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Christian Basics- Chapter 9, Prayer
AUTHOR: Guenther, Herb and Debbie
PUBLISHED ON: May 5, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN
PUBLISHED IN: Bible Studies
TAGS: prayer

                          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.

                                (60)

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