Prayer History Begins (My Prayer Journey, Part 2)

The history of prayer and worship begins with Genesis 4:26. “At that time people first began to worship the LORD by name.”

At the beginning of chapter 4, Eve gives birth to Abel and then Cain. As we read through the chapter, we find the familiar story of the brothers and the first murder in history.

Cain and Abel both offer sacrifices to the Lord, but Cain’s is rejected and Abel’s is accepted. Scripture is vague about why the sacrifice of one was accepted and one rejected, and there is much speculation. Suffice it to say, Cain is upset that his worship is rejected and kills his brother Abel.

The Lord punishes Cain by banishing him from his family and territory and he is forced to start a new life. Through Cain’s descendants, the world was introduced to the arts and industry. He was a worldly man and indeed brought great benefit to the world around him. What was missing was worship and respect for the Lord.

On the other hand, Eve was blessed with another son, Seth, who was to take Abel’s place and carry on the family’s heritage as the new firstborn son. It was through this lineage that public worship was formed.

The paths these two brothers were on could not have been further from one another. One valued the world and one valued his relationship with God. There is a stark contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of worship, prayer, and following God. Enosh, the son of Seth, helped form and shape the way in which people expressed their desire to follow God. While Cain went his own way through disobedience, beginning with the rejected sacrifice, Seth (Abel)’s son followed God.

We have to be careful to not allow the world around us distract us from truly worshipping God through prayer and service. The things that the world offers can certainly be good, but they cannot become the sole focus of our lives.

As we seek to pray and grow closer to God, we have a choice to make: Do we follow the world and its priorities, or do we follow the Way of God? A life of worship and prayer stands in stark contrast to the life of worldly priorities.

I wonder, what in my life is keeping me from worshipping and praying? There are so many distractions and things that attempt to pull me away from true worship and prayer. Some of these things are even “good” things. But if I allow myself to be taken from my highest calling, that is, prayer and worship of God, then I have missed the mark, just as Cain missed the mark in his sacrifice. God doesn’t want my seconds – he wants the first and best parts of me.

So what about you? What keeps you from worshipping and praying the way you would like?

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Lord, Teach Me to Pray (My Prayer Journey, Part 1)

As I sit this morning in a local coffee shop, I am reading my prayer devotional (Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson), and I’m struck by one particular story.

A grandfather was walking by his granddaughter’s room one evening and he hears her praying, “Dear Lord, a, b, c, d, e, f, g…” and so on, all the way to “z. Amen.”

He asks her why she prayed the alphabet, and she answers simply, “Grandpa, I didn’t know what to pray for, so I prayed all the letters and let God put them together.”

That story strikes me more and more as I consider it.

One of the things that Batterson encourages you to do is make a prayer list of prayers to circle. Circling a prayer simply means that you are going to continue to pray for those things that the Lord impresses upon your heart, and those things that are important to you.

I have quite the list of prayers that I am circling. They are all written, as I am much more comfortable with the written word that my somewhat random and rambling prayers. But the story of the “alphabet prayer” touched me. Would I ever have the courage to pray like that?

You may be thinking that courage is not the right word, but in many ways it is. You see, at least at some level, I have believed that there are “rules” for prayer. It sounds strange to write that and admit it. If someone were to ask me about the rules of prayer, I would say that the only rule is that you’re genuine. That is, believe what you’re saying and be honest with God. The specific words you use are not as important as your heart.

Yet I consider my own prayer life, I see that at some level I have been following “rules.” Where these rules came from is a subject for another time, but suffice it to say, I want to change that.

I was with a family over these past few weeks who was grieving the loss of their mother. She was ill and admitted to hospice. As a pastor, I try to provide God’s comfort in those times. But I also pray. And that part has always been awkward for me. I don’t want to pray the wrong thing or offend someone or put too much of the blame/responsibility on God. It can be quite stressful for me, the arguments going on in my head.

In this particular case, however, the family members also prayed. And one person in particular *prayed*. I was in awe of her prayers. I was listening to someone who had a deep relationship with God that was intimate and powerful. And I want that. But I don’t know how. I don’t know how to pray like that.

I’ve read many good books on prayer. I’ve tried praying in different ways. But I don’t believe that I’ve actually prayed, “Lord, teach me to pray.” That simple prayer hit me like a ton of bricks. The disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to preach, they asked him how to pray. I need to do the same thing.

So I’m beginning a prayer-learning journey. And it begins in Genesis. I found a list of “All the Prayers in the Bible” by Herbert Lockyer. I’m going to read and study them. And I started today with the first one. My hope is that as I do this, I will learn from the fathers and mothers of our faith, those found in the pages of Inspired Scripture, and that I would be transformed by the Word of God. I’ll post at least a few of these as I go, and I hope that they can be an encouragement to you as I go.

Lord, teach me to pray.