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John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 11

*Wait on the Lord

My soul waits…for God only.

Psalm 62:1 NASB

The generality of Christians are accustomed to use some kind of prayer. Now, perhaps you are one who still uses the same form you used when you were a child. But surely, there is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) of ordering our private devotions. Consider both your inward and outward state and vary your prayers accordingly. Suppose you are healthy, at ease, and have kind relations, good neighbors, and agreeable friends. Then your outward state obviously calls for praise and thanksgiving to God.

On the other hand, if you are in adversity, in poverty or need, in distress or danger, or in pain or sickness, then you are called to pour out your soul before God in prayer suited to your circumstances.

In like manner, you may suit your devotions to your inward state, the present state of your mind. Are you in heaviness, either from a sense of sin or from manifold temptations? Let your prayer consist of the confessions, petitions, and supplications that agree with your distressed state of mind.

On the contrary, is your soul in peace? Are you rejoicing in God? Are His consolations large toward you? Then say with the Psalmist, “You are my God and I will love You…I will praise you.” Reading and meditating on a psalm of praise is the natural rising of a thankful heart. “A more excellent way” than any form.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

John Wesley, in this eleventh lesson on prayer, reminds us of not only the circumstantial need for varied types of prayer, but also the rich ways that God has ordained for us to call upon His name.

He lists four types of prayer in his teaching. First, praise and thanksgiving. Secondly, pouring out of the soul. Next is confessions, petitions, and supplications. And lastly, psalms of praise.

Although not in the same order that Wesley chooses, his types of prayer are in line with Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 which says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (NASB).

The Amplified Bible draws out the distinction between the outer life and inner life that Wesley makes when it says, “First of all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men. For kings, and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that [outwardly] we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life [and inwardly] a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way. For such [praying] is good and right, and [it is] pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior” (AMP).

The other point Wesley makes in this teaching is that some believers, having at some time learned a specific form of prayer, never expand their prayer lives outside of that form. That may be the Lord’s Prayer, taken as a mere form, or some other prayer learned at home or in church. There is nothing wrong with these, but as Wesley points out, not all circumstances of life call for the same type of prayer. He admonishes us to start where we are, externally and internally, and move from there into the type of prayer suitable to our situation. Of course, the prayer of thanksgiving is always suitable to whatever state we find ourselves in, for we thank God for Who He is, regardless of our needs.

Jesus prayed regularly, sometimes throughout the night. The apostle Paul was a man of prayer. All his general epistles and personal letters are laced with prayer throughout. The other New Testament writers placed a high value on prayer as well.  Prayer was not only an occasion; it was a lifestyle.

Wesley once said, “All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.”

One last word from Paul. In Ephesians 6:18, the NIV records his instructions, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”


Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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