A Resource for Disciple Makers – The Prayer Hand Illustration
I am a super fan of The Navigators ministry in disciple making.
Prayer is a distinctive discipline of the Christian faith. In my experience it is one of the more difficult disciplines to learn and practice.
I remember when I was in discipleship training and being asked to pray out loud for the first time. It was horrendously intimidating, but it was an enormously important first step in learning to pray for and with others.
Take a look at this simple and effective tool for learning to pray from The Navigators.
I have added my own insights in blue on each digit description below.
In order to discipline ourselves to spend longer periods of time talking to the Lord in prayer, this hand illustration helps us with five crucial aspects of prayer that we need to cover in order to pray a powerful and effective prayer that avails much!
The thumb represents praise — I let my enjoyment and adoration of God overflow into words.
“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
The thumb is the only digit on our hand that is able to touch all the other digits, therefore praise will be incorporated into all other aspects of prayer.
When we give thanks, praise is there. When we intercede for others, praise is there. When we make petitions, praise is there. When we confess our sin, praise is there.
I encourage disciples to pray the scripture back to the Lord. Encourage your disciples to read scripture and discover how David, Isaiah, Paul, and many more, praise the Lord. The Lord delights in hearing us pray His Word back to Him!
The index finger represents thanksgiving — I thank God for what He has done in, through, and for me. I also thank Him for His answers to prayers in the lives of those around me and for His ongoing work across the nation and the world.
“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The index finger is the pointer.
Thanksgiving points us to what the Lord has done and is actively doing. This aspect of prayer requires concentrated attention to seeing and hearing what the Lord is doing in my life and the lives of others. Keep pointing upward with thanksgiving because all that we are and will be is a result of His sovereign reign over the affairs of men.
The middle finger represents intercession — I ask God to provide for the needs of others.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…”
The middle finger is the longest digit on our hand.
Some people have the gift of intercession but all of us are to pray for others. I thank the Lord for intercessors. Once upon a time I prayed with a woman who has the gift of intercession before beginning a weekend retreat. We were literally on our knees praying for each person attending. We were still on our knees when we heard the guests arriving. We both looked at one another and realized we had been on our knees in intercession for two full hours. Message here is to spend the longest amount of your prayer time in intercession for others.
The ring finger represents petition — I ask God to provide for my needs.
“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.”
1 Samuel 1:27
The ring finger is the weakest finger on our hand.
When I worked for a cosmetics company, I learned that the ring finger has the lightest touch and is therefore the finger to apply cosmetics to the delicate skin surrounding our eyes. Little did I know then how this bit of info would translate to my spiritual life.
Since prayers of petition are for my needs, I believe this aspect of prayer should be practiced with a hefty dose of humility and contentment. As I have matured in the faith and aged in years, my needs have dwindled. Allow your needs to shrink in comparison to all other aspects of prayer.
The little finger represents confession — I agree with God about my sin.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
The little finger is the shortest of our digits.
In keeping with the rule of selflessness let your prayers of confession be concise and honest. Do not ignore confession because it cleanses us from all unrighteousness. I once had a person in discipleship training who shared that she had no sins to confess. Confession involves seeing ourselves as the Lord sees us. Sins are not just actions, they are thoughts and attitudes. Teach your disciples to see themselves as sinners in need of cleansing or they will never mature.
Notice that the thumb, index finger and middle finger focus on God and others. This is a great reminder that we are to be more focused on others in our prayer time. We are his children and He is elated to hear our voices in prayer – pray out loud more often than not.
Teach your disciples to pray out loud. It is a challenging discipline to learn, but one that will make an eternal difference in their growing relationship with the Lord.