There is a need for God glorifying, Christ centered, Spirit led prayer. Our culture generally assess that extemporaneous, or “on-the-spot” prayers are more God honoring. After all, the thinking goes, why would God want us to pray to him in any form rather than a casual conversation that is “heart felt.”
Now this is not to say God doesn’t want heart felt prayers. I am only maintaining here that when we come to God in prayer we need to remember who we are talking with.
“…let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
Our God is awesome (which is another way of saying awful or leading to awe) and is terrible (terror/reverence inducing) This is not something to be taken lightly. We are told in Hebrews to “boldly approach the throne of grace.” Why is this? We can come before God boldly because Jesus is our advocate, high priest, and elder brother. When we come boldly before God, we are really coming before the holy and terrible God of heaven and earth via Christs boldness, a boldness to face the wrath of God and rise again. When we do come boldly before before God (and it is commanded), we come because Jesus has purchased us that spot with his blood. If not for Christ, then our boldness would melt like wax before a flame.
Now while can and must boldly approach the throne of grace, we should do it reverently and full of awe. We must approach this way because we are standing in a place to which we have no right apart from Christ. This is precisely why scripture makes it clear that God does not listen to sinners (John 9:31, 1 Peter 3:12). But the radical thing about Christianity is that it doesn’t magically pick non-sinners. Everyone here is a sinner and yet we still can come before God because we stand before Him, protected by the righteousness of Christ.
We need to bring our requests and petitions before God in thankfulness and need to do so in a way that is reverent, focused, and honoring to our triune God. This means that for most of us Christians these attributes often won’t flow naturally during extemporaneous prayer. Therefore writing prayers out and praying them verbatim is an extremely helpful practice. When we were going to Christ Church, in Spokane, each man in the congregation would pray a prayer of thanksgiving or petition 2-3 times per quarter. This was extremely challenging for me because I was being trusted to lead the body of Christ in corporate prayer. What a beautiful and terrifying thing!
Fortunately we don’t have to be eloquent for God to hear our prayers. We don’t have to be poetic or use beautiful imagery (although it is great when we do) We have to come before God reverently and full of humility knowing that we aren’t talking with our “homeboy” but our holy and faithful Father in heaven. Jesus taught us to pray and so we do pray “hallowed be thy name.”