Prayer is a very wide topic, and much has already been written on the topic. It is not intended that the following comments be anything like a complete statement, but rather a few selected thoughts that may bring somebody closer to the Lord. We believe that God has caused this note to be written, and if any of us feel that something has an impact even so slight on our opinions, then obviously God is teaching us. If you think, during this time together that we are talking about you, then that is probably God working in your life and preconceived ideas, because all that is written is from our personal experience. We have been there and done that !
1. Prayer is a very Personal Thing
Jesus told us to go into our closets when we pray. He also told us to pray in secret, and your heavenly Father who hears in secret will reward openly Matt. 6:4 14.. We were also told not to pray as the Pharisee's, do which indicated a showing off or self righteousness. Prayer is a very personal relationship with God. That does not mean that joint prayer is wrong or not effective. Very much to the contrary, a group of dedicated Christians, united in prayer, can allow God the avenue through which He wants to act.
We must learn to pray. Praying is something we do not do very well. So many think that prayer is crying before God until He answers, (very different to travailing in prayer); or pleading earnestly until God gives in and gives us what we want, and prayer is often mainly us talking as though we have an audience by appointment.
Although God promises to reveal His will to those who will ask, it must be emphasised, however, that prayer is only as effective as our obedience to the conditions God has set forth. This illustrates the importance of being well grounded in the Word of God, for only this way can we remove any hindrance to the revelation of His will. He invites us to ask for wisdom and guidance, in James 1:5, but He conditions this, for instance, by saying that if we regard iniquity in our hearts He will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1 2). He tells us in 1 John 5:14 15 that we must conform our prayers to His Word, for we are promised that if we ask anything according to His will, then He hears us and grants to us the petition which we desire. Again, we are told that "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the Word, even his prayer shall be an abomination" (Prov. 28:9). God is under no obligation to fulfil the promises in James 1:5 to give wisdom unless we are willing to meet the conditions for obtaining it. Moreover, God declares that He only answers prayer when the motive is right, and that mere asking is not sufficient (James 4:3). Not infrequently the Christian prays for guidance, or a revelation of God's will about some matter, but already has his mind made up as to what he wants to do, or how he wants God to answer. People have even prayed all night pleading with God to answer their prayer with really no higher motive than the desire to persuade Him to come over on to their side and give them their own way.
2. The Need for Prayer.
For far too long, established teaching has told us that prayer is just conversation with God. We come in for a chat, and when we have had enough we can walk out again. So often prayer time is controlled by the clock, or even the train time-table. We do not believe that this type of prayer is anything more than baby talk with our God.
Go back to Genesis 1:28. God gave man dominion, and man gave it away almost straight away when he fell to the temptation. Mind you, it may not have been the first temptation, but it was the first time he succumbed. You will remember that God laid down rules to be kept, and He keeps them also, otherwise He would be a kind grandfather, not the Almighty God. So God, by abiding by His own rules, God, in our minds binds Himself. However, as per 1 Cor 10:13, there is no temptation too great, and there is always a way of escape. We believe in all things God can enter into the situation if requested by us in prayer in accord with His Word. But, remember that God knows your real intent in everything, and His rules also say that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, James 5:16, so conversely the prayers of the unrighteous will not avail much, Isaiah 59:1 2. It is a bit hard in that the truth is always known, and if our prayer is in line with our intent and belief, and it is in accord with God's Word then that opens up an avenue for God to work.
3. Prayer and Holiness
Holiness is being set apart, and set apart for God's purposes. It is not being set apart from the rest of the community or being pious. It is being set a part for God and His purposes, and living His way in the community, and being a lighthouse. We must stand against the devil's attacks and guide our neighbours to the safe haven (heaven). It must be a full time job in that it is evident in all that we do, and with all people, including those who are not really acceptable to us as well as those we want to find the Lord. It is a full time job, this being set apart, and as we make ourselves available for God's purpose, we will allow God to work through us (our physical bodies) for Him to accomplish His purposes. He is the vine, we are the branches; he supplies the sustenance, we take it to the fruit, and the sustenance makes the fruit grow. The branch is only the carrier the pipeline; the Holy Spirit is the product being transported. Note that the fruit is not pollinated by the branch: that job is done by something totally external to the branch. We are not responsible for conversions, God does that; we are required to be a pipeline for God to channel His works through. Matthew 25:32 46 tells us that it is not the bad things we do that we are to be judged on, but the good things we didn't do ! Comes back to obedience, does it not ?
4. Faith in Prayer.
We need to know God's will and rules before we pray. James tells us to pray in faith: believing and doubting not and we will receive. So often we hear prayers with the rider if it be Your will and sometimes, if it is not your will then give us strength to bear the other. One or both of these situations show total lack of faith, and God cannot answer that prayer, James 1:6 8, it might as well not have been prayed, it is outside God's criteria.
5. Sincerity in Prayer.
Many prayers are unfortunately prayed for the person praying, and/or those in the room, while yet still other situations arise when somebody will comment on your prayer, directly or in another prayer. We have all been in the situation where we don't know what words to pray, and we feel so immature among the others, so we use impressive words. Those who are as immature as you are in your prayer will comment, and/or feel sorry for you.
Those who walk close to God will love you because you have taken another step, regardless of how wobbly; it is progress towards God, and that has to be good.
Why are some praying for the present Prime Minister, Bob Hawke to become a Christian? Because we want him to have eternal life with us, or because we want a Christian Prime Minister to make life here OK for us? What is our motive? For words without a heart, the Lord will never hear. Nor to those lips will He attend, whose words are not sincere.
We must be fair dinkum with God, we must pray in expectation and that is faith. This is clearly stated in James 1:5 7: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."
6. The Silence in Prayer
So often it is easy to end up in competitive prayer, where if you don't get in quick, you don't get a chance and you feel that it was not worth coming. Ever been there? That is a result of insensitivity by some, Pharisaical prayer by others and a devotion to time and little acknowledgement of God. When I visit my mum, she wants to hear what I've been up to, and she wants to tell me all her news also (probably three times). So it has to be a two way communion, but so often it is only one way, and how it must grieve God to see us rush in, say it all quickly and then rush out and do something else, or even sit around and quietly have a cup of tea. Then we pray for that poor guy with the prayer wheel.
7. The Results of Prayer.
When we get an obvious answer, like the confusion over the Sydney Casino, or the mix up with the Bill of Rights, do we say God answered our prayer, and feel good, or do we get on our knees and thank and praise THE ALMIGHTY GOD and give Him the glory, or do we forget about it all ? We should get excited when we see our prayers answered, but we must be careful not to become proud or selfrighteous that it was our prayer that was answered.
We must give God the glory always. It took us many years to realise that God has never answered any of our self motivated prayers. You see we now know that without God we can do nothing, with us He can do anything. We are the pipeline. He tells us what to pray, when we listen, and so the answered prayer is a Holy Spirit inspired prayer. That does not mean that God is a dictator, He is a King, and if we live in a real kingdom, we don't have any rights, or choices. We just do the will of the King. So we need to acknowledge our total dependence on God, for everything, and not be possessive about prayer or the answers.
8. Let us sum it up with the words of the song in Golden Bells :
I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?
For do the wishes of my heart go with the words I say?
I may as well kneel down and worship gods of stone,
As offer to the Living God, a prayer of words alone.
For words without a heart, the Lord will never hear.
Nor to those lips will he attend, whose words are not sincere.
Lord teach me what I need, and teach me how to pray.
Don't let me ask you for your grace, not meaning what I say.
Just remember that God knows our thoughts, and hears our words, and if they don't line up, then we are never going to be a free pipeline for His use.
When We Pray - Pray Our Father
For many years many of us have been involved in many forms of prayer, but it is only when we stop and take a good look for ourselves at the various issues in prayer that we can learn a great deal about this work God has given us. Prayer is one of those things that we have learnt from our mothers knee as it were, and so it is very hard for us to change our minds about what we did learn in those tender years, because of our heritage and what really is a type of bondage to our parents. For this reason alone, prayer has been diluted down through the ages, as it has had to be because of the word of mouth type training; and now we need to take a good look at our understanding of prayer.
The instruction Jesus gave in Luke 4:1 - 4, known as The Lord's Prayer is more correctly stated as After this manner therefore pray ye which does not mean to repeat the actual words but to use it as a model. The NIV footnote identifies the prayer as the Lord's model prayer. This includes addressing God, followed by three heart desires towards God, then three requests for ourselves and finally three praises.
When Jesus taught He was continually in strife for teaching about His Father. Throughout all time, God had been addressed as God Almighty; the Most High God; Jehovah God and no - one dared call Him Father. This was new teaching to the disciples, now we are told to call God Father indicating that it is a prayer for Christians, those who are the Father's children. The NIV footnote states the prayer is a pattern for believers, who have already been forgiven their sins. What a radical concept for those times, and now, He is our Father. We can now address God as Our Father who is in heaven.
The next three sections are desires towards God. Hallowed be your name. God has an expectation today, that we pray that His name be honored. His name has been abused and blasphemed by men throughout all ages. Have you ever thought why ? We do not hear the name David, Peter, John, Bill Mary or Betty used as swear - words, only the precious name of Jesus our Lord, because such oaths come from Satan himself as he tricks us into the degradation of humiliating God's Name.
Those who do this do so at their peril, and demonstrate their own weak character and immaturity. If we love God, we will want His name to be hallowed, respected and loved, because we know Him as the true Lord He is and we desire that all men would respect the God of Creation. One day all will hallow His name and none will dare to take His name in vain, but first the Name of God must be hallowed in each individual heart and life, for that is where God resides, in His people.
The second desire is Thy kingdom come, a kingdom is a place where only the king has rights, all others serve the king. We live in a democracy, not a kingdom; in a kingdom the king is the law, and is to be obeyed. However is the kingdom of God historical or geographic.
If it is governed only by time it is historical, if it governed only by space it is geographical. In Matthew 12:28 Jesus said If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. This is not a time governed situation, it is a space situation, so the kingdom of God is both geographical and expanding. You see time as we know it is dependent on planetary movement around the sun, and once beyond our solar system, time looses it relevance and becomes space. So we are not necessarily praying for the second coming at this point, but for evangelism; the extension of God's kingdom into men's lives, and this is achieved by the casting out of Satan's rule because where God is Satan isn't. The more we obey Jesus' command to go into all the world and preach
teach and heal the more the kingdom of God is come among us. Thy kingdom come is not only a desire, but it becomes a responsibility because it is through us, God's children, that the kingdom will expand. This is why we must not be ignorant of the ways of Satan; 2 Corinthians 2:11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes; and we must put on the whole armour of God as in Ephesians 6:10 - 18. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Your will be done, on earth as in heaven . Let us look at this in light of Matthew 18:18. What things soever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Notice that it is started on earth and actioned in heaven. It is our duty to bind and prevent Satan's activities on earth and then to release God's blessings. However the only blessings available are those God has prepared for us, and that constitutes part of God's will. If we pray for something that is not in God's will - we don't get it. God works through His church, and it is like a water pipe; a narrow pipe gives a little water, a large pipe floods everything. So a church with a little prayer life has little effect, while a church with a correct understanding and operation in prayer will allow much blessing to overflow it into the surrounding community. The only way for God's will to be done on earth, as in heaven, apart from the second coming, is for us to identify God's will from the Bible and loose it by prayer; conversely, without prayer nothing will happen. Be like Elijah and pray the rain into being, 1 Kings 18:41 - 46.
You see it is a warfare situation we live in. The Lord's last command was that we should go and tell all men of God's love and salvation. The devil will do all he can to prevent us being obedient to that command. When was the last time you shared your Christian joy with some one ? We are ready to rush out and shout to our neighbours when it rains on the washing, but do we care about their salvation or excuse ourselves by saying we are inadequate ? We are inadequate, especially me, but I have learnt that it is not me that lives, it is God inside me that is life, and He can do everything, and I just tag along for the ride. Don't be boxed in by feelings. Proverbs 8:13 states
To fear the Lord is to hate evil and so we should be in a state of excitement and telling others of God's love. When we have a right relationship with God, we will hate evil, not just ignore it, we will feel deep concern for those who don't know the Lord, and we will want God's name glorified and His will done on earth. If those desires are not paramount in your life, then you are not at the ultimate relationship God wants with you, because mental assent to God's word is no substitute for obedience to God's word.
The three requests for ourselves start with food. Give us today our daily bread. God is the complete God and He never overlooks a thing. As humans we need food to function, and we need it daily. So where better for Satan to attack us than by depriving us of our food. Then we can't function. Refrigerators, freezers and shops give us confidence that tomorrow's food is available, and so even by God's blessings, the temptation of self - satisfaction can take us away from the realisation that it is God who provides. Look at Ethiopia, a nation that turned it's back on God, and in a few short years look at the starvation. The freezer, refrigerator and fast food shop didn't help them. So this is really a daily protective prayer because without food we cannot function, if hungry we will not pray in earnest, and so it is a most effective area of attack; but God has it covered if we are obedient and pray. Notice that it is this day, as God wants daily prayer communion with us, endorsing Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they ?
The second request is Forgive us our debts. Matthew 6:12 records it as debts, but it has the same meaning as sins. We need daily forgiveness and reconciliation with God for both the sins we have committed against His will and the debts incurred by not obeying His word. It is interesting to note in Matthew 25: 41 - 45 Then He will say to those who are left, depart from Me you who are cursed of the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. God's wrath and judgement is upon the good things we didn't do more than the wrong we did. We have a daily debt to God if we have not been obedient to His Word. So we must study the Word to know God's will, so we can obey it, and so on. There is more to it however, for by clearing our debt with God we can have a clear conscience to live in boldness before God. Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:19, Holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith. Conscience cannot tolerate any debt or offence as it will cause a leak, and as long as that debt or sin is unforgiven our faith will drain away and we will be separated from God.
This request goes on; as we forgive our debtors. If we are hard towards others, we cannot expect forgiveness from the Father. Remember that it is God who is giving life to every earthly body, and it is the same God in them as in you. If I love God, who is the life in me, how can I not love you who have life and the same God in you, and if I love you how can I not forgive you; everything.
The third request for ourselves. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil (the evil one). The first part is negative, while the second is positive. The more we walk in God's way, the stronger will be the temptation. Never be so self confident as to think you can handle temptation alone. Satan works on a spiritual plane which is beyond our natural understanding and he doesn't fight fair. With God's over riding protection, He will set the limits that Satan can go to, and as in 1 Corinthians 10:13 There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able, and with temptation will provide a way of escape so that you can bear it. Satan cannot break us; God said so !!! But we can give in and that is what happens all the time. The only way Satan can win is for us to hand him the victory - even though he has lost the battle. By reading Matthew 8 and 9 you will get an idea of the involvement Satan has in the world, and he is defeated. He only gets away with it because we don't know and exercise our rights in the Lord.
Finally the three praises. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever Amen. The reason for asking to be delivered from the evil one is because the kingdom is God's not Satan's; the power is God's not Satan's, and the glory is God's not Satan's. Now hear it again. Since the kingdom is the Father's, we ought not fall into Satan's hands; and since the power is the Father's we must not fall into Satan's hand, and since the Glory is the Father's we shall not fall into Satan's hand. If we fall into Satan's hand how can the Father be glorified ? It is God who rules and so Satan has no power over us. The kingdom belongs to the Father, therefore we cannot and we should not fall into the hand of Satan; but we can jump in.
Let us look at Luke 10:19 Behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall in any ways hurt you." The authority which the Lord says He has given overcomes all the power of the enemy. For there is power in that authority. The Lord wishes us to know that in the kingdom there is an authority, and behind that authority there is the power which is all controlling. The kingdom is God's, the authority is God's and the power is God's, and so the glory belongs to God and no man may claim any for God said I share My glory with no other, we can expect to be delivered from temptation and the hand of Satan. We will not be insulated from temptation, but delivered from it and hence sin, but we can still give in to sin; we will be delivered from the hand of Satan, but we can still jump in.
The Lord teaches us to pray after this manner. This is not to recite it as a formality, but rather to pray according to the principle revealed by this prayer. This should form the basis for all prayers. For the sake of God, we earnestly desire that His name be hallowed, His kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as in heaven. Likewise, since the kingdom, power and glory are His, God's name ought to be hallowed, His kingdom ought to come and His will ought to be done on earth as in heaven. Since the kingdom, the power and the glory are His, we should pray to Him for our daily bread, for forgiveness of our debts and for deliverance from temptation and the evil one. All our prayers should be modelled after this one.
When we realise our authority, and status as sons and heirs of the Living God, and realise that so long as we keep a right relationship with God the Father, all the promises of God are ours, and the power and authority exhibited in the Acts of the Apostles are available to us because we are set fee from the bondage of Satan, and by Christ's death we died also, and in His resurrection we rose also. You see if my grandfather had died before his marriage, then I would not have existed, and neither would my daughters. When we accept God's salvation, as a sovereign act God deems us as His children, and since we have the heritage from Jesus, our roots if you like are in Jesus and when He died on the cross, the line of His children was cut off. However He rose again and conquered sin, and since He came back to life our heritage was restored but now as Children of God, with a defeated Satan behind us. We are free, not to do as we like, but free from the power of Satan, and the only way we can be defeated is to fall for his lies and give up.
I am free, free, free, Christ has set me free, and I am free indeed, He's made the victory mine, by His power divine, and I am free indeed.