Habitual Love: Leading in the Example of Prayer

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from Engaging Generation Z: Raising the Bar for Youth Ministry
by Tim McKnight

The Power of Prayer

Youth leader, consider this: Do those you lead see you as a person of prayer? Do they see in you a hunger to know God? Parents, do your children recognize the fruit of your daily devotional life? Are they learning from your teaching and example how to walk with God? Are you praying God-sized prayers in the ministry of your church?

Revival is a lifestyle of obedience to God, and such a lifestyle is born out of a life of prayer. I define prayer this way: intimacy with God that leads to the fulfillment of his purposes. Intimacy is more than just talking. Prayer paves the road to a close, daily, personal walk with our Lord, which in turn leads to the fulfillment of his purposes. Although we may pray for the needs of ourselves and others, prayer is not merely a wish list for a benefactor like Santa Claus; it is our way to learn God’s purposes for us. Remember, life is not primarily about us but about him.

How do you teach youth to begin daily prayer time? Start by observing your own daily prayer time. Below are some practical tips to help you have a daily, close walk with God.

  1. Read the Bible. As you set aside time daily, start by reading the Bible. If you don’t know where to begin, try reading a chapter of Proverbs each day, reading a chapter that goes with the day of the month (Proverbs 1 for May 1, for example).
  2. Keep a spiritual journal. I’ve kept one for many years. Many of the spiritual giants in history—John Wesley, David Brainerd, George Whitefield, Jim Elliot—kept a journal. I like to write a little about the day before (I usually start out with “Yesterday I . . .”). Then I share my requests and sometimes my plans.
  3. Follow a pattern. Jesus offered us a pattern for prayer in the model prayer found in Matthew 6. This prayer, also called the Lord’s Prayer, is not a formula to repeat but a model to emulate. Notice these features that can help guide our praying:
  • God is close: “Our Father . . .” We can know God intimately through Christ. Begin by acknowledging the wonder of salvation that allows us to speak to the Creator of the universe with such a personal term as “Father.”
  • God is far: “Who is in heaven . . .” God is not the “man upstairs.” We can approach him intimately as Father yet with deep reverence as the great God who lives in a “high and lofty place” (Isa. 57:15). Take time to reflect on his greatness.
  • God is holy: “Hallowed be your name . . .” The essential attribute of God is holiness. Throughout the Bible the threefold cry toward God is never “love, love, love” or “judge, judge, judge” but “holy, holy, holy.” This reminds us of both the uniqueness of our God and the depravity of our sin. Allow the Spirit to show you any unconfessed sin or unresolved issues, and bring them to God in confession and repentance.
  • God is redeemer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done . . .” How is the kingdom of God established? Through the gift of eternal life in Christ. So this prayer includes a focus on evangelism, for when we pray for the kingdom to come, we pray for all to be a part of God’s family; when we pray for his will to be done, we are reminded that it is not God’s will that any perish but that all come to know him (see 2 Peter 3:9). Take time to pray for lost people, that the kingdom of God would become theirs through salvation.
  • God is provider: “Give us this day . . .” While the kingdom comes before other needs, God is concerned for our lives. We can pray for the temporal, physical, and emotional needs of ourselves and others. In fact, we must!
  • God is merciful: “Forgive us . . .” Here we can pray for both our sins and our willingness to forgive others. If we daily take time to confess and forsake our sin and in that light to forgive those who hurt us, life will be much better.
  • God is our guide: “And lead us not . . .” Pray for direction in decisions, not toward evil, but toward him.
  • God is worthy of praise: “For thine . . .” Beginning prayer time with a focus on God and ending with praise makes the time of prayer a blessing indeed.

Another simple way to help a young believer learn to pray is by suggesting and following the guide: ACTS.

  • A is for Adoration. Spend some time praising God for his greatness. You might listen to a praise and worship song as part of this time or read a psalm of praise like Psalm 100 or 150.
  • C is for Confession. Ask God to reveal your sins, and then confess them (1 John 1:9). Reading the Bible sometimes helps to reveal a sin that you need to address.
  • T is for Thanksgiving. Growing Christians are grateful Christians. Thank God for salvation and for his specific blessings.
  • S is for Supplication. This is a big word meaning to ask God for your needs and for the needs of others. How do you know God answers if you aren’t praying specifically? I like to keep a list of specific things for which I am praying. Then, when God answers, I write that down, which really encourages me.

Just as my conversations with Angela helped me grow closer to Angela, even though we were geographically separated, a daily time of talking and listening to God will help us and our students grow more in love with him.

This post is adapted from Engaging Generation Z by Timothy McKnight. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.

“As the largest generation, Generation Z is going to be shaping American culture for the foreseeable future―but who is going to shape the spiritual lives of Generation Z? In his new book Engaging Generation Z, Tim McKnight provides valuable insights and tools for developing a student ministry that will connect with and nurture these young adults in their walk with Christ. As a long-time youth minister himself―and now a pastor and teacher of youth ministry―McKnight offers the kind of practical guidance that can make an impact on ministry in the local church. This is a book that deserves the attention of pastors and other church leaders as well as student ministers.”
―Michael Duduit, Editor, Preaching magazine

“We do youth ministry best when we know our students and our Bibles well. In this book, Dr. Timothy McKnight combines a rich knowledge of Scripture with a wealth of insights on the experiences and perspectives of Generation Z to deliver a blueprint for revitalized and effective youth ministry. This is an invaluable and deeply encouraging resource for anyone navigating the intricacies of student ministry in our current context.”
―Greg Stier, Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries


About Author

Tim McKnight received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the Director of the Global Center for Youth Ministry and Associate Professor of Youth Ministry and Missions at the Clamp Divinity School of Anderson University. He has served in the pastorate since 1991 with much of that time in youth ministry. He currently pastors Mosaic Church of Anderson, a multiethnic multigenerational church plant. Tim is also the founder of One Disciple, a ministry focused on helping people live, love, and lead like Jesus in every aspect of their lives.

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