What are some favorite verses in the Bible on prayer? Romans 12:12, 1 Thess. 5:17, Phil. 4:6, James 5:16, Matthew 6:9-13.
Do you remember your first prayers? Now I lay me down to sleep… God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food, by His hand we all are led, give us, Lord, our daily bread. These prayers are tools that have started many on a long journey of building a prayer life. I hope you’ve learned a lot about prayer since childhood. Most of us learned to pray by following the examples of others. Does anyone remember the prayer phrase, “guard, guide and direct?” I’ve learned a lot about prayer through the years, but I know I still have a lot more to learn.
How many of you here are satisfied with the level of your prayer life? How many of you want to learn more about how to pray? This series on Prayer is for you.
Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught His disciples.”
Today we begin a series of lessons on prayer looking at what God has to say to us about it and how we can practice prayer so that we grow stronger in Christ and more like Him.
To begin, let’s go back to the beginning when God created us. First we see in the Bible that God designed us to be able to communicate with Him. He also created us to be able to communicate with one another. I suppose that technically, we could pray to another human, but in this series we’ll be looking at how we pray to God. In our ability to pray we are unique, created in the likeness and image of our Creator, God, and able to communicate with Him.
Also, God didn’t design us to simply do whatever He programed into us. We have the amazing quality of freedom of the will, able to love God and serve Him, but also able to ignore Him, or even rebel against God and intentionally reject His will for us. Only those who love and obey God in this life, will inherit eternal life with Him. All others are lost, doomed to eternity apart from God.
Peter tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance. This states plainly what is God’s will for us, but it also shows that we are given power from God to choose, so that God does not drag us along. It shows us that we can reject our Creator’s will if we so desire, but in doing so, we reject the eternal glory with Him that He offers us in Christ. God wants us to be followers who choose Him, not mere fixtures, pawns, that He moves around on a board.
God created you and me so that we can and do have a spiritual relationship with Him. We can love Him or not, we can worship Him or we can worship something else, and our prayer life is, in part, a measure of our relationship with God. Where there is little faith, there is often little praying. Jesus shows us how faith and prayer go together.
Prayer is one of the critical spiritual practices that connect you to God and that help you maintain a saving relationship with God. God loves you, but do you love Him, do you trust Him, do you lean on Him and acknowledge Him? Your prayer life is evidence of whether you do these or not.
For these reasons and others, God puts a high priority on your prayer life. Jesus said of the Temple, “My Father’s house shall be called a house of Prayer for all nations.” God takes prayer very seriously. When Jesus selected three religious practices to teach on in the Sermon on the Mount, of all the things He might have chosen, one was prayer. He spoke on giving, praying and fasting, as acts of righteousness in Matthew 6. These are measures of our relationship with God. How are we doing in these? In all these, Jesus tells us that God is watching. Our giving, prayers and fasting must not be for show to others, but for God to see. Jesus shows us that when we pray to impress others, our reward is just that, impressing others. But when we pray seeking God’s attention in obedient faith, hope and love, God Himself rewards us.
God is so serious about our prayer lives that He sometimes puts us in places where we learn to pray, and where prayer is the most natural response to the situation. When Jenny was sick and in the hospital with her ulcerative colitis, we learned about prayer in ways we never had before. If prayer is only about getting the answers we seek, then I have to say that many of us would have ceased praying by now. Yes, God does give us powerful answers to our prayers, and at times, surprises us with amazing gifts. But, whether you like to hear this or not, prayer is probably more about changing you into Christ’s image than about getting God to do what you want. Of course, all prayers are answered, “Yes, no, or later.”
I’ve learned that the first thing I need to pray for is that God will do what He knows is best, and then spend time thanking Him for all He has already done. Prayer connects us to God. It brings us into His presence in a way that nothing else can. Prayer has the potential to open us up to understanding and wisdom from God. When we pray, we must ask in faith, and I’d add to that, ask for more faith. As the man said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Or as the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!” Praying in faith means that we honestly ask at the level we believe in God and that He is listening to us.
Do you ever pray just to get it done? It’s time to eat, “Somebody, quick, say the blessing before the food gets cold!” That’s not to say that we need to gather around the table and hold hands and give an hour prayer to show we are serious about it. But prayer is not something to do to get it over with and get on to something else! No! Prayer can be happening with eyes wide open and mouths chewing the delicious food with thankfulness and joy, praising God in our hearts for His goodness and love! In fact, prayer after a meal could be more meaningful to some, than the distraction of worrying about the food cooling off.
If we think we should be quiet and respectful during prayer, but let it all go after the amen, I think we’ve got more to learn about prayer. It’s not a holy parking place that you pull out of when your done. Prayer connects us to God and the connection should outlast the echo of the amen. Biblically speaking Prayer is a life, as much as it is an activity. God doesn’t close the curtains of heaven at our amen, and we shouldn’t close ours. Part of being filled with the Spirit is that we drink again and again at the fountain and never go dry. Praying always in the Spirit on all occasions and praying without ceasing is biblically walking in this world connected to our God and in constant communion with Him.
The bowed heads and closed eyes only mark those moments when we are hopefully filling up more intensely. The lifted hands and awestruck hearts in wonder of amazement at God’s grace and love, and the trembling hearts and hands that are in fearful awareness of God’s holiness and judgments against sin… these are prayers too. May God fill us with lives of prayer in His presence! May we ever grow in awe of His glory and find regular renewal at the foot of the cross of Christ.