Prayer to Help Focus

Prayer is a vital aspect of Friendship Ablaze! Prayer is at the heart of our actions as we reach out to the unchurched and those who do not know love and hope in Jesus Christ. In order to touch others with the Gospel message, we must be in touch with the Lord and Savior who gives us our hope in everything we do and say. Our witness to others is His witness.

This Prayer Plan is designed as preparation for the Friendship Ablaze! celebration, to help individuals, congregations and schools focus on the “critical event,” one Christian giving witness to another so that person may encounter Christ.

The Prayer Plan moves from our earliest prayer memories, to personal prayer, to prayer with others, to participation in a Prayer Vigil event – all reminding us of the vital importance of our prayer life in Christ. This plan can be used by various groups in various ways: by leaders for their personal preparation, by Bible study groups, by teams of volunteers, or given to the whole congregation for use in personal devotions.  

Prayer Memories

Here are some common prayer memories. How do they compare with your prayer memories?

Memory #1:         Now I lay me down to sleep.
                            I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
                            If I should die before I wake,
                            I pray the Lord my soul to take.

A simple bedtime prayer for children--with a profound message. Cross-stitched, embroidered, and painted renditions of this prayer can be found in children’s novelty corners of major department stores and on the walls of children’s bedrooms. When we teach our children this prayer, one that we may have recited in years past, do we also teach its meaning? This prayer is a reflection of faith and trust in the promise of eternal life, a witness to belief in Jesus as Savior.

Memory #2: God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.

The simplest of children’s table prayers, possibly the first one learned and repeated. This prayer can be easily translated into any language and can be spoken anywhere, anytime. With this prayer we acknowledge, praise and thank God for providing us with life-sustaining food. When prayed at a public restaurant or a gathering of friends or family, this prayer, too, is a faith witness.

Memory #3: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, is the model for all prayer. Learned in Sunday School, religious education, Bible class or worship, it is a universal Christian prayer. Like many songs and hymns, this familiar prayer unites people with its messages of love, gratitude, forgiveness and hope.

Memory #4: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This Serenity Prayer usually enters one’s life during difficult and challenging times. It reminds us “Who’s in charge” and encourages us to be calm and listen to God’s wisdom before making life-changing decisions. When prayed in private, it is of great comfort. When prayed in a group, it is also a witness.

All four of these prayers are ones that we may have memorized over the years. We can recall them quickly when the appropriate moment occurs. From childhood prayer and prayer triggered by crisis, prayers Ablaze! can emerge.

Growth in Personal Prayer

While we may find it easy to repeat remembered prayers, praying in one’s own words can be difficult. How to pray? When to pray? What to pray?

Prayer is a conversation with God. God listens to prayers of every type, length, and language, silent or spoken, anytime or place, simple or complicated. Do we pray as Jesus suggests in Matthew 6: 6? “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  We thank our God and praise Him for all He has done and will continue to do for and through us. We talk to Him as our best friend – with joy, sincerity and candor.

Thousands of prayers—on the spot, unpracticed, silent and aloud--were uttered in the town of Sycamore, Illinois, on February 9, 2004, as St. John’s Lutheran Church burned. Although the building was destroyed, a community – churched and unchurched – was “ablaze” with the spirit of compassion. An overwhelming outpouring of support followed the devastating fire. The immediate spirit of hope exhibited by the pastors and people of St. John’s—“ablaze” with a living faith, alive in the spirit, trusting in God for the future--was also a witness to the community.

Think of times when you have prayed. Where were you? Why were you praying? How did you pray? Have you ever known and recognized an answer to your prayers?

Where were you on September 11, 2001? You probably remember exactly what you were doing when you heard about the tragedies in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC that day. What were your thoughts at that time? What were your prayers? Were they personal? Did they include people you knew who might be involved? Did you call friends and family? Did you mourn and pray with others – in worship, at home, in a public place? Did you take part in any prayer gatherings?

Prayer Exercise

We can all recall events in our own lives, in the lives of our friends and family, and events in our communities, our nation or the world that have “brought us to our knees” in prayer. List some of these events:

          Events in my life:
          Events in the lives of my friends and family:
          Events in my community:
          In my nation:
          In the world:

Think about these events and create appropriate prayers for one or more of them. You can start by filling in the blanks below and reading your completed prayers aloud. This exercise will help you create your own personal prayers, expressed in any way comfortable to you.

 Dear Lord,
Thank You for all You have done in _____________ (my life, the lives of my friends/family, my community, my nation, the world). Your love and care are always unconditional. Please forgive me for anything I have done or said that offended You or anyone else. I humbly ask You to please help _______________ (me, someone else, my community, the nation, the world) to know Your will and wisdom in dealing with __________________ (describe need). Help me to say and do what is right in Your eyes, and to help others to know Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your power to save us when we are lost. Help me to be Ablaze! for You. I offer this prayer in Your name. Amen.

Here are other ways of exercising personal prayer: 

  • Silent prayer
  • Prayer journaling (see sample page)
  • Prayer during meditation over scripture
  • Prayer during daily devotions
  • Keep a prayer list
  • Visiting on-line devotions/prayers

Growth in Prayer with Others

We pray with others at various times and in various ways:

• Worship (liturgical prayers and prayers for specific people and/or circumstances)
• Meetings (prayers at beginning and end of church/school meetings)
• Activities (at church and school, including sports)
• Bible Studies (including the Friendship Ablaze! Bible studies)
• Family devotions
• Meals (at home, restaurants, churches…)
• Bedtimes (not just children!)
• Telephone conversations
• Hospital rooms
• Prayer Partners
• Prayer Chains
• Prayer Warriors
• Prayer Breakfasts/Lunches
• National Day of Prayer (first Thursday in May)
• Prayer Vigils
• Others (Can you think of more examples?)

We are “invited” to pray in many ways. While standing by the kitchen sink, preparing a meal, or driving the car, we may think about a circumstance or person and speak to God. We may call someone on the phone and pray with them. Have you prayed with or for someone who did not know Jesus as their Savior--a friend, a relative, a co-worker?  When an opportunity to share your faith witness happens, do you ask God to help you find the right words for that person and situation?

One way to combine personal prayer and prayer with others is a Prayer Vigil. Prayer Vigils can be held in a sanctuary, a public meeting place, outdoors, or in a variety of other locations. The occasion for a vigil might be a holiday, special circumstance (like 9-11), celebration, fund-raising campaign or other event. A Prayer Vigil plan is included as preparation for the Friendship Ablaze! celebration.