“The universe is not empty.” Francis Schaeffer. There is a God who is there, who is good, and who invites our prayers.
God left us some giants in the faith. We can learn much from those who have preceded us.
On Sundays I like to take some time to focus more on spiritual things, after all we are body, mind, and spirit, and each need to be fed to be healthy. Recently, during my Sunday readings, I came across this gem on prayer written by a man named George A. Buttrick (1892-1980). He became a pastor in 1915, and served at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City from 1927 until his death. I thought I would share some of his teachings along with a few of my pertaining thoughts, which will be in green.
George A. Buttrick’s A Simple Regimen of Private Prayer excerpts are from the excellent book Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith. So, the following hints about prayer is an excerpt of an excerpt.
- First of all, keep in mind that Buttrick wanted his advice to be a guide-map and considered as hints rather than a set of rules.
- God should be approached as a friend and teacher. And father. I think of the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven”, as well a shepherd, “The Lord is my shepherd…” Psalm 23.
- Approach prayer with quietness and earnestness, and remember to ask in faith so that “we take counsel with our certitudes, not with our doubts and fears”. I think of James 1: 6 where it says, “…but let him ask in faith without any doubting…”.
- It is good to start with giving thanks, recalling blessings. Our human nature is prone to ingratitude. The example is given of a lecturer showing a white sheet of paper with a black blot on it to a group. When asked what they say, they all answered, “a blot”, instead of making any mention of the clean whiteness of the rest of the paper. Dennis Prager has a similar thought on this YouTube video titled “The Missing Tile Syndrome“, which is an excellent add to this point. “We need to deliberately call to mind the joys of our journeys”, not forgetting “the widespread mercy” of God.
- We need to be specific with what we are thankful for. He goes on to suggest that this part of your prayer should end with the resolve, “Lord, seal this gratitude upon my face, my words, my generous concern for my neighbors, my every outward thought and act”.
- Next, confession, with specifics, like, “I confess this sharp judgment, this jealousy, this cowardice, this bondage of dark habit, this part in the world’s evil. “ Buttrick also warns about mercilessness and ruthlessness towards yourself, as well as the danger of the evasion or excusing of your sin. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.”
- Then by faith, accept God’s grace and forgiveness. God is willing to forgive anything. “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, Romans 8:1. “True confession is a cleansing of the soul.”
- Consider next a time of intercession so that you do not “sink into selfishness.” And it should be specific. But Buttrick emphasizes, “Intercession is more than specific: it is pondered; it requires us to bear on our heart the burden of those for whom we pray.”
- He suggests that maybe you start with your enemies and pray for them, releasing all bitterness and resentment. “Bless so-and-so whom I foolishly regard as an enemy. Bless so-and-so whom I have wronged. Keep them in Thy favor. Banish my bitterness.” Buttrick then suggests including along with loved ones and friends, those who are the “leaders of mankind in the state craft, medicine, learning, art, and religion; the needy of the world.” The prayers should be pondered, specific and daring.
- Next, petitions for your needs and wants. “Sometimes, in sorrow, dread, or helplessness, it will be a crisis cry of creaturehood—a beating on heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark. Sometimes it will be a friendship-talk with God about the affairs of everyday”. He reminds us of Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing…” and concludes with “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done”, that we should always end with that sentiment.
- Lastly, Buttrick advises to fill each of the above sections with meditation and end with a time of adoration and a faithful “Amen”.
“I am helped by George Buttrick’s words on prayer. It isn’t so much that he is giving me new insights into prayer – in one form or another I have heard it all before. It is that when I read him, I want to pray. Many authors help me understand prayer; few help me practice it”. Richard Foster
I hope you are blessed by this article as much as the information has blessed me. May your prayers be abundantly answered!
The above quotes (except for the Francis Schaeffer one), excerpts, and paraphrases were taken from Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a book to help you know Jesus better and grow spiritually.
You might also be interested in these articles that I have written:
Happiness is Having a Shepherd
A Day of Rest is Essential to Health
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