This month on Sunday nights our study on the Sermon on the Mount will include instructions by our Lord on prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord contrasts a hypocritical praying with a true spiritual praying His redeemed people are to practice. Here are some guidelines as to what a spiritual prayer consists of.
It is made in the name of Christ. Unless we pray in Christ’s name, we don’t pray at all. This doesn’t simply mean repeating his name with our lips, but in our hearts we come to God in hope and confidence because of what Christ has accomplished in His priesthood for us.
A spiritual prayer will come from a knowledgeable, thoughtful heart. It doesn’t simply repeat pious phrases. Rather it prays with understanding, reverence, and affection. We must know of the truth, majesty, and holiness of God to pray spiritually.
A spiritual prayer is a fervent prayer. When we recognize the sinfulness of our own heart, the fallenness of this world, and the little concern for God’s glory or kingdom in our land, it should stir us to pray sincerely and fervently. Private, fervent prayers by God’s people are commonly the means God uses to bring change in hearts or strength to his people in their hour of need.
A spiritual prayer is a believing prayer. Our prayers should be in certainty that God exists and is listening to our prayers and petitions. What is said of the people of Israel may be applied to our prayers if they are not in faith – “They could not enter in because of unbelief.”
A spiritual prayer has spiritual goals. A desire for God’s glory and submission to God’s sovereignty is necessary to be truly praying. The goals of hypocrites are always carnal, goals that will reinforce ego. A redeemed person is especially concerned with desiring grace, faith, love, perseverance, and other graces that promote living by the Spirit. Petitions for temporal necessities or concerns are lifted up to a sovereign father who knows and cares, and will sovereignly work out all for your good.
We have often studied through Puritan sermons or Puritan books on Sunday night. I have spoken in the past about my reasons for exposing you to their writings. I encourage you to make a practice of devotions with a Puritan paperback published by Banner of Truth. Here are a few reasons I read them myself and recommend them to you.
1. The duty of a minister is to first seek God’s glory in all things. Second, to aim for the people under his care to be found safe on the Day of Judgment. And third, to leave all people under his care without excuse by preaching the whole counsel of God. No era of ministers fulfilled these duties better than the Puritan era. Where your minister and other ministers of this day are deficient in these things, the Puritans can help fill that void, and perhaps be a life-saver you weren’t aware you needed.
2. The Puritans were giants of theology and Christian living. They spoke of man’s nature, God’s sovereignty, justification, and sanctification clearly and applicably to the everyday Christian man and woman. You learn sound theology in every sentence of their writings.
3. Fear of the Lord. In a presbytery committee I serve on, we ask candidates for the ministry what they would say is the biggest issue facing the church in America. There are a lot of good answers, and obviously it is hard to pin down such a broad subject to one single issue. But if I had to say, the biggest issue is a lack of fear of the Lord. And I include myself in this category. I often pray for more spiritual wisdom for myself that can only come from a fear of the Lord. The Puritans can help here. Few Christians today live daily on the edge of eternity as they did. They searched the Scriptures and meditated on them because they were always preparing for death, continually packed and ready to go. Being one step from eternity gave them a reverence and seriousness toward the things of God that is foreign to us. So we can learn and benefit from them.
These are just a few of the reasons I commend them to you and to myself. Here is a resource for obtaining Puritan paperbacks published by Banner of Truth: Cumberland Valley Bookstore.
You can find them online at www.cvbbs.com and enter “Puritan Paperbacks” in the search box, or call them at 717-249-0231 or use amazon.com. If you would like to try one, you can also tell me and I can get one for you. The cost for them is usually $8-10 including shipping.