Phases of Prayer

At Casa de Paz Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ

In The Master’s Indwelling by Andrew Murray, he presents four phases of prayer, which I have found particularly helpful. It somewhat echoes the old acrostic “ACTS,” which many of you no doubt learned as a guide to prayer, standing for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (old word for making requests).

What I especially like about Murray’s phases is the more contemplative approach it takes, the more space it tends to allow. Now, as always, if you do not find it helpful, just throw it out. But I did want to pass it along to you all, as I have adopted it and benefitted spiritually.

The four phases are:

  • Ignorance
  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Intercession

Ignorance. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but the Spirit pleads on our behalf, with groaning too deep for words (Romans 8:26). We begin by honestly admitting that we really don’t even know what to pray. But the Holy Spirit’s work begins in the heart, teaching us how to pray, so this is actually a great starting point—ignorance. Once you start gaining insight into what is needed for God’s kingdom to come, what is promised, and that which God is waiting to perform, it’s quite overwhelming, and beyond comprehension. Then you’re ready to say, “I cannot limit the Holy Spirit by my mere mortal thoughts. I give myself up in the faith that the Holy Spirit can be praying for me, with me, and through me, with groaning and longings that can’t be expressed.” So we sit in silence, and let the Holy Spirit have the first word—a wonderful way to start prayer.

Worship. We must take time for “secret” worship in order to come face-to-face with the everlasting God, that He may overshadow us, fill us, and cover us, with His love and glory. It is of utmost importance that we take the time to recognize just who it is we are communicating with—only the Creator of the entire universe and Lover of your soul! Through worship, the Holy Spirit who can work in us a desire for God that burns to the point of readily giving up work and pleasure in order to spend more time with God.

Fellowship. It is true that we worship the King, but we also converse with our Friend. It is of absolute necessity, if we are to grow in our relationship with Christ, that we spend time simply hanging out with Him, and sharing our day, our feelings, joys, and hurts. Murray says, “If Christ is to make me what I am to be, I must tarry in fellowship with God. If God is to let His love enter in and shine and burn through my heart, I must take time to be with Him.” He gives the illustration of a blacksmith placing a rod of iron in the fire. If he leaves it there for a short amount of time, it does not become red-hot as is needed to work with. It may be placed in the fire several times for only a couple of minutes at a time, but will still not become thoroughly heated. But if he takes his time and leaves the rod in the fire for ten or fifteen minutes, the whole iron will become red-hot from the fire’s heat.

Intercession. Now we are ready to properly pray for others and ourselves. Let them take hold of my strength (Isaiah 27:5). There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you…(Isaiah 64:7). Have you “taken hold of God”? With anaideia—shamelessness and boldness (see Luke 11)? The Spirit wants time and room in my heart, wants my whole being. You cannot imagine what you could accomplish if you gave yourself up to intercession. “If the Spirit could find people to give up their lives to cry to God, the Spirit would surely come.”

Have you ever prayed for someone everyday for thirty days or more?

You should try it.

It’s powerful in ways you may not expect.

Blessings to you today!

To make a memorable acronym, which I’m all about, you could switch the order of the first two phases to make “wifi.”