The Garden of Prayer Part 1: Confession

Do you remember the nursery rhyme that began "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" I never quite understood this particular rhyme as a child. The second line is the answer to the question: "With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maidens all in a row." Apparently this is about the Queen of England who was known as "Bloody Mary" because she had many people executed in her garden. Pretty hideous for a rhyme we repeat to children! But it always reminded me of my Grandma's flower garden. She grew all kinds of beautiful flowers in that garden in front of her house. Lilies, Sweet Williams, roses, Black Eyed Susans, just to name a few.

When we first married my mother-in-law planted a garden each spring. She always planted a few rows of zinnias and other brightly colored flowers. A good gardener knows if you plant these types of flowers alongside your vegetables the insects will be attracted to them and (hopefully) leave the vegetables alone.

I often think of prayer as a garden. There are many types of prayer and just as many ways to pray. We can follow a model such as "The Lord's Prayer" found in Luke 11. Many people like to use the acronym ACTS in their prayer time: Admiration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Others like the TRUST acronym: Thanksgiving, Repent, Uplift your requests to God, Sit still with God, Take hold of God. Still another acronym is WAIT: Watch, Act, Invite, Trust. And another many people use is PARTS of prayer: Praise, Ask, Repent, Thank, Share.

These are all wonderful models or formulas for prayer. But they are just that, a model or formula; examples for us to use, methods to help us stay focused as we pray. However, we sometimes take these formulas and become legalistic in our prayer time. We think if we don't follow this or that formula exactly God will not hear our prayers. A formula is good but it's the state of our heart that matters most when we pray. Psalm 66:18 says:

"If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." ( )

I love how The Passion Translation paraphrases this verse: "Yet if I had closed my eyes to my sin, the Lord would have closed His ears to my prayers."

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This verse makes it clear that God looks at our heart when we pray to Him. In this garden of prayer formulas we would do well to pick the fruit of confession first. In order to this we must ask God to reveal our sin to us. We can turn to another Psalm for an excellent example of how to approach our time of confession:

"God, I invite Your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I'm walking on, and lead me back to Your glorious, everlasting ways - the path that brings me back to You." Psalm 139:23-24 TPT

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If confession is the first fruit we need to pick from our garden of prayer formulas, then listening is the second. We must remember at its core prayer is a conversation, not a dictation. When we come to God in an attitude of confession, asking Him to show us the sin in our hearts, we need to be still and listen. Giving God time to speak by simply sitting before Him is a discipline we must develop if we want our prayers to go past the ceiling of our prayer closets. I have found when I do this God is always faithful to show me the areas I've allowed the weeds of sin to take root. Then comes the work of pulling those weeds out by confessing them, asking forgiveness, turning from that sin, and asking the Spirit to plant a seed of God's Word in our hearts to help us exterminate that sin weed when it tries to take root again.

How does your garden grow? Do you have a favorite prayer formula you use? I'd love to hear about! Send me an email and tell me! Also, to receive a printable of the formula I used to teach my children how to pray, join my email list! (You can do that here )

Until next time,

God bless and keep you,


Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash
I often think of prayer as a garden.

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