Experience & Variation
In using Jesus' prayer outline, we have found it best to be flexible in the allotted time dedicated to prayer. In other words, if you decide to set aside an hour for prayer, rather than spend exactly 8.5 minutes on each of the 7 elements, we think it best to "go with the flow" of the Spirit and the moment. For example, at times I have got "stuck" in rapturous worship on the first phrase, praising the Father for the whole time, and there is no reason to feel at all guilty over this sort of thing. I may do the same thing tomorrow, or just move on to the next section and spend the whole time on it. A week later I might quickly skip through the first five elements that seem not to be the cry of my heart, and spend 45 minutes on "deliver me from evil". Other times I just go through the whole and then come back to some portion as the Spirit might lead; or just wait and listen. And so forth.
The prayer outline is not meant to be a ridged structure or proscription, but a training tool to help us learn to converse with God in a proper way. After several months of practice, I found myself comfortable launching out into free-form prayer, and only now go back to the prayer outline when my mind goes blank or my heart is distracted. Perhaps you will find this true as well?
A Familiar Melody
The pattern of the Lord's example prayer goes from meditation on Him, His nature, the relationship between heaven and earth, our need for His life, and then on to more practical matters like forgiveness of others and deliverance from sin, and then to giving him all the honor and praise. We start with Him, and then reflect glory back to Him.
It is interesting to note that this pattern is reminiscent of the 10 commandments. We start off with who God is, then we have commandments against idolatry and misuse of the Name of the Lord, and then we move on to more practical matters of how to live.
God can hear prayers not spoken, prayers offered from the heart.Jer 32:27 (NAS) "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"
Luke 18:27 (NKJ) ..."The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
Rom 8:27 (NRS) And God, who searches the heart...
Our first example is Hannah, whom the Lord understood even if Eli was a bit confused:1Sam 1:12-16 (NIV) As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
Silently, Nehemiah prays for strength before addressing the king in a critical situation:Neh 2:4 (NIV) The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven...
Eliezar gives us a very clear Scriptural example of silent praying:Gen 24:45 (NIV) "Before I finished praying in my heart..."Jer 20:12 (NRS) O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind...
Col 3:16 (NIV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
The Joy Of Prayer
Phil 1:3-6 (Phi) I thank my God for you whenever I think of you. My constant prayers for you are a real joy, because we have worked together for the gospel from the first day until present. I am confident of this: That the One who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ.
1 Thes 1:2 (NIV) We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
2 Thes 1:11-12 (Wey) It is with this view also that we continually pray to our God for you, asking that He will count you worthy of His call, and by His mighty power fully gratify your every desire for what is truly good and make your work of faith complete; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and that you may be glorified in Him--so wonderful is the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Rev 8:3-4 (NIV) Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden alter upon the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.
Ps 32:6 (NIV) Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found...
Php 1:9-11 (NIV) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.