So, this background on prayer reminds me of an idea – posture of prayer. Posture of prayer can be a great way to think about leading others as it is something that can be shown. Our own weaknesses, even though real, don’t necessarily keep us from leading others in a right thinking about the posture of prayer. We can see some key elements to the right posture of prayer from scripture. Philippians 4 is one such source:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Do not be anxious about anything. Pray about everything. Imagine replacing all anxiety with prayer. All concern, all obsession, all resentment, all regret. Why not be anxious? God is at hand. God is near. Everything is ok. With this in mind, why not think a bit more about our posture in prayer—a great thing to teach. A worthwhile thing to study together as Christian educators. An important way to integrate what we know from Scripture into our life.
Posture—demeanor, way to approach something. As we look at four elements to the posture of prayer, it’s also helpful to also say what we don’t mean. The four elements include:
First, Expectant but Not Entitled
In 1 Chronicles 4, we read about the prayer of one man, not a particularly important character and pretty single minded in his desires—not all that spiritual though:
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.”
So, a lot has been written about the prayer of Jabez—probably too much. But, he went to God. He asked. He was expectant. And while it is by no means a model prayer to be put on plaques and recited as a ritual, he talked to God and God heard him. That was good news for Jabez and it’s good news for us.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
We know he hears us – that is important. When we doubt, we need to know the truth that he hears us and use that as a reminder.
We need to know the teaching of scripture in order to rightly use that teaching to assure us of what we know to be true. The truth of scripture can overcome our doubts.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you…Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 29:12, 33:3)
I will answer you. I will reveal things to you. I will make things known. He hears our cries. He hears our heartbreak. He hears our hopes. He hears our dreams. So, we can be expectant. Not knowing what the answer will be. Not knowing if it will be to our liking, there will be an answer—he hears.
He is not ours. We are his. He is not obligated. Yes, he is generous. Yes, he is good. But we are part of his plan and it isn’t the other way around.
The sin of presumption is not talked about much in an age of spirituality and personal autonomy. Presuming is acting entitled to God, right? There’s a reason we don’t see much written about the rise of an entitlement generation—though I’d bet every generation would say it’s on the rise. Business leaders report that it is epidemic in new hires. We all hate it. And the reason is because it’s ugly. But would we really approach the one who holds all things together in a manner that is entitled?
A relationship with God is interesting. On the one-hand we can say things to him that in some cases should never be said to anyone else—and he is so good to allow us to come at all. He says “come” and then makes it possible for us to enter his presence.
On the other hand, we have to avoid the sin of presumption. We have to be prepared to simply know that he hears us and is good and he will do according to his good and perfect will.
Expectant because he hears. He has the power to act. What he does will be good. Just wait and see.
There is so much to show others, that we are entrusted to lead, in this right thinking about the posture of prayer. We teach good theology that our teams can then teach others. We can model spiritual maturity that others can learn from. We can practice spiritual disciplines that ought to be part of our integrated biblical worldview permeating throughout our organization.
Paul T. Neal (paul.neal@cace.) is Sr. Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment at Cairn University and co-founder of Charter Oak Research where he serves as Principal and Chief Research Officer. Charter Oak Research is a marketing research and consulting firm focused on resourcing and supporting Christian schools and colleges, other Christian ministries and for profit organizations. Charter Oak brings marketing research to bear on the strategy and tactics of enrollment and advancement needs of clients to improve brand awareness, perception and sustainability. Paul has presented and been published on: the use of normative data in analysis, respondent motives, trends in education and online communities and respondent quality. Prior to founding Charter Oak Research, Paul was a Principal at Olson Research Group for 15 years as well as serving as the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University responsible for qualitative research on political culture and U.S. Public Policy. Paul has served as an adjunct faculty member at several Philadelphia area universities. Paul is a graduate of Eastern (B.A.) and Villanova (M.A.) Universities and attended Temple University for further graduate study.