Chapter 1.
When God Prayed

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

—EPHESIANS 1:17-19a

In most prayer meetings we make time for individuals to call out prayer requests. We collectively list off the needs of all who are ill and ask for something we call “traveling mercies” for those away on vacation. But have you ever attempted to give a request for something as nebulous as spiritual growth, your journey toward godliness, or a deeper understanding of God’s presence?

I have. And most often those requests are met with blank stares.

Amid the recitation of illnesses and financial needs, these seem out of place, easily brushed aside and quickly forgotten. They are intangible, impractical by comparison to more immediate needs.

It seems to me that the people who are talking about deepening relationships with God and empowering the prayer life are the elite few who regularly embark on long-term spiritual pilgrimages and enjoy weeks of wordless contemplation during silent retreats in the wildernesses of God’s creation.

But what of the rest of us—ordinary folk for whom a mere hour of silent contemplation is a luxury found only in the netherworld? Can we not go deeper in our communication with God? Or are we forever to drive up to the order window of heaven asking for a half order of God to go, please, and make it snappy?

A thousand times, no! Going deeper with God on a daily basis is not only possible, but eminently practical. That’s what this book is all about. We’ll be like code-breakers, intercepting communication (recorded by the apostle John) that overhears God the Son (Jesus) talking with God the Father. Our mission: to break the code and learn His prayer secrets.

We’ll make our examination in small daily discoveries and will begin to apply these new principles to real prayer—in real life—right away.

Why are we beginning with Jesus’ prayer from John 17 instead of the more traditional starting point of the Lord’s Prayer? That earlier prayer (found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11) has become so familiar to many of us that we can gloss right over the truths it contains. Because we’ve memorized it, chanted it, and sung it for what seems eons, we feel we’ve mastered it, graduated from Prayer 101 as it were, and moved on. But when Jesus allowed His followers to overhear His conversation with the Father immediately before His trip to the cross, He offered us a substance-filled example of the depth of relationship that prayer can offer between God and His children.

Additionally, because of its proximity to His trip to the cross, the prayer in John 17 reveals what was weighing most heavily on Jesus’ mind at the world’s most crucial moment. Jesus’ words to His Father are intimate and passionate. In being privy to that communication, can we not learn more about communicating with the mind of our mysterious God?

What does God say to God?

That question has always fascinated me. So much so that when I looked for a Scripture to carry in my day planner every day during 1999, I prayerfully selected John 17, the passage that translators label “The High Priestly Prayer.”

All year I read and reread that passage. I contemplated. I studied. I mused. Finally in desperation some time during November, I prayed. (You’re thinking, Duh, what took you so long?) Only then did it begin to come alive. I began to breathe in a fresh breath—then gulp after gulp—of the fresh air of His love. And I caught a new vision into those areas of my communication with Him that He wants me to improve.

So, my first prayer in this area of my own spiritual need for growth was actually a request for insight. As the apostle Paul would put it, I prayed “that the eyes of [my] heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).

Let’s begin this study together with a similar prayer.

Note that the suggested prayers in this collection are fragments. Some adapt the words of Scripture, while others are based on the works of classical writers and lyricists. Be assured, the prayers are fragmented intentionally. We’ll start on one track together and leave openings to enable all of us to create our own private and intimate communication with God—our Father.

Rather than proceeding verse by verse through the prayer, I have grouped chapters into topical sections. Some verses we will revisit in several chapters, examining their various nuances and purposes. We will begin by focusing on those prayers that are of greatest importance to God our Father.

Now then: Let us pray.

Personal Prayer Starter

My Father in heaven,

I realize my knowledge of You is disappointingly limited. I have only made time to see a small portion of Your character; I have discerned so little about who You really are. So, with the apostle Paul, I ask now, as I study Your Son’s prayer in the days ahead, that You will give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation that I may know You better.

Enlighten the eyes of my heart, so that I may see You as...

Enlighten me also to Your hand at work in...

Allow me to know the plans You have established in the area of...

I thank You for Your willingness to be known.