Written by Peter Blanch
This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
So said Jesus when he was teaching his disciples to pray. Critical to Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that he approaches God as Father. For every disciple of Jesus – God is not a force, a mystical power or an distant impersonal being – He is our Father. And so prayer at its very essence is relational. At it’s heart, prayer is a child relating to their Father.
This relational reality must shape our prayer lives. As we saw at our winter warm up this last week, we must not be immature in the way we relate to God. Every parent knows the immaturity of their children that displays itself in constant requests:
Mum can I have a chocolate?
Dad can I turn the TV on?
Dad can I have $20 to go out with my friends?
Mum, can I have… can I have … can I have … ?
Parents of younger children live in hope that in time their child will mature into a deeper relationship with them, not just seeing their parents as someone who can ‘give them stuff’. Parents long for the relationship with their child to mature to the point where their child willingly says, without prompting, “thank you”, “I love you”, and “sorry” when they have done wrong.
As God’s children, being immature in our relationship with God is having a prayer life that is dominated only by requests to God.
Don’t hear me wrong. It is good to request things from God. We can bring anything and everything to him, asking him for his mercy, help and provision. But, as we relate to our Heavenly Father we should also be saying “I love you”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. These things are the marks of a mature prayer life, a growing relationship with God.
To help us grow towards a mature prayer life, the maturity team focussed in on STAR prayers at our Winter Warm-up.
The “S” of STAR stands for Sorry prayers. It is important to get into a good habit of praying sorry prayers because we all find these prayers difficult. No one likes to focus in on the mistakes they have made and confess them to God. Yet, as a parent really appreciates a child owning up to their wrongs and asking for help to change, so too our heavenly Father loves to hear our prayers of confession and repentance. A mature prayer life is one that confesses sin regularly – as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer; “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” A mature prayer life will regularly have prayers that start with words like: “Heavenly Father I’m sorry for …”
The “T” of STAR stands for Thank-you prayers. Most of us can find plenty to give thanks to God for. He has given us everything we have! We shouldn’t keep our thanks to God bottled up inside – we should express our thanks to God regularly, every time we pray. A mature prayer life will regularly have prayers that start with words like: “Heavenly Father I thank you for …”
The “A” of STAR stands for Adoration prayers. These are prayers in which we express our affections for God. It warms a parents heart to hear their child say to them “I love you”. It displays the two-sidedness of the relationship – that the love is mutual. God has shown us what love is when he loved us “while we were still sinners”. How deep is God’s love for us! Now that we have recognised the depth of God’s love for us, now that we have been fully adopted into his family, we can express our own love for him in return. A mature prayer life will regularly have prayers that start with words like: “Heavenly Father I love you because …”
The “R” of STAR stands for Request prayers. These are prayers where we bring all our concerns, anxieties and requests before God and ask Him for help. It is right that we do this because our heavenly father loves us deeply and is willing to help us. He is sovereign over all things, and at work in all things for our good [Romans 8:28]. He loves it when we come to him for the help we need. Of course, His answer may be “yes”, “no”, or “wait’”. We mustn’t think that God only hears us when he answers our prayers positively. Sometimes the best thing for us is for God to say ‘no” – every parent knows that sometimes what their child wants is actually not good for them. So too, God’s answer may be “no” at times and like a child who is secure in their fathers love we must trust him in that and continue to persevere in prayer for all things. A mature prayer life will regularly have prayers that start with words like: “Heavenly Father I ask that …”
Can I encourage you to mature in your prayer life – to grow in your relationship with God this week – regularly and constantly bringing your confession, thanks, praise, and requests to our great God? You might like to try this STAR model.