Cultivating Habits of Grace: Day 3

Day 3: Have God's Ear

In this video, David Mathis looks at the second means of grace: having God's ear in prayer. He then explains 3 different types of prayer and a helpful approach to prayer that will ensure that our prayers are balanced and whole.

Next Steps:
Ponder the three dimensions of prayer: private prayer, all-of-life prayer, and corporate prayer. Evaluate the current patterns of your life related to each. Do you find yourself to be stronger in one than the others? Weaker in another? Consider the aspect in which you feel weakest, and make a simple, modest plan for cultivating that habit over the next week.

Take two minutes today and let your prayers be guided by ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

About the Book

Hear his voice. Have his ear. Belong to his body.

Three seemingly unremarkable principles shape and strengthen the Christian life: listening to God’s voice, speaking to him in prayer, and joining together with his people as the church. Though seemingly normal and routine, the everyday “habits of grace” we cultivate give us access to these God-designed channels through which his love and power flow—including the greatest joy of all: knowing and enjoying Jesus.

In Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines and the companion workbook for individual or group study, David Mathis helps us to discover simple ways to cultivate habits of grace that empower us for the Christian life by connecting us to God's abundant grace.

Video Transcript

Welcome back! It’s day three and our topic today is having God’s ear. Yesterday, we talked about hearing his voice in his Word; today we’re going to talk about having his ear in prayer. There’s a relationship between those two things that’s essential. Prayer is not a conversation we start—it doesn’t originate with us. It starts with God revealing himself. It starts with God speaking first in his Word incarnate (Jesus), in his Word spoken (the gospel), and in his Word written (the Bible). Then, through prayer, God invites us to respond.

3 Types of Prayer

God wants to be in relationship with us. He doesn’t just speak to us, but—amazingly—the talking God who created the universe pauses so as to hear from us. We have the ear of God. It’s an amazing truth for the Christian and it’s a fantastic means of God’s ongoing grace.

I want to talk about three things in particular as we think through various habits that we could cultivate related to prayer. Those three things are:

  1. Private prayer. Or, in Jesus's words from John 6, praying "in the closet." In your closet, private prayer, by yourself. That’s one aspect.
  2. Prayer in all of life.
  3. Corporate prayer, prayer together.

First, the closet. Jesus talks about this. Throughout the Bible, there’s this assumption that we would pray to God on our own—that we'd make a regular pattern of this in our lives. I would encourage you to think through the time of day (I recommend the morning), the place, your own habits, etc., all in pursuit of cultivating a private prayer time where you are speaking with God. What's more, the goal is that our prayer time would be more than that. Sometimes we Christians can have a hard time getting up off our knees. We feel like we’re not praying enough, that we should be praying longer, that we need to be praying more. And that very well may be the case. But God means for us to pray and then get up off our knees to live our lives empowered by his Spirit and dependent on him.

Prayer is something that happens throughout the day. Something that happens on the go, whether it’s in the car or waiting in line or as we’re in the middle of a conversation. We cultivate a spirit of dependence in private prayer and then we carry that spirit of dependence and prayer into the day—into prayer on the go.

The third aspect of prayer that is very important (I would say it's the high point of prayer) is praying together with other Christians. One of the sweetest experiences of the Christian life can be praying together with other Christians. It's often more difficult because people’s schedules have to be synced up. I have to ask, "Hey can we pray together?" and then my friend has to agree to it.

When you pray on your own, God is always ready to listen—you can pray on your own at any point in time. But to sync up with somebody else, whether that’s scheduling or getting our hearts together to pray—that happens more rarely. And yet it’s a wonderful thing to pray together. We get to know others in amazing ways as we pray together with them. And we get to know more of Jesus as we pray together with others. Because I don’t know and see all the glory there is to see in Jesus, it's valuable to listen to others—list to how they orient on him and have glimpsed his glory. So prayer is something that happens in multiple dimensions: alone, throughout the day, and in a corporate context.

A Pattern for Prayer

I have one other thing to mention about prayer here in this session. perhaps you’ve heard of it before, maybe this is a new thing: the ACTS method of prayer. That’s one way to keep in mind how to have our prayers be balanced and whole and healthy.

A is for adoration. An important aspect of prayer is adoring God. All of us default toward asking God for things. That’s OK; God means for us to ask him to fill our needs. But that’s not all there is to prayer. A great way to begin in prayer is, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." To adore him is to ask that he make his name great and to extend his glory in our lives and throughout our communities and throughout all creation. So adoration is first.

C is for confession. This side of the new heavens and the new earth, we always come as sinners. There are failures, sins, poor decisions, and wrong actions that we need to confess before him. So we move from a time of adoring him into confessing before him. This is often the pattern in the Scriptures. As we become aware of him and his glory and adore him, we then secondarily become aware of our inadequacies, our sins, and our need to confess.

T is for thanksgiving. We thank him that he has covered our sins in the blood of his Son. We thank him that he empowers our lives, our sanctification, our holiness, and our ongoing means of grace and growth and knowing of his Son. We thank him for that.

Finally, S is for supplication. That’s the place we default to: asking for things. And God wants us to ask for things. But he also means for us to adore him and confess our sins and thank him—to unleash a heart that is adorning, confessing, and thanking him. That is a heart that is primed to ask him for as many things that we can dream, and ask that he would grant those by his grace and for his glory.

As you consider various habits of prayer to build into your life, think about private prayer, prayer on the go throughout the day, and corporate prayer. Think also about how to make sure your prayer is balanced and whole by incorporating adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

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