1. "...that we be disposed in mind and heart as befits those who enter conversation with God." I should not approach God flippantly or irreverently. I should not make outrageous requests which are clearly contrary to God's revealed will. I should not allow my mind to wander, but should be attentive, focused.
2. "...that in our petitions we ever sense our own insufficiency, and earnestly pondering how we need all that we seek, join with this prayer an earnest - nay, burning - desire to attain it." My prayers should not be mindless repetition, or simply an act of duty. My prayers earn me no merit with God - Christ is all my righteousness! - so my prayers should be joyful, sincere, and earnest.
3. "...that anyone who stands before God to pray, in his humility giving glory completely to God, abandon all thought of his own glory, cast off all notion of his own worth, in fine, put away all self-assurance - lest if we claim for ourselves anything, even the least bit, we should become vainly puffed up, and perish at his presence." I should approach God in humble repentance, seeking His forgiveness, trusting not in my own merit but in God's mercy.
4. "...that, thus cast down and overcome by true humility, we should be nonetheless encouraged to pray by a sure hope that our prayer will be answered." I should pray in faith, expectantly, knowing that God hears and answers the prayers of His people, confident of His favor and kindness toward me. I am a beloved child, not a cringing slave, and I should approach my Father with the sure confidence that He delights in me and He delights to hear and answer me.
Prayer is something that I have often struggled with. I have struggled with simply praying at all - never mind if I'm doing it "right" or not! I have struggled with staying on task - how can I be earnestly praying for one of my children one minute, and then wondering if I remembered to set up the coffee pot for tomorrow morning the next? I have struggled with what to pray about. I have struggled with being diligent in prayer over the long haul, when answers are not immediate. I have struggled against having a defeatist attitude in prayer - like I expect God's answer to always be "No."
I have at times made prayer too difficult - imagined that it was some kind of rocket science only safely practiced by professionals or experts. Making prayer hard - that's a sure formula for prayer-less-ness, for not praying at all.
Things for which I pray consistently at this stage in my life:
- That God will make me more prayerful. That He will prompt me to remember to pray. That He will call things to mind for which I should pray. That He will help me to recognize opportunities for prayer throughout the day, while I am washing dishes, while I am driving alone in the van, when I am awake in the wee hours of the morning.
- That the intent of my prayers will be less and less my own agenda, objectives, or advancement, and more and more focused on seeing God glorified in my own life and in the lives of others for whom I pray. That my prayers will be more and more in accord with God's purposes, a "praying back" of His will.
- That Christ will sanctify my prayers. That because I am Christ's, I will pray joyfully, expectantly, with irrepressible optimism.
- That, as I pray, I will be mindful that Christ himself intercedes for me. The Holy Spirit prays with me and for me, too. I pray in very good company!