Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thoughts on prayer

I modified a talk I wrote into a blog... any thoughts?

How are we to approach prayer? In what manner are we supposed to come to God? Surely he is a great and mighty ruler, and deserving of the utmost respect. Has he commanded anything regarding to how we should talk to him?

Obviously God commanded prayer. He told so many times that prayer is important. But for whom is it important? Would you really say that to be able to communicate directly to the almighty and omnipitent is for His benefit? It must be for our benefit.

He lets us talk to him so that WE may be blessed. Matthew 6:8 says "... for your Father knows what you need before you ask him". So what is the point if He knows what we need? Simply this: we are commanded to pray by God Isiaha 55:6 "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near [not that He is even far from you, you may be far from Him]" and Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you". We pray because we are told to and it is obedience to God that is indicative of our love for Him.

So I want to go into some scriptural definitions on prayer. Prayer is definitely important in the Bible. There are (in the ESV) 90 Verses in total mentioning the word prayer (53 in the New Testament). I won't go into all of them but I will try highlight the main points by coming up with a suitable acronym:
P (urposeful)
R (easonable)
A (according to His will)
Y (earning - be filled with compassion and tenderness)
E (arnest or Zealous)
R (epentant or having confession)

What do I mean by purposeful? We can come to God with anything right? What would be the point if we could be honest with God? But remember that self control is a gift of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22 & 23. There must be a BALANCE. There are scriptures that do tell us how NOT to pray: Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" and Matthew 6:7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words." These verses are warning us against saying what we don't mean, being dishonest and vain in prayer. When we ask for something in His name, we will get it (John 14:13). We must be sure that we truly want it, and that it will be used for His glory, not for our personal agenda James 1:5 & 6 "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." Why then would we not receive what we ask for? James 4:3 answers this "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions"

The next point is the reasonableness of our prayer. What are the things that we should ask for? Can we not ask for temporal (physical) things? Of course we can! Matthew 6:11 (The Lord's Prayer!) "give us this day our daily bread" - but we must remain humble in our asking for these things, balance our requests out with scripture. We must remain focused on the GIVER of the gifts, not the gifts themselves. Ray Comfort had a really good analogy from his own life: Every day he would come home from work and be greeted by his family. He bought his kids a T.V. to provide them with some entertainment. But soon after this he did not get greeted by his kids because they were to focused on the gift. If God truly is our father, and he knows what is best, then surely, if He really loves us, he will not give us a gift that He knows will take us away from Him. What we should focus on is what he can give us spiritually. Matthew 6:33 provides the promise that when we are truly focused on God, we need not concern ourselves with anything else: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." If you want a list of things to ask God for, look at Galatians 5:22 & 23 (the fruits of the spirit)

Prayer is a mechanism for us to get (NB)ourselves(NB) in line with God's will, forsaking all other wills. We, as Christians, need not concern ourselves with the will of anything but his will. When you pray "...your will be done..." do you really grasp what you are saying? You are saying: "In spite of what I may think or want, you can do what you like and I will love you for it"*. Look at the lives of the Godly people in the Bible, it may seem, at a glance, that it all worked out quite quickly. But this is not so. Abraham was seventy six (If you work it out from Genesis 16) when God promised him a son, and he was one hundred when God delivered on his promise (Genesis 21). Not only did Abraham have to wait 24 years, but he was running out of years as well. But even though Abraham doubted (after 10 years, Genesis 16, would you be able to wait 10 years? I think Abraham was pretty patient) God still delivered on His promise to Abraham. The point that I am trying to make is that regardless of what we might think is God's way, we must be prepared to accept what He wants, and that it is for His good purposes. God works in His ways, not ours. 1 John 5:14 "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us". One more thing - no one/thing can tell you God's will but the bible.

Yearning - When we pray, we must want an answer. I can assure that when you ask for patience, God will not simply grant you the patience you require. You will be put in situations that test your patience and you will pass or fail depending on how much you are paying attention. When we come to God in prayer, we can ask him to reveal our mistakes to us, and he will. If we ask him to help us, and we sincerely mean it, we will remember it when we are next in a situation when we need him, and we will be comforted and blessed. This boils down to how big God is in our lives. If we consider him always, we will at least be convicted to try and be more like Him. If we forget about Him and His promises, then we do not really want an answer. John 14:14 "If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it." Be careful not to use this verse to test God. When I first read this verse I thought, "Ok I'll ask God to end world hunger, it's a great cause and I personally may not benefit from it. But then I would simply be testing God, to see if he did it."

Earnestness. James 5:17 "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth." God answers an earnest prayer. If we are serious and not joking, God will hear our prayer. This falls back on asking according to His will, but it also exhibits that we must not be joking or foolish in our requests. We must also be zealous in our prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 summarizes this concept up really well "pray without ceasing". We can pray anywhere: 1 Timothy 2:8 "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;" and in everything Philippians 4:6 "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." This verse also highlights the need for thankfulness in our prayers.

Repentant or having confession. Romans 3:23 states "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". We are all sinners, we cannot be Christians without knowing we are sinful. 1 John 1:8 says "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." We must be sure that we repent to God, as clearly as we can of our sin. In the same manner, we must forgive others. If we expect to be forgiven, then we must forgive the way God forgives: Matthew 6:12 "and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors". If God forgives in an instant, so should we. I'm not saying that we do, but God is strong enough to lift any burden and Jesus forgave in an instant. We accompany our prayer with confession because we know we fall short of God. Just because we can't think of particular sin, does not mean we do not sin. God knows our hearts, whether we know our hearts or not, and whether we like it or not: Hebrews 4:12 & 13 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." How awesome is God, that we can take refuge in Him! To be honest I don't think any man can forgive by himself . I think forgiveness is available to all men because of God's common grace.

God knows us. There is nothing hidden from Him. Prayer is an awesome gift that he has provided for us to be edified in His grace. We can have a personal relationship with an eternal God who loves us. There truly is no one like Him. One of my favourite songs to sing has the lyrics "Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin, would look on me with love and watch me rise again". God is awesome and great. He is the provider of all things that are good James 1:17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." He will always keep you near, as promised by John 10:28 & 29 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." We have security in Christ, and we need no other.

*Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Luke 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
Luke 14:30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

1 comment:

Qjay said...

I think that although there may be truths contained in here, it is overall bad.

We should never come up with 'clever' things like this. I will use this talk as an example of my old ways to remind me to exegete scripture, not to perform half-versism©

I am not saying I am wrong, but I think that my approach is wrong. From this I will learn.