Do you ever sit down to pray and you’re not sure what to say? Maybe you have one very specific need you want to talk to God about. You’re in a bind at work, and you need wisdom. Or a friend is dealing with an illness, and you want God to heal her. Or you are just tired and frustrated, and you want God to fill you with his Spirit. Those are great things to pray about, but our communication with God needs to be more than just asking him for stuff. Prayer needs to be aimed in more than just one direction.
Scripture is filled with exhortations about prayer and examples of full, rich prayers. Our prayers to God should reflect this. There are lots of ways to divide and think about the essential elements of prayer, but consider praying in four directions: Up, Down, In, Out. As these four directions guide your prayer time, get your body involved to keep you focused. Let your body reflect the position of your heart. As you talk to your Father, listen to the Spirit. Let him guide you in these four directions of prayer.
Pray Up: Stand and lift your head as you look up to Praise your King. Sing to him a familiar song of praise. Tell your Heavenly Father how amazing and wonderful he is. Of course he already knows, but he deserves praise from his children, and we need to be reminded each day how incredible our Savior is. With your attention turned upward, offer God Thanksgiving – just tell him what you are thankful for! Thank him for his love and grace in Christ. Thank him for the simple things in your life you often take for granted. A thankful posture in prayer will honor your Father and fill you with joy. Join with Psalm 69:30 in proclaiming, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
Pray Down: Next, bow your head and kneel before God – with your spirit and your body. Make Confession of your sins. Name before God the ways you have fallen short – how you have disobeyed, rebelled, and hardened yourself toward him. Confess the ways you’ve sinned in what you think, feel, say, and do. Remember not only how you’ve actively lived against him, but how you have passively not lived for him. Let your confession lead you into Repentance. While confession admits the ways you’ve fallen short, repentance is actively turning away from those crooked habits. With sorrow for the ways you’ve hurt God, yourself, and others, ask for forgiveness. Celebrate the forgiveness you already have through the sacrifice of Jesus! Thank God for the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, commit to walk in obedience to the will of God.
Pray In: Now turn your attention inward, toward what you need. As you do, bring your hands in close to your chest. Offer Petition to God for the needs and burdens in your life. Petition is just a fancy way of saying you’re going to request something of God. God is generous, and Jesus came to give us abundant life. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Cry out to your Father for grace, peace, wisdom, direction, and healing. As you pray, remember God is sovereign; he is in charge. He knows what’s best. He knows what you need. Submit yourself to his good and perfect will. Let his Holy Spirit guide your heart so that you don’t ask for selfish gain, but for the increase of his Kingdom.
Pray Out: Finally, turn your heart and mind outward toward the needs of the world and the people you care about. Spread your hands outward to reflect the position of your heart. Make Intercession for others. There is no shortage of painful situations in the world and hurting people in your life. Remember, don’t just pray for their physical needs, but for their spiritual needs as well. The sick need healing, the trapped need freedom, the rebellious need forgiveness, the confused need wisdom. Pray the heart of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Remember, God wants us to talk to him and listen to him. He invites us to pray. He commands us to pray. Let your heart be guided by the Holy Spirit as you pray in these four directions.