What is Prayer?
“Prayer is our response to God’s loving initiatives. After that, it’s a matter of receptivity, attention, and deciding who life is about. I tell people that there are three major modalities of spiritual life and growth.
There is prayer, the Word, and suffering. Handbook to Prayer was designed to integrate our thoughts with God’s. By praying scripture back to God, you’re covering the first two categories; because prayer is communication with God.
One of the components of prayer that I think is often overlooked is the ongoing process of practicing God’s presence and using prayer as receptivity to beauty. I have become increasingly aware of how God approaches us through beauty as the connection between mystery and goodness.
I discover that it is in the beauty that we behold Him, and very few people even notice that. It’s what I give attention to and what I long for most. It comes down to these fundamental questions of what prayer’s about.”
The Balanced Diet of a Spiritual Life
“The form is scripture, and the freedom is our response to the scripture so that we elevate our thoughts to greater thoughts than we would have on our own. A balanced diet starts with adoration. Very few start with adoration. This drives us to begin as we should with the majesty of God, and then adoration, the bigger vision of God reveals greater apprehension of that which is not God, namely sin. So confession follows and then renewal.”
Why People Struggle With Prayer
“People get into very bad habits. We can get out of the habit of praying when we feel prayer is not answered. People often pray for the wrong reasons and have habits of predictability and repetition.
There are a lot of reasons why people get out of the routine. They feel that it’s not effective; they don’t have a sense that they know what they’re doing. One of the reasons for the Handbook to Prayer is to take people by the hand and make it simple for them to grasp what is happening. Being very open and honest before God and revealing our hearts and thoughts is critical.”
Kenneth Boa’s Three Questions From Scripture to Determine Your Heart Posture
- What do you seek most? John 1:38-39
- Who do you say that I am? Matthew 16:13-16
- Do you love me more than these? John 21:15
The Response to Those Who Say Prayer Doesn’t Work
“Many people put their hope in something God never promised. That is a cause of great bitterness and disappointment [among believers]. There’s a vast difference between hoping in and hoping for. It’s perfectly fine for us to hope for a particular outcome. Perhaps it might be that God will heal a friend from an illness, and I pray for that person. However, it’s in God’s hands whether he is healed or not because there’s no guarantee.
Hebrews 11 is a perfect example that God delivered some in this life, and some were not. The point is, I can hope for an outcome; that’s what intercession and petition are. But it is the moment I put my hope in an outcome that’s not something promised by God that I set myself up for bitterness and disappointment with God.
It is the reason many people drop out of the ‘race.’ They think He didn’t listen to them, but they hoped for something He never said He would do. He tells us to come to Him and pursue Him, not His gifts. We can only pray based upon His character and His promises.”
The Primary Purpose of Prayer
“Prayer is not a matter of trying to get God to do what we want, but true prayer is to align our purposes and wills with what He wants. Prayer is, therefore, to receive and renew the mind with the Word. We need constant reminders because the world will define us by default, but the Word will only define us by discipline.
As I renew my mind, I wish to know Him more. Prayer is to reorient my desires and aspirations with Him. When I’m doing that, I’m receiving what He wants. I have my plans, but I know He is going to determine what will take place.”
How We Can Make Everyday Acts Part of Our Prayers
“Can I take out the garbage to the glory of God? Is it possible for me to turn daily things into more than just a fundamental activity but a chance to immerse myself in God in that process? I notice the beauty of His created order as I cut the fruit He has made.
I’m touching marvelous mysteries and wonders. It reminds me of the CS Lewis quote, ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures. He speaks to us in our conscience and shouts to us in our pain. Pain is God’s microphone to rouse a deaf world.’
He speaks to us in our pleasures. Why do we not cultivate gratitude for life’s little gifts rather than ignoring them or taking them as our due? We should develop a heart of gratitude to curate a mindset that becomes central to our focus.
Two things become essential: gratitude and contentment. They are very rare gifts. However, the more we pursue those things, the richer they become. This is highlighted in Hebrews 12:28-29. Hebrews 4:14-16 also shows the rich promise that we have open access to the throne of the living God. We must trust in the Father, abide in the Son, and walk by the Spirit.”
Understanding the Question, ‘Do You Love Me More Than These?’
“Tell me what a person loves the most. Then, I’ll tell you what they fear the most. If I fear something that’s going to happen with my friend more than I fear the displeasure of the lover of my soul, do I fear God? That’s why these prayers of adoration in Handbook to Prayer are designed to elevate us to higher thinking.
He’s righteous in all His ways and declares the end from the beginning. So we start with Him and have a sense of awe and wonder. The key to wisdom is having a sense of the fear, reverential awe, and majesty of God. At the same, we know that the One who made us is the lover of our soul.”
Why Do We Trust God For Eternal Security, But Not For Everday Life?
“We’re willing to trust God for our eternal destiny, and then we look to the world for everything else. Essentially, we don’t live consistently. If we truly believe we have eternal life, that’s either true or not. C.S. Lewis said, ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.’ Unfortunately, most people go for the third as if that were an option.”
Are Christ and your life with Him important enough that you’re willing to stop four times a day and pray? Not because you have to but because you get to. God has given us the capacity to be aware of the spiritual and the material simultaneously. Therefore we can invite Him into our daily interactions as a form of prayer. “Even if our desires are not where they should be, the prayer to be pleasing to Him is, in itself, pleasing to Him. He is impossible to impress but easy to please.”
How Do We Avoid Obedience Becoming a Work of The Flesh?
“Once you find He’s the wellspring of all beauty, goodness, and truth, you can love Him from the inside out. To know Him is to know yourself; the more you know yourself, the more you see yourself as you truly are.
So I believe true faith is to choose to believe that what God has told you is true. He has made you a person with great dignity and great authority in Christ. In other words, it’s to appreciate and appropriate what God Himself says. We are to believe in what He says despite our experiences to the contrary.
I’m suggesting here that the doctrines of grace humble us without degrading us, and they elevate us without inflating us. We see our heights and depths, so we recognize the incredible depths of dignity we’ve been given.
At the same time, we learn not to trust the flesh, choosing to believe what He says, and the more we acknowledge that, the more secure, significant, and satisfied we are. Then you’re secure enough to serve.”
What it Means to Pray in Line With God’s Will
“How do I know what His will is? I’m a participant in prayer. He knows the heart’s desires, and I participate in that, but I leave the outcome in God’s hands. I’m called to be faithful to the process and let loose of the outcome. When we speak about prayer, we tend to speak only of petitions and supplication. The real point of prayer is to know God. It is to commune, to listen, to respond, to renew.
As we do that, there’s a reciprocity that takes place where deep calls to deep. So the better you know Him, the more you listen to His voice and look for His works.
His desire is that we are pilgrims headed toward a journey, and He will carry us there. Along the way, we keep in step with Him. Prayer is recalibration and reintegration to receive and reflect and respond and be a grateful person.
So when He tells me to pray without ceasing in everything, He’s inviting me to thank Him for things I do not want. So your actual activity becomes a form of prayer. I think we’ve limited ourselves too much to a left-brain understanding of prayer and haven’t grasped a more holistic and integrated concept of what prayer is really about. It’s a richer thing than most people have seen.”
Conformed to His Image
“Conformed to His Image is 600 pages long. It’s a textbook. Take it a little at a time so you can understand it. It’s not a complex thing, but it’s rich. I don’t waste time, but I begin and end with relationships. I begin with relational spirituality, and then I end with the corporeal structure of the church.
There are 12 facets of the spiritual life. The main point of this book is to be more aware of the living God, becoming more like Him and what that looks like. All these facets of relational spirituality cultivate an eternal versus a temporal perspective.”
About Kenneth Boa
Kenneth (Ken) Boa is engaged in a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He is president of Reflections Ministries and Trinity House Publishers. He holds a BS from the Case Institute of Technology, a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford in England. Ken is the author of more than 50 books, including Life in the Presence of God, Conformed to His Image, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World, and Faith Has Its Reasons. Ken and his wife, Karen, live in Atlanta, Georgia.
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