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BIBLE-BASED PRAYER POWER
Using Relevant Scripture to Pray with Confidence for All Your Needs
By KEN ANDERSON
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2000 Ken Anderson
All rights reserved.
Welcome to STEPS, new ideas about prayer that are as old as the Bible.
STEPS is an acronym formed from the identifying statement that Scripture Teaches Effective Prayer Strategies. Through investigation and implementation, this new approach has enriched for me the meaning and function of prayer beyond anything I could have anticipated or imagined.
As I shall more fully explain, STEPS involves reinforcing your prayers with precepts and promises from the Bible. In the discovery, development, and use of this new method, I have learned two important truths.
I have learned what prayer is not. It is not dialing Heaven 911 in times of emergency, imploring God to come to our rescue, solve all our problems, heal, and fortify. Nor is prayer like a letter to Santa, listing our wants, which God is to promptly provide, plus making known our wishes for His priority attention.
Instead, I am learning that when I pray, I become like a lamb in the arms of its shepherd, which is a relationship more intimate than the most endearing of human involvements. It is the kind of fellowship Jesus indicated when in John 15:4, He said to His disciples, "Abide in Me, and I in you." This abiding involves basic trust in which my supreme desire is to please Him, even in the requests I make to Him. I desire more to please Him than to seek favors from Him. If my prayers are not answered as I would wish them to be, I can say, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18).
For many years, I struggled with prayer. I knelt by my bed at night as if that formality might have virtue of some sort. In later years, I paced back and forth in my room or went for long walks during which I tried to pray. I never felt at ease, no matter what position or procedure I used.
Time seemed to drag, I often became bored while in prayer. Once I even wondered if my watch had stopped. Most difficult of all was group prayer. I have never felt comfortable talking to God in the presence of others.
Developing a prayer notebook helped me a bit. I was even commissioned to produce a prayer notebook for the small denomination of which I was a member. It was impressively published, and I experienced a moment of pride when I first held it in my hands and thumbed through it. I tried to use it, but the old boredom syndrome prevailed and I soon set it aside.
At a conference I attended, an all-night prayer meeting was announced, beginning at ten-thirty. I estimated some fifty people were there. I participated—once—but words seemed to knot up on my tongue. We were all kneeling in the conference chapel, and by eleven, my knees began to ache. Around midnight, a few people arose to leave. The leader rebuked them kindly, urging them to stay. Two or three remained another half hour or so.
One man fell asleep and snored loudly.
In spite of the leader's admonition, people continued to leave, and by two o'clock, intervals between prayers had grown longer and longer. After an abrupt benediction, we were dismissed.
The memory of that extended prayer time lingered long. It troubled me.
Years later, passing through London on my way to a European film assignment, I was invited to give a midnight report to the all-night prayer meeting of a large mission. When I arrived, people were having a coffee break. They seemed happy, relaxed, purposeful.
"One seldom hears of all-night prayer meetings anymore," I said to the director of the mission.
"We do it every month," he replied. "We begin at nine o'clock, and it takes us at least until four in the morning to pray for all the people, all the families, remembering everyone individually by name, plus all the activities in which these people are involved. There are more than two thousand of them."
I think this group's experience was the exception, not the rule. I'm not speaking against lengthy times of prayer. I'm simply documenting the problem I had for many years.
But then the Lord brought STEPS into my life. By its very format, it vitalized my times of prayer.
1. STEPS is an easily understood and applied procedure.
2. Related promises from the Bible reinforce people, circumstances, and needs in my prayers.
3. I pray reverently but informally, enjoying warm rapport with the Lord.
You, too, can benefit from using the STEPS method.
Here is an example of STEPS in action.
Let's suppose you are under much stress. Your job gets you down. Money is scarce. You may also be the victim of demeaning gossip. Having checked the topics section of this book, you proceed alphabetically to Stress. There you find several selections for your consideration. Realizing that your Lord has a whimsical as well as a solemn nature, and that He wishes to relate to you in your humanness rather than any kind of stuffy piety, you consider initially reinforcing your prayer with the listing "In up to your neck, Psalm 69:1": "Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck."
You could then pray in this way: "That says it for me, Lord—up to my neck and then some. You know what kind of day I've had. Please help me to settle down. Help me to get a better grip on myself."
Next, you could turn to another item under Stress: "Your Lord can handle your load, Psalm 55:22": "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you."
"That's a new one," you perhaps pray. "You mean, I actually transfer these tensions and pressures onto You? It's like learning a new language. Okay, I'll give it a try."
Here is where you begin a new approach to prayer. Checking the Deliverance references, you find Psalm 57:2: "I will cry out to God ... who performs all things for me." Your prayer may continue like this: "Just the way it says in the Bible here, Lord, I throw these problems onto You. I don't know how it happens, but by faith, I do it because the Bible tells me to do it. Your Word assures me that it is You who performs all things for me."
In the exercise of your faith, you take the Bible at face value. You name your tension points as you cast your burden on the Lord. In this brief example of prayer concerning stress, your procedure would be to quietly wait. Let the Lord calm you with His gentleness and diminish your stress until it is gone.
You will develop expertise as you become familiar with and practiced in the STEPS method. In another chapter, I offer a series of prototypes to help you develop your prayers.
Heavy stuff? Not necessarily. Just because something is new doesn't make it complicated.
STEPS is not a gimmick or an attempt to be clever. It is a new approach for talking to God that lies at the heart of the Bible.
Correct Use of Bible Promises
Here are simple guidelines to assist you, especially when you face urgent circumstances.
1. Spend several moments with John 16:13, inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you into the correct understanding and use of Scripture.
2. As you pray, quote the promise you consider using, and ask the Lord to help you.
3. Consult one of the standard Bible commentaries, such as Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible or Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary, for clearer understanding. You may find them at Christian bookstores, your church library, or most public libraries.
4. Avoid hurrying. In quiet meditation, wait upon the Lord to guide you.
5. Rest your case with James 1:5–6.
There is no need for apprehension. As you experience the vitality of 2 Peter 3:18 and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," your motivations will become increasingly positive. You will be comfortable with both the Old Testament and the New Testament, developing expertise in "rightly dividing the word of truth."
May these be holy moments as you contemplate the new spiritual agenda discussed in Bible-Based Prayer Power. Let your foremost desire be an ever-intensifying personal relationship with your Lord. In Colossians 1:9–10, Paul prayed for his friends "that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
You dare not miss what the Lord is telling you in these quotations! You can be "fully pleasing Him."
It will happen when—through prayer and widened understanding of the Bible—you are increasing in the knowledge of God.
Have a great walk!
The Origin of STEPS
It may be helpful for you to know the events that caused the STEPS method to become such a vital part of my Christian experience.
For several summers, I served as one of the chaplains in the Baseball Chapel ministry, which touches the lives of many professional athletes with the influence of the Bible. My first chapel assignment was with the Chicago Cubs. We met in their conditioning room at Wrigley Field where I used as my pulpit the seat of an exercise bicycle.
With no thought of selecting a theme significant to myself, but searching for something catchy out of pro baseball jargon, I chose as my subject "The Bible Is God's Contract."
It was contract time for several of the Cubbies, and they listened intently. Using Proverbs 3:5–6, I showed the men what God expects of us and what we can expect of Him when we ask for guidance.
Trust in the LORD with all your
And He shall
heart, and lean not on your own direct your paths.
understanding; in all your ways
On a hunch, I had made extra copies of my notes in case any of the players wished to have the Bible references for review. To my delight, nearly every man took one, then headed out to the field for pregame warm-ups. A member of the pitching staff lingered.
"My wife and I have a neighborhood Bible study," he told me. He kept glancing at the notes.
A half dozen copies remained, and I gave them to him.
A year later, I received a chapel assignment with the Oakland A's. Entering the dressing room, I was startled to hear someone call my name. It was the same ballplayer who, during the winter months, had been traded to the Athletics by the Cubs.
"My wife and I are still working on that thought of the Bible being God's contract," he told me. "You've got something there. Are you planning to do anything with it?"
I don't remember the thought ever crossing my mind until then. I had just completed my book Where to Find It in the Bible, and as I browsed its pages, I realized there were troves of contractual statements in the Bible. I began seeking them out and using them in my prayers. I found the procedure most pleasant and, in many instances, productive.
If you'd like to experiment, consider Philippians 4:6–7, one of the most prominent prayer promises in the Bible, especially for use during troubled times. The following example shows how you might pray as you allow the Bible to reinforce what you say to your heavenly Father. (In the example, the Scripture phrase is in italics, followed by the suggested prayer.)
Be anxious for nothing,
But I am anxious, Lord. Tied up in knots. I can't get rid of my anxiety. Not in my own strength. I've got to have help ... Your help. but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
I don't understand the supplication part, Lord. Please teach me. You know my biggest problem. I'm terrified that the boss is coming down any day now to evaluate my department. But You tell me not to worry. The only way that can happen is for You to take the worry away. With thanksgiving, the Bible says. Okay, by faith I thank You for the help You are going to give me. You promise, Lord. Help me to believe Your promise.
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
You said it, Lord. It's in the terms of Your contract with me. I'm promised peace instead of anxiety. I trust You to do what You say You will do.
This example is from one of the Bible's most familiar passages, Psalm 23 (the Scripture phrase is in italics, followed by the suggested prayer):
The Lord is my shepherd;
My Shepherd. I like the sound of it, Lord, but I admit I've never really understood it before, much less experienced it. But I want it now. I want You for my Shepherd, and I want to be one of Your lambs. Please take control of my thinking. Please make it happen.
I shall not want.
I know it's true. You will take care of me anywhere, under any circumstances. Help me to get it into my head, to be able to believe fully.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
What's this all about? Life's no flower garden. I don't expect it to be. But as in that planning meeting where they put the scissors to my proposal, You helped me hang in there. I was really shocked. But thank You, Lord, for helping me enough that I didn't shout any more than I did.
He restores my soul;
I stray and come back, O Lord. That's where I so often miss it. Show me what You mean when You say You restore my soul. You promise restoration, right here in Your Word. Help me to believe it and receive it.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Lord, I'm sinful to the core. It's for "His name's sake," Your righteousness in me, that makes the difference.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
I've always had this thing about death. But here it isn't the valley of death. It's the valley of the shadow of death. I want to live a long time, but I realize now that when death comes, it's through the shadow into Your presence.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
I live in this secular world, Lord. I can't possibly make it on my own. I didn't realize how available You are. I'm so grateful for all of Your blessings.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
It's not just what You did for me yesterday, Lord, or the plans You have for today. There's tomorrow's blessing. I thank and praise You. All this and heaven too. What a deal!
The following selection from Psalm 139 (vv. 23–24) further demonstrates how you can blend scripture in your prayer. It's one of the best selections in the Bible for searching your heart, examining your motives, and shaping up your thought life.
The prayer is illustrative only. I suggest you have your own STEPS experience with this excellent example. Personalize your prayer vocabulary. Express your feelings. Make it your prayer.
Search me, O God,
When I get down to the reality of what the Bible says here, it scares me. With Your help, I can handle it.
and know my heart;
I mean it, Lord. Know me.
try me, and know my anxieties;
So much pressure. Never sure of myself. I miss half the sermon, wondering—mostly worrying—about Monday. Isn't the Christian life supposed to be better than this?
and see if there is any wicked way in me,
See if I have sins? I have them, Lord. Please make me clean. Being really clean is where it's at. I know that, Lord.
and lead me in the way everlasting.
As Your Word says, You lead me. I will fall flat on my face if I try to make it on my own. Be my Shepherd, my Lord.
This casual approach to God may be awkward for you at first, especially if you're accustomed to the "Thee and Thou" kind of formality. There is nothing wrong with the formal approach as long as it occurs in the intimate spirit I mentioned earlier.
Yes, you are praying to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He understands you in whatever manner you approach Him. The point is that God understands you best when you speak to Him as a child to his father, in this case his heavenly Father!
Words of the Bible, especially verbs, have become stimulating gems of exploration.
On a motion picture assignment in Honduras, for example, I flew one day with a missionary pilot on an hour's jaunt. Reaching for a Bible alongside his flight log, he shouted to me above the din of the single-engine Piper, "When I have good weather and clear passage, I often use flying to fit in some time with the Book."
"Finding any new things?" I asked.
"Sure am," he replied. He handed the Bible to me. "Look up the Thirty-seventh Psalm."
I found the psalm and gestured for the pilot to proceed.
"Read the fourth verse," he said.
Almost shouting, I read, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
At that moment, we hit one of those precarious downdrafts common to Honduran mountain terrain. It was as though the maneuver caused the verse to leap up from the page before my eyes.
"What do you think it means?" the pilot shouted.
Excerpted from BIBLE-BASED PRAYER POWER by KEN ANDERSON. Copyright © 2000 Ken Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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