Posted by: richard | 16 October, 2009

LifeShapes – the Hexagon

Praying as a Way of Life

The Hexagon is simply a reminder of the way Jesus told us to pray.  When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he said “pray this way”.  He didn’t say “here’s one approach you might like to try”.  So we should take it very seriously.

Read Matt 6:9-13 again. It wasn’t wordy, extensive, or technique-filled.  It certainly wasn’t a set form of words to use every time. It was simple, profound, multi-dimensional and rich; a framework that guides us beyond our habitual prayers into prayers of adoration, confession, intercession, petition, guidance and warfare.  Here is the hexagon, that six-fold framework spelt out:

The Hexagon of Prayer

The Hexagon of Prayer

It is praying about one thing: our Father in heaven.  It is praying about three things: up, in and out.  It is praying in a variety of styles: adoration, contemplation, intercession, even warfare…

A quick overview of what each of the six sides might hold.  It is no doubt just scratching the surface:

The Father’s Character (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name):  Contemplating and praising God for who He is.  Remembering that God is our father and we can come to him personally and in trust.  Reminding ourselves that it’s all about Him and the praise of His glory.   Meditation and adoration.

The Father’s Kingdom (your kingdom come,  your will be done earth on as it is in heaven):  Praying for God’s rule to break in to the world:  for justice, peace, love, reconciliation, the spread of the gospel.  For God to rule in our own lives.  Remembering it’s about the extension of his rule and not our personal wants.  Intercession.

The Father’s Provision (Give us today our daily bread):  Remembering our needs for the day and asking God to provide.  Remembering he is our provider and repenting of our tendency to grab things for ourselves.  Petition.

The Father’s Forgiveness (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors):  Restoring our relationships with God and with each other.  Avoiding the bitterness that grows through our unforgiveness.  Thanking God for his grace and mercy and praying that we would show the same to the people around us.  Penitance.

The Father’s Guidance (And lead us not into temptation):  As we prepare to move out to serve Jesus in the wider world, praying for guidance, and for strength in avoiding sinful behaviour.   Listening to God fits in here.  Contemplation.  And spiritual warfare, since it reminds us that there is an evil one, the devil, who is trying to “take us down” and get us off track by tempting us into sin.  Which brings us to…

The Father’s Protection (but deliver us from the evil one):  Remembering that God is our security and protection, and praying for courage to live out our faith wholeheartedly despite possible persecution, attack or risk.  Abandonment to God.

If you want a way to remember the “labels” of the six sides, how about “Calvin Klein’s Pink Fish Goes Pop”!?

There are many ways to use the hexagon creatively.  Remember that Jesus never advocated long and wordy prayers so don’t be afraid of brevity!:

  • Focus on praying through one side each day.  You can do the whole hexagon in a week and have Sunday spare!
  • Pray around each side and wait for the Holy Spirit to stop you on one side: when He does,  see what you are prompted to pray about
  • Take a side and examine yourself: “in what way does my life align with this aspect of God’s will?”
  • Take a prayer request and pray it around all sides of the hexagon.
  • Pray the hexagon “in the light of” one of the sides in particular.  (For example, take “The Father’s Forgiveness” and pray something like “Father in heaven, thank you for your abundant and gracious forgiveness… in your kingdom there will be forgiveness and reconciliation to you and to each other, so I pray for reconciliation between […] and […] … help us to remember the way you provide for our needs, and please help […] who needs to forgive […] today and escape the bitterness creeping into their lives…” and so forth.)
  • Pray a different side of the hexagon, briefly, whenever a trigger event occurs (e.g. the phone rings,…)

Just some ideas.  You can probably think of some more.

The final thing to note is that listening to God is an essential part of prayer (“one mouth, two ears, use them proportionally”).  This fits in well with “The Father’s Guidance” but you could also perhaps think of the centre of the hexagon as the gap, the space, in which we are quiet and we listen to the Father’s Voice.

The hexagon.  Simple really and you may already do something similar, but “think prayer, think hexagon” and you might well be surprised at the results!

If you found this post helpful, I strongly suggest you purchase Building A Discipling Culture by Mike Breen (buy from Amazon here).  The book goes through Life Shapes in detail and explains how best to introduce them to a Christian community.

— Continue the discipleship and mission conversation ! —

Thanks for visiting! We have found Life Shapes really helpful in creating a culture of discipleship and mission as our home group has made the transition to an outward-focused missional community.  Why not follow our new adventures on http://theuntaming.wordpress.com/ (or via Twitter or Facebook)

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Responses

  1. I liked this shape the best so far. Okay, it was interesting to see which side of the pentagon seemed most appropriate and the ideas in the square.. ok, I like this and the square the best. This one because I like the image of the center of the hexagon being a quiet place for listening to God surrounded by His grace. I also find that praying is so central to my life as a Christian, that anything I can learn or hear about praying just gets me excited. (!!) A new way to look at how to pray… that is God on the other end!!
    ahem.

  2. I tried the hexagon last week on a specific prayer request and I found that this shape allowed me to express a prayer I found more complete than the ones I usually make (which are often please, God, fulfill my wishes !!!).
    Here is the prayer I made : it concerns a little baby Maude who is born last week with a tear in her lungs and is in reanimation since.
    Character :
    Thank you God for your amazing power. Thank you for your creation and for all the babies born recently who each one is part of your creation. Thank you God to have allowed Maude to be born.
    Kingdom :
    Your will be done on earth as in heaven, God. You know of course that my most sincere wish is that your will is to heal Maude quickly and make her a child of God. Whatever is your will, I pray that Maude and her family will bear fruit out of this stressful situation.
    Provision :
    Please God, provide Maude’s family with positive energy, hands ready to help, friends ready to provide love and support, competent and caring doctors and medical staff around baby Maude and her parents.
    Forgiveness :
    God, may it be a time where parents, family and friends around Maude grow closer to each others and forgive any mistakes from the past done to each other.
    Guidance :
    Please God, guide Maude’s parents in this stressful situation so they know what question to ask to the doctors, guide family and friends around Maude so they know what is the best help and support they can offer
    Protection :
    Please God, protect Maude from harm, from careless medical staff, protect her parents from negative feelings, from despair and fear. Lead Maude and her parents to know they are in your hands the safest place possible.

    Of course, to all who read this post, please pray for Maude and for a quick and safe healing !
    Isaline

  3. On Prayer and Language

    I was particularly interested in the Hexagon because prayer is of course central to a relationship with God. I cannot, however, use the terms ‘Our father’ ; instead, I prefer to say ‘Dear God, who art in Heaven…’. Jesus always taught the disciples in context (social and historical, etc.), and in the ultra-patriarchal society of the time the father was the figure of authority in the family, with the mother and children owing him complete obedience. To pray to a ‘Father’ was nonetheless revolutionary at a time when people were used to praying to a « Lord » ; Jesus clearly wanted to emphasise the closeness and intimacy of the relationship with God. Today, though, when the taboo is finally (but slowly) being lifted about the abuse, including in some cases sexual, many people have undergone at the hands of their fathers, it is increasingly difficult to use that term. When I pray I want to relate to the transcending God who loves me and made me, not to a male figure. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us.

    Please do not think I am being critical of fathers generally ; it is simply that, perhaps because I am an English teacher, I am particularly sensitive to the meanings and connotations of words. I do believe that we are guided by the Holy Spirit when we read the Bible and that this is necessary because it is not in all places to be taken literally (although some passages are, for sure, including the ones that are rarely followed, such as ‘Thou shalt not kill’, in time of war) and because the many hands who wrote it were as fallible as you or me. I am reminded of the need for guidance from the Holy Spirit when I think back to a few months ago, when Benedict XVI caused a furore on the subject of Aids in Africa, by saying that the use of condoms had helped the spread of that disease. Reading Télérama, I came across a letter to the editor in which the writer said that, instead of condemning people, Jesus would have gone out into the streets himself and distributed condoms to all the poor people. I remember thinking at the time, there could be some truth in that…

    Joanna

  4. Thanks for the comment Joanna. I know this can be a sensitive subject. I can understand where you are coming from, and if we have had bad experiences of fatherhood then this makes calling God father difficult. I also agree that it not about the “masculinity/maleness” of God.

    I would still maintain however that the image of God as father is something wonderful and that we can treasure. The New Testament records Jesus calling God “dad” (Abba) about 170 times and so I think the idea is pretty central to Jesus’s understanding of God, and makes the analogy of us being “not servants but heirs”, “adopted into God’s family” and so forth straightforward.

    I found this paragraph, from http://www.chapel.duke.edu/documents/sermons/2009/090607.pdf, helpful: “Romans 8 tells us that through the Holy Spirit we’ve been invited into this most intimate and dynamic of all relationships. We’ve been drawn by adoption into the loving embrace of the Trinity. We’re going to dance to the end of love. This is the most astonishing miracle of all. It’s the miracle we rediscover every time we remember Jesus invited us to say “Our Father.” Not just his father – our father. That’s what these precious words mean – that there’s a relationship at the heart of all things and by the miracle of grace we’ve been invited into it. The language of God the Father isn’t shoehorning all of us, whatever our personal histories and whatever ways God has been revealed to us, into a one-size-fits-all take-it-or-leave-it form of prayer. To say Father isn’t to express our own experience of God. We can do that in a hundred ways, female, male and beyond. Our own experience of God is important, but it’s not what finally saves us. Our own intimate and diverse experiences of God, are not what the language of Father is finally about. The point is, to say “Father” is to celebrate that we’ve been drawn into Jesus’ experience of being part of the Trinity. And it’s that experience, rather than our own, that saves us.”

    Or as http://www.spiritualitytoday.org/spir2day/863846fatula.html says, Finally, our own prayer and reflection on the Scriptures will show us how we can convey a sense of the Father’s healing presence even to those bereft of or embittered by their experience of a human father. Because the Father of Jesus transcends the content of all human fathering, the God to whom this symbol refers has the power to heal every wound of grief or bitterness we can suffer because of a human fathers absence or abuse. We can trust, therefore, that in our leading of prayer and speaking of God, there is an approach ultimately more healing than the short-term solution of deleting “Father” and substituting another word.”

    Thanks again for sharing and please accept my thoughts as a humble contribution to an emotive subject.

  5. Thank you, Richard, for taking the trouble to find passages from Church writings that defend the use of the word “Father”. I quite understand that for many people the image of God as father is wonderful and that Jesus used the term to emphasise intimacy. However, as I said earlier, the historical context was different.
    I am sure that the texts you quote will strike a chord with many Church-goers, but they have not with me, partly because they give a Church doctrine and I am not a person of institutions – I believe God speaks to individuals irrespective of their religion, and some of the greatest followers of Christ’s teachings I know are atheists. So for me to read : “The point is, to say “Father” is to celebrate that we’ve been drawn into Jesus’ experience of being part of the Trinity. And it’s that experience, rather than our own, that saves us” is no more relevant than being told by a Muslim that I have to go to Mecca.
    The other passage is also, from my point of view, problematic: “We can trust, therefore, that in our leading of prayer and speaking of God, there is an approach ultimately more healing than the short-term solution of deleting “Father” and substituting another word.”
    The writer “can trust” in (his?) “leading of prayer” and considers deleting the word “Father” to be a “short-term” solution. Well, perhaps, but then he seems to ignore that language carries ideology and, here again, I feel I am reading people who are more attached to the institution of the Church and perpetuating certain traditions than to spiritual openness. However, who am I to judge? I conclude that each will pray in whatever way s/he feels comfortable with and that God certainly won’t be particular about which form of address is used as long as the prayer is heartfelt.

  6. Thanks Joanna for your considered and thoughtful response – plenty of food for thought and I will certainly reflect more on what you’ve said. I certainly agree that God is bigger than whatever word we use to address Him with – more than a father, more than a mother, more than a lover, more than a friend, more than a king….

    Thanks again.


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