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Christian Basics- Chapter 9, Prayer

Written by: Guenther, Herb and Debbie    Posted on: 05/05/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                          Prayer

                          The Unseen Bridge

                    There is a bridge, whereof the span                     Is rooted in the heart of man,                     And reaches, without pile or rod,                     Unto the Great White Throne of God                     It's traffic is in human sighs                     Fervently wafted to the skies;                     'Tis the one pathway from despair                     And it is called the Bridge of Prayer. 3

    In the last chapter we looked at "The Lord's prayer" as a pattern for Christian living.  It is a pattern for Christian living, but it's primary purpose is that of teaching prayer.  Christ, while He was with us on earth, prayed continually.  Twenty-one times the word pray or a derivative is mentioned in the same verse as Jesus.  Jesus lived in daily, almost continuous, dependency on prayer.

    Christians pray.  We find in the book of Acts that the church was devoted to four things.  Acts 2:42 says "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." All four are very important and stand together.  We, or the Church cannot expect success if we do not pray consistently.

    In this chapter we will look at the "how to" aspects of prayer, as well as some tools to make our prayer lives more meaningful and effective.  There are things that we can do to make our prayer lives more productive and enjoyable. But, the main problem in most Christian's prayer lives is not a matter of not knowing enough, but rather a matter of not doing enough.  We are like the person on a diet who knows very well what a good diet is all about, but doesn't follow the program anyway.

    Prayer is our communication with God.  As a believer we have been given a special opportunity.  In Hebrews 4:16 we are told to approach the throne of grace with confidence.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul encourages us to pray always.  The attitude of the Christian should be one of prayer.  Christian prayer is a two way communication with God. We may receive answers both in the wisdom God gives us to guide us in situations that do not change, as well as the intercessory power of God to change things in our lives.

    Different times and situations require different prayer formats. However, all prayer should incorporate some common elements.

    To whom do we pray?  This is a matter of some confusion and controversy.  The Scriptures are clear in this matter however.  First lets look at the pattern prayer given to us by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.  This passage is from Matthew 6 verses 9 to 13;

    "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."                                 (55)     In Matthew 6:6 Christ gives us a quick overview of the mechanics of prayer.  This is what He says.  "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." We pray to our Heavenly Father.  Nowhere in the Bible will you find anyone encouraged to pray to anyone or anything else than the Father in heaven.  (See also Luke 11:2 and Colossians 1:3).

    We are to ask, and pray in Jesus' name. (See John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24)  He has paid the price for us to have a relationship with our Father.  Jesus Christ has made the believer fit to be recognised, and heard, by God.  In Him we a been given sonship, and the privilege to talk to God as His child, to say "Abba, Father". (Romans 8:15)

                            Two Prayers 4

Last night my little boy confessed to me some childish wrong; And kneeling at my knee, he prayed with tears- "Dear God, make me a man like Daddy- wise and strong, I know you can."

Then while he slept I knelt beside his bed, confessed my sins, And prayed with low-bowed head.  "Oh God make me a child, Like my child here- Pure, guileless, trusting Thee with faith sincere"

    The attitude with which we pray is also important.  When we pray we should not use it as an opportunity to draw attention to ourselves. We also don't use group prayer as a chance to be a preacher.  This can be one of the most discouraging aspects of group prayer.  When we pray we need to have some ideas clearly in mind.

    First, an attitude of humility.  This is why we have been told since we were children to kneel when we pray.  We are not too old as adults to kneel now either.  In our humanity, our spirit and body are linked together.  It really makes a difference to the attitude of our spirit to have our body in the humble attitude of kneeling.  It also reinforces God's Lordship in our lives.

    We in the western world have a hard time understanding authority. We are not used to the concepts of royalty or serventhood.  This means that we have to work harder to understand fully our relationship with God and humility in prayer is a good first step.

    Second, we pray for God's glory and our benefit, not vice versa. We are told in the Sermon on the Mount of the proper way to pray and give. When we pray we are not to grandstand.  The example is given of a person praying loudly on a street corner.  Everyone notices this person.  This praying person is doing it for his glory, he wants everyone to say "Wow what a spiritual guy".  Look rather at the example of Daniel, in the book of Daniel.  He didn't hide the fact that he was praying.  It was publicly known that he prayed, but he did it in the privacy of his home.

    Does this mean that we are not to pray in public.  No.  It does mean that we are not to pray for a public audience though.

    Thirdly, Christian prayer is brief and to the point.  Again look at Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  (Matthew 6:5-7)  " And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the                                 (56) streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

    There are some simple tools that we can use to help us pray better.  One of these is a memory aid called ACTS.  It helps us to remember four of the aspects of effective prayer.

          A = Adoration, or praise for our loving God and His power.           C = Confession of our sin and need of forgiveness.           T = Thanksgiving for His provision past and present.           S = Supplication, asking for our and others needs to be met.

    When we pray we can remember to include the four aspects of ACTS in our prayer.  It will help us to be right with God and not become overwhelmed by our needs.

    Another Prayer help is to claim some of the promises from God listed in Scripture as our own.  When we pray according to these promises we have the confidence that we are praying according to God's will.

                          Promises from God.

Promises for our spiritual needs, cleansing from sin.  1 John 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Matthew 26:28, Romans 5:9.

Jesus gives us eternal life.  John 3:16, John 6:47, 1 John 2:25, 1 John 5:11, Romans 5:10, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

Jesus will be present in our lives.  Exodus 33:14, Psalm 140:13, Deuteronomy 31:8, Revelation 3:20

We can expect answers to our prayers.  John 15:7, Romans 8:28, Psalm 34:17, Psalm 55:16, Isaiah 65:24, John 14:14.

God will keep us safe in our relationship with Him.  John 17:11, 11 Thessalonians 3:3, Romans 8:38-39, Isaiah 40:11.

God will equip us for His service.  Psalm 68:35, Act 1:8, Ephesians 6:13, Philippians 2:13, Philippians 4:13.

God will teach us the truth.  Psalm 32:8, 11 Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 1:17, Daniel 2:22, John 14:26, Psalm 25:9.

God will work miracles in your life.  John 14:13, Ephesians 3:20, Matthew 18:19, 1 Corinthians 12:10.

God will fill your life with love.  1 John 4:16, John 14:21, Ephesians 3:19, 1 John 4:7, 12, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

You can grow spiritually.  11 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 3:17-19, Philippians 1:6, Ephesians 4:14-15, Colossians 1:10.

The Lord will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 3:11, Ezekiel 36:37, Acts 1:8, Joel 2:28.                                 (57) God instills faith in you.  Romans 12:3, Ephesians 2:8, Galatians 5:22-23, Galatians 3:26, Philippians 1:29.

Jesus Christ forgives your daily sins.  1 John 2:1, 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 6:11.

The Lord brings hope to you.  Psalm 34:22, 1 John 3:3, Psalm 37:40, Hebrews 6:18-19, Romans 5:5.

God will bless your family.  Jeremiah 32:39, Deuteronomy 4:40, Proverbs 20:7, Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 26:11. 5

    There are many hundreds of promises made in the Bible.  Those listed above are just a sample.  They can be an encouragement in and out of our prayer lives.  When we pray, look to the life shown us in the Scriptures, expect that your Lord Jesus will be your helper to live the full life.

    What has God told us about the effectiveness of prayer?  Let's look at Jeremiah 33:3 and Ephesians 3:20.  What do they say?  Does this reflect your actual experience.  If it doesn't there may be a couple of reasons.  One of which is that we haven't prayed according to the will of God, or haven't accepted His will if we have.  Think of a child who asks for a real fire truck for Christmas.  If he received it of course it would be of no benefit to him.  When he does not receive it for Christmas it doesn't mean that his parents don't love or care for him. They are however more aware of what he should have than he is.  How many times have we asked God for a "fire engine" ourselves.

    The following passage is from a sermon by Peter Marshall on prayer.

    "In a little pamphlet, I saw a story about a former missionary who had been stricken with illness and bedridden for eight years.  During those eight years, she had steadily and persistently asked God "Why?"

    She could not understand why this incapacitating illness should lay her aside while she had been doing the Lord's work.  There was some rebellion in her heart and the drums of mutiny rolled every now and then.

    The burden of her prayers was that the Lord should make her well in order that she might return to do His work.  But nothing happened. Her prayers seemed to get nowhere.  She knew that they were not answered and they seemed to be rising no higher than the ceiling.

    Finally, worn out from the failure of her prayers, and with a desperate sort of resignation within her she prayed:  "All right, Lord, I give in.  If I am to be sick for the rest of my life, I bow to thy will.  I want to yield to Thy will more than I want anything else in the world - even health.  It is for Thee to decide."

    Thus leaving herself entirely in God's hands, she began to feel a peace that she had not known at any time during her illness.  In two weeks she was out of bed, completely well.

    Now why did this prayer unlock the very gates of heaven, to pour down blessings and health, whereas the other three thousand prayers had produced no results?                                 (58)     The answer is that somewhere within this missionary's experience revealed a little-known and rarely understood spiritual law, which if followed always works, just as the law of gravity always works.

    The spiritual law in this case is that we must seek and be willing to accept the will of God- whatever it may be for us.  Our prayers must not be efforts to bend God to our will or desires- but to yield ourselves to His- whatever they may be.

    Romans 8:26-27 has this to say.  "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself 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 God's will."

    We forget that God sometimes says "No."  We pray to Him as our heavenly Father, and like wise human fathers, he often says "No," not from whim or caprice, but from wisdom and from love, and knowing what is best for us.

    Christ Himself, in the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed with the certain stipulation that God's will, not His, be done.  It is this factor of divine decision which the skeptic cannot comprehend, and which the the believer must accept that produces answered prayer. 1

    Just as it is always better to get a map before we start a journey, it is better to pray before we begin a task.  Otherwise we get in the unenviable position of begging God to enable us to finish the job, or extract us from it.  This is a real problem when God didn't have the idea in the first place, and we are left to our own devices.

    What should we pray about?  Read Philippians 4:6-7.  This verse is both a promise and an encouragement.

    We need to condition ourselves for effective prayer.  The following verses give us a list of the things we need to prepare ourselves with to receive answered prayer.  Psalm 66:18, Matthew 21:22, John 15:7, John 16:24, 1 John 5:14-15.

    Even when the above conditions are met, it sometimes appears as if God is not answering prayer.  But remember that "No" and "Wait" are as much of an answer as "Yes".

    There are many reasons for us to pray.  We don't need encouragement to talk to our friends.  Christians are personal friends with God.  Just as a successful marriage, or other relationship, depends on communication, so does a healthy relationship with God.

    Another way to enrich our prayer life is to keep a keep a prayer journal.  This way we are reminded of His faithfulness.  We tend to have short memories, and only see our present problems.  This is especially true if we pray in a group.  If ten believers pray together they will see answered prayer most every week.  This I have seen by actual experience.

Below is a list of some other ways to enrich and add variety to your prayer life.  Be creative on your own as well.

                                (59) Pray through the newspaper.  Read the articles and pray about those that touch your heart.

Choose a theme to be a common element for you or your groups prayers for a time.

Find a prayer partner to be responsible to and for.  Be praying for each other, and communicate frequently.

Take a walk or a drive and claim areas for the Lord.

Get the book "Operation World".  It lists specific needs of different areas of the world.

Pray for your church and it's staff and missionaries.

Pray for yourself, and your situation.  (Forgiveness Isaiah 1:18, Doubts Isaiah 41:10, Guidance Isaiah 42:16).  Be your own prayer warrior and place yourself in dependence on the Lord who loves you.

            Discussion Questions

1.  What are some fears that you can discuss with God in prayer?



2.  Who should we be praying for?



3.  How often are we to pray?



4.  What does the phrase "An army travels on its stomach, and a church on its knees" mean?



5.  Do you remember an answered prayer you could share?





1 From A Man Called Peter  by Catherine Marshall  c MCMLI  McGraw-Hill   pp 323. 2 Some material from Designs for Discipleship book 2  pub by NAVPRESS. 3 The Unseen Bridge  by Gilbert Thomas, 1891-? 4 Two Prayers  by Andrew Gillies, 1870-1942 5 From "The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book"  by David Wilkerson  c   1972  pub by GL publications  Glendale CA.



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