters, their husbands, my husband, my parents, my grandmother, my brother and his family, and so on. From the time I wake up...and throughout the day...and night, I keep asking.
I've been trying to be intentional in reminding myself of those acrostics and "following the plan". But it seems that as I'm "thanking," I always ending up moving into another request.
So I prayed about it...yes, asked God to help me pray right.
I think that He said, "Don't put Me in a box. I'm not about a formula." I'm pretty sure that He led me to His Word and guided me through reading and then turning His Words back into prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Yes, and even confession. Then He brought songs to my mind...mostly hymns...that propelled me into worship and more praise. And I didn't have to do any of those in a particular order.
Of course I took a little tour of prayer via Bible Gateway and I was encouraged by my findings. Throughout Scripture there was a LOT of asking going on...by Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, Daniel, David, Elijah..the list goes on and on...and includes Jesus. I even felt encouraged by the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1, which says, "Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." Also in Luke 11, as Jesus taught on prayer, in verse 9 we are told, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." And in Ephesians 6:18, Paul tells us to "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." I could go on and on.
So, my "take away" was this. Yes, even the asking is "incense" to God...because He cares about everything that concerns me (and you). He loves me...beyond my ability to fathom...and loves to hear from me. When I speak to Him throughout the day, it doesn't need to follow a formula. It is vital, however, that I spend time in His Word...and respond in prayers of thankfulness, praise, confession...and then, yes, with asking. I also need to yield to His drawing me to praise through hymns and songs of praise.
Here's the one He gave me today.
Surely God is smelling some incense.
Our God, we worship You. We praise You. We lift our requests to You. Thank You for Your great love for us...love that knows no bounds. We love You.