by: Bruce Cook
I want to talk about prayer 101. When the word prayer came to me, I immediately thought Oh Lord, why would you ask me to write or talk about prayer. I'm the guy who never wanted to get up in front of people to do anything, except play sports. For years I would pray in private but had a really hard time praying out loud in public or in congregations. I seemed to freeze up or at times just simply go blank. I remember as a young new Christian that I would always be fearful of getting called on to do congregational prayer. Perhaps you or someone you know has had this problem. I remember one time in the old church when I was late arriving for an evening service and as I hurried in to sit down I was called on to pray. My mind went completely blank, for a while I just panicked and froze. Those of you who remember the old church know how well those old saints could really pray. I guess I just felt inadequate to lead the congregation to the throne of grace. Maybe I was still being fed milk.
I was never one to get up and speak before people. As a young boy I could never remember my speech when I got up there at Christmas time, even though I knew it. It would be easy for me to forget my own name. But one evening Paul asked three or four of the men to give a five minute talk on what God means to you and your work. I reluctantly did so, and it sort of broke the ice for me. I was encouraged by the remarks of the older saints who helped lift me up. A lesson for us all, to lift others up in their endeavors for the Lord. So enough about me, lets get back to the word prayer.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.
The bible speaks much about prayer, in the book of Acts pray, prayer and praying is mentioned 29 times. But we often ignore prayer and try to accomplish by our own strength and will the things that we desire to have or happen. For those of us who are too often guilty of this, we need to bow our knees, confess our sin, receive God's forgiveness, and by that the will of the Lord be done above our own. God is sovereign and loving and He knows what is best for us and others, even if it doesn't always seem to make much sense.
Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.
Prayer is more than asking God for His blessing or for intervention during trying, dangerous or impossible situations. Prayer is a holy communion with God, a divine meeting and a time of intimacy with the one who is Lord over life and death, time and eternity. It is a long relationship and communion with our Heavenly Father. Where we can bathe in His presence and praise and worship our precious Lord and Savior. Genuine prayer involves a time of thanksgiving, worship and praise. As well as kneeling down and calling upon the Lord for His mercy, grace and blessing. Essentially entering into the Holy of Holies in the very presence of God and worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth.
Prayer changes those that pray because in prayer, you are in the presence of God as you lay before Him your complete self in confession and dependence. There is nothing to hide when in quiet supplication we are reaching into the deepest part of ourselves and admitting our needs and failures. When we do this, our hearts are quieted and pride is stripped and we enjoy the presence of God.
James 4: 8 says Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Speak often with the Lord, not to the Lord, but with Him. Talk with your Father any time any place.
Phil. 4: 6-7 Tells us to have peace. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
When we pray we are with God, God is with us, God is in us and we are in God. God cares for us and He offers us God's own life force of the Holy Spirit.
We so often come to the Lord with legitimate requests for healing, conversions, and other needs and yet the answers we hope for often do not come. We wonder and sometimes doubt. Yet, we persevere and praise God. We pray because we know that God hears us and because we desire to see results. We should pray by faith, trusting God. We should pray consistently, trusting God. We should pray for healing, trusting god. We should pray for others, trusting God. We should pray and when our prayers are answered or not answered remember this: If we knew what the Lord knew we wouldn't change a thing.
Sometimes prayer is answered instantly and sometimes it takes years, other times we do not live to see our answered prayers, like the saints who prayed for us and didn't live to see the results.
I suppose that we can test our prayer life and dependence upon God by the peace or lack of peace in our hearts. In all things we are to seek the Lord and in His continued presence peace will surely be our gain.
Since prayer is the practice of the presence of God. There are three things we need from God in Prayer.
1. We need His power to give us boldness. - Holy Spirit
2. We need His love to give us peace and Hope.
3. We need His grace to show us Jesus.
Our model for prayer is Jesus Christ, who prayed diligently, fervently and often. As followers of Jesus Christ the priority of prayer should be a regular and normal part of our daily lives.
Quoting Philip Yancey he says:Jesus taught the model prayer, the Lords Prayer, but other wise gave few rules. His teaching reduces down to these general principles: Keep it honest, keep it simple, and keep it up. Mainly, Jesus pressed home that we come as beloved children to a father who loves us in advance and cares deeply about our lives. Jesus set the pattern for prayer as a continuous mode of friendship. Some scholars suggest that Jesus virtually invented private prayer. No one in the old testament directly addressed God as "Father" where as Jesus did so 170 times. The model prayer He gave deals with the stuff of daily life - Gods will, food , debts, forgiveness, and temptation. His own prayer showed a spontaneous communion with the Father that had no precedent. Disciples marveled at His prayer and ask Him to "teach us to Pray".
It has been said " That Satan laughs at our toiling, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. This is a powerful assessment of the importance of prayer. The devil is blinding our eyes, he is trying to prevent us from facing the question of prayer.
Do we realize that there is nothing the devil dreads so much as prayer. His great concern is to keep us from praying. He loves to see us up to our ears in work or play, providing we do not pray. He does not fear because we are eager and earnest bible students - as long as we are little in prayer. Because Prayer is God's chosen vehicle for unleashing His power in the world.
C.S.Lewis says:The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals, and the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
John Bunyan says:He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day. Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will enter a man to cease from prayer.
Martin Luther said:The fewer the words, the better the prayer. To have prayed well is to have studied well. (When I cannot pray I always sing.)
Sidlow Baxter says:Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons - but they are helpless against our prayers.
Mary Queen of Scotts said:I fear John Knox's prayers more than I do an army of ten thousand men.
Thomas Lye said:I had rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.
Thomas Watson said: Christ went more easily to the cross, than we do to the throne of grace.
Abe Lincoln once said:I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom, and that all about me seemed insufficient for the day.
E.M. Banks tells us: What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organization or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use - Men of prayer - men mighty in prayer.
Unanswered prayer hindrances can be 3 things:
A. That there is a lack of faith - We don't believe God.
B. Broken relationships - Our relationship with God or each other.
C. The wrong motive - Our prayer should not be like a Christmas wish list.
However prayer should not be a matter of Rocket Science, it is most of all simple, humble and trusting. It is the prayer of a confident child to a loving father.
Romans 8: 26-27. When we cannot express our prayers in words the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the Saints in accordance with Gods will.
God always has the right answers to our prayer requests. They are No, Slow, Not yet, Grow and Lets Go.
When He answers, no:It's because like us, the disciples made inappropriate requests of Jesus and He said no. We must trust that God, who knows what is best, would do so only if granting our request might not be for our own good. God will provide the mercy and grace to do without.
Again I quote Philip Yancey:Moses pled with God to allow him to accompany the Israelites across the Jordan river before he died. God refused this request.
King David spent a week, prostate and spurning all food, praying that his infant son not die. The son died, but later Solomon was born to rule over Israel’s Golden Age.
Four characters in the old testament- Moses, Job, Jonah and Elijah- actually prayed to die. God ignored their requests.
Several times the armies of Israel prayed for victory over their enemies, only to suffer humiliating defeats.
The prophet Habakkuk prayed for deliverance from the Babylonians; Jeremiah prayed that Jerusalem not be destroyed. Both prophets’ prayers went unanswered.
Not even Jesus was exempt from unanswered prayer in Gethsemane. When He answers, slow:The timing can be all wrong and God will say slow. God may grant our request, but in time and according to Hiswill. So we may think God is saying no, when He is really saying yes, but wait. We need to have patience.
When He answers not yet:We like children, dislike the word not yet. " As God shakes his head at us. God has his reasons for His "not yet" we must not insist that we know better than Him.
When His answer is grow:And if you are wrong God will say grow. Relational discord will cut us off from close fellowship with God. When we disobey, God says, why should I honor your request when you don't honor mine?
When the timing is right God will say Lets go:God wants to move that mountain for us, to change that circumstance - to answer that prayer, you'll be amazed howoften God will say "lets go". Especially when we put Him first in our lives.
I encourage you to follow the greatest pattern of all time, "The Lords Prayer". I remember for a time in the old Free Methodist Church, the congregation would always repeat the Lords Prayer together at the end of our regular prayer. I always liked this, to hear everyone praying the same prayer at the same time going up to God. I often think about the million men that went to Washington, D.C. When all were praying. Can you imagine a million prayers going up to God from one place? How sweet this must have been to His ears.
There are often times when I think of prayer that my thoughts go back to Japan in early March 1951. After getting off the plane in Tokyo, we were transported to a southern port of Japan to catch a ferry boat to take us to the southern tip of Korea the very next morning. That evening we were to sleep on army cots that were set up in some sort of a huge building or auditorium.
That evening before lights out we were all requested to make out our last will and testaments, and to make sure our beneficiaries on our insurance policies were made out to the correct people. They announced that lights out would be in a few minutes, and as I was sitting there on my cot, I saw first one, then two, three in succession until nearly all the soldiers in that auditorium were kneeling beside their cots in prayer. And yes I was one of them. The image of all those men praying at one time has always been with me. And from time to time I have to wonder about a lot of things like: What did each man pray about, what was each mans faith, how many times had some of them prayed in their life, was or could this have been the first? Was it the last time that they were able to kneel in prayer, How many of them had been baptized or saved? I know that God answered mine favorably, because 30 to 40 hours later I was trapped with my company behind enemy lines. They had let our jeep go through a valley road and sealed it off behind us. But God was good to me as he was many times during my time in Korea. Did I deserve it, the answer was no. But He loved me anyway. And though He didn't deliver me from the situation, He delivered me out of it.
There are five reasons why prayer is necessary that I would like to share with you.
1. Because we are spiritual beings with an innate desire to communicate with our Heavenly Father the creator. A natural pull Heavenward when Adams fall greatly marred the process. Through Jesus Christ death on the cross believers are reinstated and again bear the image of our Father and God.
2. Because of the deep need of daily cleansing from sin, having been reconciled to our Heavenly Father through the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Prayer keeps our current relationship so that doubts and fears do not enter our hearts.
3. Because of the many varied problems, crisis, tragedies and human needs that we cannot personally solve, which involve ourselves, our families and society in general. Prayer calls upon the only one who can make necessary changes to solve these problems and give us proper direction and guidance.
4. Because of Gods generous offer to us - through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ: of full salvation which includes divine healing, the capture of the Holy Spirit and eternity with Him for evermore. Through prayer we take advantage of His bountiful provisions for us thereby allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us (with groaning that cannot be uttered} Romans 8:26.
5. Because of a spiritual hunger and longing to be in His presence. Through worship, praise and thanksgiving the Holy Spirit draws us into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of our Heavenly Father.
Mathew 26:40 tells us to watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mathew 7:7-8 says to ask and it shall be given you: Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, for everyone that seeketh recieveth, and He that seeketh findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray with out ceasing.
John 4:23-24 Says God is Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in Spirit and Truth.
I sometimes quote Fr. Corapi and he says that when going into a spiritual battle, if you do not keep your prayer life in order and consistent, you are not going to be very effective in battle, or in your spiritual life. In fact you will probably end up a causality. Learning to pray is our boot camp.
If you need a quick outline for prayer just remember the letters ACTS.
S. Supplication or Petition
Once in a Sunday school class I said that I thought we should be in a continuous state of prayer. A fellow classmate proceeded to tell me that it is impossible to pray all of the time. I believe that he misunderstood me. I find myself ready to thank God for something I may see, experience, hear or do. I also find myself saying just a short prayer if I see an ambulance go by or a wreck, someone in trouble, or see someone hurting or with physical problems. Sometimes it’s for those who are inconsiderate of others. There can be many reasons for just a short prayer.
I have read about people who have only had time to call out the shortest prayer you can give, by simply calling out the name of Jesus. And they were helped or escaped serious trouble or injury.During the terrorist attack on flight 93, Todd ask a Verizon supervisor to say the Lords prayer with him on the phone before trying to take over the plane. Thus saving a hit on our Whitehouse and its staff.
It is through prayer that our eyes will be opened to see wonders in Gods word and be changed. For the greatest power in the world is the power of prayer.
Prayer helps us to cope with hardships. Prayer guides us away from temptation. Jesus told his disciples to pray so that you will not fall into temptation. You would expect Jesus to tell them to pray that you endure hardships. But hardships bring all sorts of temptations.
The bible consistently teaches and illustrates the power of prayer, including healing prayers for the sick. Believe God, step forth in faith and offer prayer at every opportunity. God is faithful, and you will be blessed and amazed at the power and the generousness of God as you see the results of prayer and the sick get well.
In Luke 18:1, our Lord said that we always ought to pray and not lose heart. So many today are losing heart with trials, temptations, struggles and hardships. Therefore when we are not praying always, we are inviting discouragement. Therefore we must pray.Could you ever imagine going through your life and not talking to your earthly father? If not, then why shouldn't you have the same relationship and talk with your Heavenly Father?
One of my favorite gospel singers is Jake Hess and I play his CD’s quite a bit, the title of one of the songs he sings is Prayer is The Key to Heaven, But Faith Unlocks the Door.
I know that this has been a long dissertation for one word "Prayer", but can you think of any one word more important for us to understand and exercise than talking in prayer with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
How is your prayer life today, and let me ask you where will you spend eternity?
Return from Prayer 101 to the Avid Christian Articles Page.