Priming the Pump for Prayer

Larry E. Wilson

J. I. Packer once wrote about the Lord’s Prayer,

[It] should be put to service to direct and spur on our prayers constantly. To pray in terms of it is the sure way to keep our prayers within God’s will; to pray through it, expanding the clauses as you go along, is the sure way to prime the pump when prayer dries up and you find yourself stuck. We never get beyond this prayer; not only is it the Lord’s first lesson in praying, it is all the other lessons too. Lord, teach us to pray. (Growing in Christ, 157–158)

With help from the Heidelberg Catechism and the Shorter Catechism, here is a pump primer for Christian prayer.

“Our Father in Heaven”

We come to you in the name of Jesus, relying on his doing, dying, and ongoing mediation. It’s because of his saving work that you have justified us and adopted us as your beloved children, so that we may call you, “our Father.”

It’s through faith in him that we have boldness and access with confidence to your throne of grace.

We come to you relying on the help of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of adoption, by whom we can cry, “Abba! Father!” He helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

We come to you both with reverence—for you are almighty God in heaven—and with confidence—for you are our reconciled, loving Father.

We come to you as needy children to a loving, divine Father who not only wants to help us but also is able to help us.

We come to you praying with one another and for one another in your worldwide family, as well as in our particular manifestation of your family.

“Hallowed Be Your Name”

Please so rule and overrule that you cause all things to work together in ways that best serve your glory and your people’s good.

Unite all your people’s hearts to fear you, and enable us to seek your glory in all we do.

Enable us better and better to know you—to walk step by step with you, and to live day by day for you, showing love to you and to our neighbors.

Enable us better and better to make you known.

And please bless our witness with abiding fruit for your kingdom.

“Your Kingdom Come”

Please keep gathering, building, protecting, and perfecting Christ’s kingdom of grace.

Continue adding people to your church.

Keep your people persevering in their walk with you and with one another in you.

Guide and govern us by your Word and Spirit so that we more and more submit to you; so that we more and more serve you.

Please frustrate and defeat Satan’s malevolent kingdom of lies and destruction.

Destroy the works of the devil. Frustrate and defeat every power that exalts itself against you. Frustrate and defeat every conspiracy against your Christ and his Word.

And please hasten the coming of Christ’s kingdom of glory—the Day when our faithful Savior visibly returns in power and glory, and your kingdom comes in its consummation fullness so that you are all in all.

“Your Will Be Done on Earth, as It Is in Heaven”

By your grace, make us both willing and able to know, delight in, and obey all your precepts, and to submit with thanksgiving to all your providences.

Help us to do whatever you call us to do, wherever you call us to do it, for as long as you call us to do it, as willingly, faithfully, and diligently as the angels do in heaven.

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

Provide for us whatever we need of the good things of this life. Grant that we may enjoy your blessing with them.

Grant that we come to know firsthand that you are the fount of every blessing and that neither our work and worry, nor your gifts, can do us any good apart from your blessing.

Allow us more and more to turn from our trust in creatures to trust you alone.

“And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our Debtors”

For the sake of Jesus’s blood, please freely forgive all our sins—both of commission and omission—as well as all the indwelling sin that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us, and assure us of your forgiveness, not least as we find this testimony of your grace in us—that we want to forgive others from our hearts.

“And Lead Us Not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil”

By ourselves, we’re too weak to hold our own—not even for a moment. Apart from you we can do nothing.

What’s more, our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—never stop attacking us.

Keep us from being tempted to sin, and, when we are tempted, support and deliver us.

“For Yours Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, Forever”

We make these requests of you because you—and not we—should receive all the glory and praise. For from you and through you and to you are all things! May all the glory go to you—and may we find all our joy and satisfaction in you—for ever and ever!

O Triune God of grace, it’s even more sure that you listen to our prayers than that we really want what we ask for. But to testify that not only do we want you to hear us but also that we trust that you do hear us, all God’s people say, “Amen.”

The author is a retired OP minister. New Horizons, April 2024.

New Horizons: April 2024

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