The Barna Research Group is one of the top-tier organizations for studying how faith intersects with daily living, especially in American culture. Two years ago, the Barna Group studied how most Americans practice prayer. The group found that seventy-nine percent of Americans pray at least once over a three-month period. Prayer seems to be quite a common practice for a majority of us. Even many people who describe themselves has having no faith take time to pray (By the way, you can see the study by Barna here: https://www.barna.com/research/silent-solo-americans-pray/).
While the Barna Group’s research is somewhat encouraging to me, I often think about how we truly engage in prayer. Do we actually experience spiritual fellowship with God in prayer, or do we go through the motions? Do we recognize God as our ultimate advocate and friend in prayer?
What then are some specific action steps that we can take in order to improve our prayer practice and experiences? One action step involves adoration. Adoration is the recognition of God’s holy and loving character. We can adore God in prayer by telling God about our experiences of seeing him at work around us. For instance, did you enjoy the sunrise this morning? Acknowledge that sunrise as God’s powerful hand at work. Did God bring you through a time of crisis when it seemed like there was no hope in sight? Tell God about how great and wonderful his love has been for you.
A second action step involves thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is our recognition and acknowledgment of God’s gifts and blessings. For example, one of the most thankful people I have known was a rather elderly person who simply thanked God when he woke each morning. This man valued so much the blessing of being alive for one more day that he prayed constantly out of thanksgiving to God. He was one of the most peaceful people to be around.
A third action step involves confession of sin. Sometimes, confession can be a very uncomfortable thing to do when we pray. Remember, however, that Jesus put much emphasis on confession when he taught us to pray. Confession of our sin to God makes space for reconciliation and forgiveness to take root in our relationships with others.
Join me in this season called Lent as we practice adoration, thanksgiving, and confession of sin in our prayers. Remember that God hears us when we pray, and God is concerned about us and loves us more than we can comprehend.