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KEEPING THE FAITH | Maintaining those conversations with God through prayer

Your prayer does not have to be rehearsed, rigid, formal or mechanical. I have discovered a prayer that begins with worship, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord God creates an atmosphere for an intimate encounter. 
RevLewisMacklin032020
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

A tale was once told of a preacher roaming through a jungle who encounters a lion. 

As the lion starts racing toward him, the preacher looks up toward heaven says "Oh Lord, please let this be a lion full of faith." Immediately the lion stops in its tracks, gets on its knees, and says aloud, "Let us prey!”

Prayer is a conversation with God. However, it is not simply you talking to the Lord but an exchange where you should actively listen as well. It is an opportunity where you can be quiet before the Lord while also expressing what is within your heart. 

In my experience, if you listen to God, there may be an occasion where He may tell you things you might not want to hear. Trust Him because ultimately it will work in your favor. Paul advised in Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds” 

There are numerous examples of prayers within sacred text. The longest prayer can be found in Psalm 119, however, you should not be distracted by the length of your prayer’s appeals or petitions. I have discovered in my own surrendering to His will, simply praying “Oh Lord,” that He reveals the content and context of our prayerful interaction. 

Your prayer does not have to be rehearsed, rigid, formal or mechanical. In "The Lord's Model for Prayer" found within Matthew 6:9–13, it contains the elements of adoration, submission to God's will, petition, confession and a plea for guidance. While there is not a set format or pattern, I have discovered a prayer that begins with worship, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord God creates an atmosphere for an intimate encounter. 

One of the great hymns of the Church, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness” speaks directly to me as I consider each stanza of its powerful message. 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest;
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness;
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth;
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow;
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness;
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

As a worshipper, David began each day by praying with the assurance that the Lord heard his voice. He shares in Psalms 5:3 his personal practice as he appeals “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” David prays seeking the Lord's direction so that he can escape his enemies. The psalm closes with an appeal to the righteous to sing for joy as they take refuge in the Lord, and David asks the Lord to bless and protect the righteous. 

Using David’s example, you should give thanks for your haters — who are simply your confused admirers! Psalms 23:5 notes that “He will prepare a table before your enemies” so they will watch you dine. God can use them to bless YOU!

Psalm 139: 17-18 declares a great truth “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God And when I wake up, You are still with me!”  I cannot imagine a better was to greet each day than waking up in His presence.  Psalm 119:147 empowers me than when, “I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.” 

Bishop C. Shawn Tyson, pastor of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church also offers 10 reasons why it is beneficial for us to pray early in the morning before establishing the day. 

1.) Pray early in the morning because the most effective intercessor of all time, Jesus, did. And He is our example and our pattern. Mark 1:35 KJVS

2.) Pray early because there is no one better to begin your day with than the Holy Spirit. Psalm 16:11 KJV

3.) Pray early because, how your day begins has a direct effect upon how your day unfolds and how it will end. Proverbs 3:6 

4.) Pray early because “those who meet God early can deal with anyone else later.”- Bishop Clifton Jones

5.) Beginning your day with prayer aligns you with heaven's agenda for the day. Matthew 6:10 KJV

6.) Praying early in the morning gives you the spiritual perception to be able to hear God throughout the rest of the day. Isaiah 30:21 KJV

7.) Praying early in the morning demonstrates your willingness to be proactive in spiritual warfare. Isaiah 28:5-6 KJV

8.) Praying early in the morning develops discipline, discernment and determination 1 Corinthians 9:25 KJV

9.) Praying early in the morning allows you to dictate the tone for the day and not what happens later in the day to dictate the tone of the day to you. Psalm 119:165 KJV

10.) Praying early in the morning allows you the opportunity to speak OVER your day before the adversary starts trying to speak under it.

I offer love and prayers to the families of Denise Faison, Marlo Burney, Tiffanie Black, Elizabeth Harris, Tyrone Phillips Jeffery K. Phillips, Paul Reardon, Terrance Robinson Sr., John H. Perry Jr. and Sam Kooperman in their recent earth to heaven transition. Each of these wonderful lives have fought a good fight and have kept the faith. May their memories be a blessing. It is my hope that we may find comfort and solace that “We Shall Wear A Crown.” 

As people of faith, we should exercise our civic duty and vote in every election. The ballot box affords us a chance to express our opinion. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 shares an appeal by Paul, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” The city of Youngstown will have an opportunity to vote in the primary election for mayor and city council president on Tuesday (May 4). Mahoning Matters has profiles and interviews of the contenders for the office of mayor. I encourage you to examine and then vote your values. 

A shout out to my newfound brother Dan Morelli, whom I met in my local travels recently. He expressed that he recognized me from the photo in the Keeping the Faith installments. Not only did Dan encourage me citing that he regularly reads the column, but we were also able to share the faith with a young man, Jacob, who was new on his faith journey. I always cherish God encounters that turn random minutes into radical moments which embolden me to keep the faith. 

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, President of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren and their mischievous canine Sir Winston.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.