“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” (Psalms 54:2)
Several years ago, I flew to New York for a business meeting. It was a flight I will never forget.
For me, the aisle seats are the most comfortable on an airplane. And since I had a two-hour flight, I asked the travel agent to reserve an aisle seat for me.
We boarded the plane, and I quickly found my seat. Along came a young man on crutches who was assigned the window seat. He appeared in greater need of an aisle seat, so I offered him my seat and moved over to the window seat.
While I am not particularly fond of flying, I don’t have an unhealthy fear of it either. In fact, this flight began uneventfully, and weather from Atlanta to New York gave no reason for any concern.
Looking out the window, I noticed something on the outside of one of the engines. It looked like water, and I didn’t give it a lot of thought. However, as the flight progressed, my concern grew. It wasn’t water coming from that engine. It was oil.
One of my traveling companions was sitting in front of me. I asked him if he had noticed the problem with the engine. We both agreed that the captain should be notified. We immediately informed one of the flight attendants. The attendant returned and advised that the captain found nothing unusual with the instruments and would have it checked when we landed in New York.
I guess I didn’t trust the captain’s judgment, and I know I didn’t trust his instruments. There was oil on the outside of that engine, and it was getting worse by the minute. I didn’t know anything else to do but pray. To this day, I can’t remember a time when I’ve prayed more intentionally about anything.
In my heart of hearts, I believe God answered my prayer. In fact, several of the passengers commented as we got off the plane that the oil problem had completely disappeared before we started our final approach.
The 45 minutes I spent in prayer that day has convicted me about my prayer life in general. I realized that I spend far too much time selfishly asking God to get me out of trouble. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting our deepest fears before the Lord. In fact, the Bible says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18) So whenever my knees knock, I’m going to go to the Lord in prayer.
What I realized about my prayer life is that it does not have the balance it needs. Sure, I should feel free to ask my Father for anything. But prayer should include other things besides our petitions. For example, we should devote some time during prayer in simple adoration of who he is. “How right they are to adore you,” we are told by Solomon. (Song of Solomon 1:4)
Secondly, we should confess our sins every time we go to him in prayer. Remember, John told us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Finally, we should never forget to thank the Lord for his daily presence in our lives, which is exactly what the psalmist meant when he said, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalms 100:4)
The Holy Spirit has reminded me that God doesn’t just want to hear from me about specific needs in my life. There is a lot more to God than we sometimes allow him to show us. So try to remember the letters, A-C-T-S, when you go to him in prayer. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. I’m convinced that it’s a good recipe for a great prayer life.
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