A prayer laboratory is a place where we might gather to test our theories and abilities concerning prayer. It is to be seen more as "trying out" various forms of prayer rather than learning how someone else does them.
There are some prerequisites to all prayer. We must decide whether we are trying to discern and walk in God's will, or trying to get God to do our will. Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done..."
We must forgive those against whom we hold anger or resentment. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Mt 6:14-15
Forgiveness paves the way for God's love to flow, and that love is the stream in which prayer is answered. When we fail to forgive, we block the channels of God's love that it cannot flow. There are times when God's apparent failure to answer our prayers is due to the fact that He cannot, in His love, penetrate the hardness of our own hearts. Love is an act of will. We must be willing that God might be able to act in our lives.
God's will for us is to enjoy an intimacy with Him as a child to a Father. God is present with us in a personal way, and He has revealed Himself to us in a variety of ways, but chiefly in the Incarnation, when His Word put on flesh to dwell in our midst, and who promises at the close of Matthew's Gospel, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Mt 28:20
Experiment I. We will seek to find out whether or not God truly speaks to us in some way, as well as how He might speak to each one of us individually. Through the Scripture we find that He speaks to different people in different ways. He spoke to Adam in the garden in a voice Adam could hear. He spoke to Abraham in a series of conversations. He spoke to Moses in a burning bush, to Elijah in a still small voice on the mountain, to Samuel in a voice like Eli's, to Joseph in dreams, to Isaiah in the vision. How does He intend to speak to us.
Gather in silence. Ask God to reveal His presence and His will to those who are present. Wait in silence for Him to speak to our interior. Some may wish to take a pencil and paper to write what they hear. Some may simply see visually what He is trying to say to them. At the end of ten or fifteen minutes, share what you have received. Does God speak? How does God speak? How doe we hear unless we take the time to listen? Do we always listen for the voice of God?
Experiment II. We will practice becoming as little children. We will come to our Father knowing that we are totally dependent on Him, that we can ask Him any question that comes from our heart, and knowing that He will answer with a "Yes," a "No," a "Not now," or some indication that He has something better for us than what we asked.
Gather in silence. Let each person bring a request to God in simple language, as a child might to a Father. It does not have to be big or small. It simply has to be honest and open to God's redirection as a Father to a child. Listen for His response. Did He say, "Yes," "No," or bring us to see a new direction? What did we learn?
Experiment III. In petition I bring myself as a dependent child, asking what I will, waiting to see what Abba wants.
In intercession I bring someone else to be touched by God's love and healing as the four brought the paralytic to Jesus on a stretcher. We bring them into the presence of God and wait to see what His will is for them.
Gather in silence. Determine the persons God intends for you to bring to Him as dis eased and in need of grace. Ask Abba how He wants you to bring that person to Him. Agree that you will do the prayer work in one accord. (It would be impossible for the four to get the paralytic up on the roof unless they had agreed on how they were going to do it, and were in accord.) Pray for the person, bringing him into the presence of God, as God has led you to pray for that particular person. Do that for each of the people for whom you are led to intercede. Bring them into the presence until you feel that you have them in God's presence, and then leave them there for His love to manifest. Intercessory Prayer is an action as much as it is words.
Experiment IV. We are told to give thanks in all things. Ask God to show you what He has given you in your life to enable you to serve Him. Make a list of those things for which you are thankful to God. Come together in silence. After a time of silence begin to offer to God thanksgiving for each of the things that He has shown you for which you might be thankful.
Find something in your life for which you are not thankful. Ask God to show you how to use it for His glory. Give thanks to God for His direction of how to use that thing which had been a burden to you. (An example might be the man born blind in Jn 9. Jesus said, "He was born blind that the works of God might be made manifest." Do you think if you had been that person you could have given thanks to God for the privilege of being the occasion for God's being glorified? Could you give thanks for your birth defect if you were the man at the gate beautiful in Acts 3?)
There is a difference between saying "Thank you." and having a thankful heart, but it begins with our will to thank God for all He has given us and learn to use the things that we have not yet seen as gifts from Him.
Experiment V. Confession is a form of prayer that is best kept between the sinner, God and one other human being. AA has a very practical approach to the prayer of confession. Sin is multidimensional. There is need for us to be forgiven by God and also by the church. It is not a popular idea, but the Scriptures imply the necessity of forgiveness by the church. "What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven." Mt 16:19 or Mt 17:18 or the parallel in John 20:19 "Whose soever sin ye remit are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain are retained."
Since confession is not for general practice in prayer group, except as there is need to reconcile two of the members, we will move on to praise and adoration. The prayers of praise that we render to God are different from prayers of thanksgiving . Thanksgiving is given to God for things received. Praise is given to God for Who He is and what He is to us. Gather in silence. Let each person render to God in their own language, their praise for God, a Father who has loved them when they are not lovable. Bear in mind that praise is radical obedience to God wherein every word we speak and every act we do, praises Him.To Fr Al's Main Page