How is Your Prayer Life

prayer

Introduction

In any human relationship, the key to its success depends highly on the communication of both parties.  Communication is ineffective if only one party is doing the communication. As Christians, we are in a divine relationship with God, our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. This is the most important relationship this side of eternity. God has lowered Himself to our level to communicate to us by giving us His Word, the Bible. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word was “breathed” into the writers who He chose to write the Bible.  In the Bible, God has given man clarity of who He is, His love and affection for us and what we need to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives. That is His line of communication to us but how do we communicate with God making it a two-way line of communication?

It is the use prayer, that we can communicate with our eternal Father. In the Garden of Eden, Adam had direct communion with God (Gen. 3:9), but due to the fall, Adam and the rest of mankind lost this benefit to speak directly to God in reciprocating communication. There had to be a new line of communication developed, although be it

inaudible to man from God except for special revelations made to those who He chose for His purpose, to continue the two-way line of communication. In the Old Testament God chose prophets to communicate to His people (Heb. 1:1). In the New Testament, Jesus and the writers were the voice of God.  Today, God does not speak audibly to anyone but He has left His Word which is sufficient and complete that He does not need to speak to anyone outside of His Word.

We have been given a blessing we do not deserve. Even when mankind is so rebellious, wicked and vile, God still allows His children to reach out and communicate with Him. This is beyond any human comprehension that we can come to God with our prayers, supplications and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). We can have close and personal communion with God to give Him praises for the grace and mercy that He continues to show us daily.  Prayer is a necessity for all Christian lives for it establishes and maintains our position with God. We are always to be seeking Him as our Father.

Intimacy of Prayer

If we take a look at the Old Testament, we can see in Genesis 4:26, where the first recorded prayer was made as it states, “men called upon the Lord.” Man was did not have communion with God due to the fall, but man through prayer, was allowed to reestablish the broken line of communication with God. It is in this time of prayer that we have communion with God. There are many ways we can express our thoughts to God. It is not that our omniscient God needs to be told what is on our minds or requests have to be made because He does not know, but this is a time for us to call our to our Father as His little children. We need to find that intimacy between ourselves and God.  The privilege that He has given us just to pour out all our needs and pains upon Him is far beyond my reach to grasp. He wants us to be intimate with Him.

The forgiveness that God has given sinners through the faith in Jesus Christ allows us to have this communion with Him. As sinners, we have broken His law and He is perfect, holy and just to execute judgement upon each of us but His patience and His grace allowed us to see our depravity and need for a Savior who is Jesus Christ. By this redemption in God’s sovereign plan, we can be called children of God and have unrestricted access to Him through prayer. He is willing to forget all our sins to have communion with us (Ps. 130:3-4). We must remember what the cost was for our salvation. Remembering the cost also changes our identity (Gal. 2:20). Jesus Christ was the sacrifice that was required in order for us to have righteousness credited to our account. Christ had to assume our sin on His account so we could have His righteousness on ours (2 Cor. 5:21). Intimacy begins when we fully grasp the cost of our freedom and forgiveness. Prayers would be shallow and inept if we do not keep the cost of salvation at the forefront of our prayers. We must always look at our lives and continue to repent and confess directly to the Father our sins not in the sense that we may lose our salvation but to keep the channel of communication clear as possible.[1]  We must be constantly searching ourselves for any hidden sins. We must pray to God to expose any sins that are blocking our channel (Ps. 139:23-24).

In keeping the lines of communication as clear as possible, we must be walking upright as per God’s instruction in Scripture. Scripture is the place we can develop intimate and deep prayers with God. I am not sure who said this but I heard it on the run as I was driving one day. This preacher on the radio said; “we can be sure that God will answer our prayers as long as they are in tune with His will,” Very basic and true but there are some deeper ideas that can be unpacked here. If believers are constantly in Scripture, reading and meditating, would it not be obvious that one would gain better and deeper knowledge of God and His will? Through Scripture, we get to know Him and what His sovereign plan for our lives are. If we follow His Word, then it makes perfect sense that we will know how to pray and what to expect.  Easier said than done.

The benefits of studying God’s Word daily are beyond what can be explained. Knowing God through reading His Word, you will understand who He is and why He does what He does. Knowing God will allow you to speak properly to Him. Not knowing God will produce communication as an infant to and adult. There will not be a sense of the intimacy He wants to share with us. The maturity comes from growth in the understanding of who we are and who God is. As we grow, our prayer life develops as well. We must be striving to grow in order to please Him and just importantly to communicate with Him. How is it that other’s prayers exalt the Lord much more than our own prayers? It is because they are closer to God in a sense, they know Him better. This does not mean that God likes others prayers more but mature and intimate prayers bring us closer to God.

The integral factor for intimacy in prayer is our faith[2]. In our faith that was given to us by God’s grace, we develop the relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This progressive relationship continues to grow as our love for Christ grows. The benefit is greater intimacy in communication and greater worship. Intimate prayer is intimate worship. In an intimate way, our approach the to the physical act of prayer should adhere to intimacy. As any important communication with a spouse or loved one, we are to approach prayer to that standard or even a greater standard. As Matthew 6:6 says “ But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret..” We need to shut out any distractions from the outside world to give the Lord our sole attention. We do not need to be seen in public as an external exhibition of our religiosity but our prayers are to be a sacred act between the Lord and ourselves.

Intimacy in prayer must be kept as the norm in our prayer life. We must continue to strive for each prayer to bring us closer to the Father in communion clear of anything that would hinder this process to mature. If we strive for this for our prayer life, we will desire to know more about God and be driven into a deeper study of His Word developing a clearer picture of our God. The more we know God the deeper our prayer life will be producing God exalting worship glorifying His name and bringing honor to His majesty.

 

Purpose of Prayer

In God’s sovereignty, many feel that since He is in control of everything why do I need to pray. God is sovereign and He is in control of everything and event in the universe but prayer is still an important aspect to being a Christian. Prayer, as stated above already, is a channel of communication and intimacy. But also, it is the path in which we can use to confess our sins seeking His forgiveness, seeking His wisdom and seeking peace and comfort. Prayer is not to be a grocery list of wants but in line with what His will is in our lives.

Prayer time is a time where we can reflect upon ourselves in introspection and ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and expose to us anything that might be taking up residence in the throne instead of God. It is in this quiet time with Him that we can be honest and open with Him to confess our trespasses against God, ask for forgiveness and repent. We have the opportunity to be pardoned for our sins but we need to be reminded daily in prayer to walk carefully and heed Christ’s admonition (Jn. 8:11).[3] As we confess in our prayers, we must understand that forgiveness is not given to us by our words but what was done on the cross with Jesus Christ and the continual grace God gives us. Old Testament laws required a sacrifice to cover sin but the sovereign plan of redemption of God was the cross which was required as the sacrifice to cover all sins (Lev. 4:1, 5;13, 6:24-30).

David had written Psalm 51 in regards to his serious sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David was distraught and was full of guilt and misery for his actions against God. As a good model for a prayer for sin, David begins asking for forgiveness of sin and with the confession of sin directly to God.  David then asks for God to do a work in him and to show mercy upon him. David finishes the prayer with words of worship, lifting God’s merciful heart. David was suffering because he knew he displeased God but he did not ask for mercy because the consequences of his sins but just because David knew he was not in good communion with God and let Him down. When we confess our sins, the misery we feel should be like David. The remorse we feel must not be from the impending consequences that we will face due to sin but it must be remorse because we failed to please God and committed sin.

There are many penitential Psalms that were expressing such pain in confession of sins (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). With the same honesty, we must confess our sins before the Lord, not for our salvation, if we are born again, but do agree with God that we broke His laws and know that we disobeyed Him. It is not about His judicial forgiveness but His parental forgiveness (Heb. 5:7-10). God will forgive those who confess their sins in penitent prayers, just as a loving Father does. Out of His love, He does administer punishment and discipline so you may learn and not perform that sin again. Prayers need to be honest and open before God. God in His omniscience, already knows what we did and is waiting for the mature believer to come in repentance (Acts 15:8). God is omniscient and knows everything.

If we confess our sins to God in prayer, he is righteous and faithful to forgive us (Jn. 1:9). This is not a call to continue in sin just because if we confess He will forgive but it serves as a reminder of His grace, mercy and love for His children. By this, we can continue to praise Him in prayer for these perfections drawing us closer to Him. We must continue to confess our trespasses against God to keep our hearts soft and receptive to what our conscience uses to make us uncomfortable. Confession of sin in our prayers shows our dependence on God displaying our lack of obedience to be completely sin free. God allows His children to sin to show them that they are hopeless in their own abilities to fight off sinful desires. God ultimately allows sin to bring glory to Himself by executing His plan of redemption which shows His perfection of love.[4] But it is by prayer that sin is exposed and you are cognitive of its existence in your life that which you can pray to God to assist you to deal and hopefully removing it.

Guidance and wisdom can also be sought through our prayers to God. The Bible is filled with the promises of the assurance of wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, there are 31 chapters of wisdom filled in these chapters that Solomon had penned. Throughout God’s Word, there are references to the liberality in the fashion of how God gives wisdom but what is so fascinating and a blessing is how God desires to give us wisdom beyond all we will ever need (Ecc. 2:26). We can have the assurance for obtaining wisdom by just asking. In James 1:5, says that all we must do is ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us generously. The Greek word for ask is in the imperative which is a command.[5] We are commanded to ask for wisdom. His wisdom is there waiting for us to access it by prayer. We do not need to seek anyone or anything else accept God directly when we need wisdom.

When we gain wisdom, we are glorifying Jesus. Wisdom fills the believer with knowledge of what Scripture tells allowing them to be properly sanctified living a life that brings honor to God. If by wisdom, we are being Christ like, then we need to be in deep request to God, as He is expecting, every time we pray. We have the promise from Jesus Himself when He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it (Jn. 14:13-14). This means that we must be praying in His way and per His will. Just because Jesus said He will do it if you ask does not mean He will answer every prayer. Many false religions get this wrong and do not translate this correctly, which in turn, leaves the follower of this false understanding wondering why their prayers are not being answered. Praying for wisdom must be in line with God’s will and we must ask in faith without any doubts hindering us (James 1:6). The wisdom you will receive comes from the wisdom that is in the Bible, its God’s means of communication to us. It is when our hearts are open and our eyes are clear when we can grasp God’s Word and discern what He is communicating to us. Many believe God still talks to people audibly. Scripture says something different. God uses Scripture alone to talk to us. We must be diligently studying His Word so the Word can be illuminated by the Holy Spirit to us.

Prayer allows us to seek answers found in Scripture. Once it has been established in the believer that God’s Word contains all we need to know about God, to find answers we need to be in His Word. The benefits of prayers and the answers we seek can be found in Scripture. By the reading, the studying and praying over Scripture, we can have assurance that we will know God’s will and answers to our petitions. Be it wisdom we seek, forgiveness or answers, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is the agency that God uses to direct our paths through Scripture pointing what He wants to communicate to us. We must never seek advice or wisdom anywhere else besides God and Scripture.

Praying and receiving prayers, allows us to have peace in our lives. Peace subdues worry and becomes joy. When we pray, we are praying directly to the Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:67). When our lives become to hectic, there tends to be a propensity for us to keep our issues bottled up inside ourselves and not turn them over to the Lord in prayer. Our outlet is prayer and we need to utilize this gift we have been given. Praying and surrendering all to the Lord relieves us of our burdens. Peace comes from righteousness and righteousness comes from living in accordance to the Spirit. Remembering to rejoice in the Lord, always for the peace we enjoy now as His children and the peace to come.[6]

When we receive prayers from others, there is peace in knowing that we have others interceding for us in our distress. Knowing that we are not alone when we face adversities is a relief and brings a sense of peace. Although prayers from other believers is great but we should never forget we have a greater One interceding for us with the Father. Jesus is constantly interceding for us in Heaven allowing us to enjoy peace in knowing that we have an advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). Although the writer John is speaking about the advocate we have when we sin. Knowing that someone is speaking to the Father on our behalf when we sin should bring an amount of joy and peace knowing we will not face judgement. Peace is not only the relief of worry or concern but it is a gift we can enjoy now in the present. Your view of the big picture determines how you view peace. This should not allow you to worry much about the adversities you face.

Being given wisdom you will be led to the Scripture with a hunger to search what God’s will is in your life. This wisdom will then lead to peace. The maturity of the believer elevates causing the believer to become spiritually discerned. A greater understanding of God’s Word is maturity. When one understand God’s Word in a deep and meaningful way, they know what the will of God is and then many issues that brought worry and concern are now viewed and trials that are meant to shape and grow them in their spiritual walk with the Lord. Peace is knowledge. As we grow we become more peaceful in our lives as we mature. A desire for the greater understanding of Scripture is a necessity for peace and wisdom. One cannot find either without studying Scripture.

Prayer in Ministry

Prayer has been labeled as a ministry in many Christian organizations. And rightly so, it is a ministry but you do not have to be “in” ministry to pray. As believers and church attendees, the ministry of prayer is all our responsibility. Meeting in a corporate setting and in prayer groups, we can be effective in bringing hope and peace for the ones we pray for.

Corporate prayer with the church body in a group setting is an effective way to pray for the many experiencing adversities in their life. This ministry involves a personal duty partnered with fellow believers to pray for others. Our church family is part of the Church of Christ, His bride. We are all under the same lordship of Jesus Christ and joined by the Holy Spirit. We are all supposed to be as loving as our biological families are and maybe even more. The second great commandment is that we love one another (Jn. 13:34). We have been given an example of perfect love through our Lord Jesus Christ. He said we are to love one another as He loved us (Jn.15:12). Christ laid His life down for us as an expression of love. If Christ describes His love to us as being a sacrifice, we should be compelled to pray for one another to say the least.

Family prayer should be the most important time of the day for the family unit. Praying together allows each member to personally make requests directly to God while allowing other family members to hear of the things that are in the hearts of the other family members. This method allows the other family members to pray at other times of the day to make personal intercessions on behalf of the other family members. Besides making supplications, family prayer can also ring praises to the Lord for all His goodness. The family’s love for the Lord will continually grow if they are all keeping a high regard for the Lord and a realistic view of their dependence on Him. Prayer time in the household is an instrument that also bonds the family and strengthens. Having been given the wisdom we prayed for, proper discernment and maturity grows within the family unit. Prayer is the direct line to God that brings a family closer in love as Christ loves.

Prayer on a personal level still has the same weight of importance as the church leader’s prayer or the corporate prayer among members in the church. Personal prayer is the expression of love where we intercede in supplications for those we know need our prayers and for the lost that desperately need the Lord. Being part of prayer list at your church is ideal to keep in tune with those who are making prayer requests. Many who know that others are praying for them will rejoice in the Lord. The act of prayer, being personal, family or corporate, brings God glory. Glory in the sense that His command of loving one another is being fulfilled. Even loving your neighbor is being practiced as we pray for the lost showing our obedience to God.

Prayer, by those in ministerial position, is often looked upon as coming from a higher source or a closer position to God. The minister, pastor or leader must be a man of prayer. His position requires so much of him that there must be complete dependence on God for his day to day function. As a servant of God, he must display a great love for his people and a deep burden for the lost. God has given the pastor the opportunity to be the under shepherd or overseer to His flock (Acts 20:28). The great responsibility falls upon the pastor to protect and serve the flock.  As the pastor is aware of this responsibility, he must be a man of prayer. After all, the greatest example to a pastor regarding the care of the flock was Jesus Christ. Jesus was constantly praying to the Father.

Intercessory prayers are made by the pastor on the behalf of the flock God has given him. The pastor is aware of the condition of his flock. He knows each one’s needs. He must be the intercessor in their lives pleading on their behalf to the Lord as any good shepherd does. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, prayed for the children of God relentlessly. He prayed on the behalf of the believers directly to the Father (Jn. 17). Jesus is the only mediator and intercedes to God for all the saved for all time (Heb. 7:25). Jesus is the model for every pastor to follow. His ministry is a ministry of love. Love for the believers that is not hindered by any selfishness but a self-sacrificing love. The pastor must be willing to lay his life down for the sheep (Jn. 10:11).

The pastor must be the model of deep prayer. His prayer life must be exemplary without any doubts, the most prayerful person on the property. His prayer life must reflect love for others and the lost but it must have a reverence about it. Knowledge and wisdom stemming from fear in the Lord, must be the chains that bind him to adhere to clear, meaningful and intimate communion with God. His prayer must be heartfelt and the heart must be the place of origin for his prayers to God.[7] The pastor should understand the full responsibility weighing heavily upon his shoulders that he should shutter at the thought of being able to handle ministry, the flock and the Word of God on his own abilities. He should be on his knees constantly in prayers for strength and wisdom. It is impossible for the under shepherd to faithfully oversee the sheep without prayer.

How Should We Pray?

John Calvin said we “must have the disposition of a beggar”. We must pray penitently in accord to God’s will.[8] As we remember, when we pray we should be like little children coming to our Father and expressing our needs and love for Him. It is a form of divine communication. The Bible has given us a model that we use to structure our heartfelt desires and communicate them to Him. The “Lord’s Prayer” has been the model and even a prayer itself but many do not know that this prayer is for our use. The fact that within the prayer, it mentions that we should ask forgiveness for our trespasses, it does not make sense that Jesus would have to ask for forgiveness since He was sinless. But is it a great way for us to outline our prayers to God. We should always begin by giving honor and praise to God for all He has done for us. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer starts by saying, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hollowed by thy name,”. This is giving praise and honor to God in His majesty and kingdom of Heaven as Ruler. We must continue to glorify Him as an introduction to whom we are praising and kneeling before.

“Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, addresses His kingdom in the sense of the magnitude of it. Not just heavenly place but the earth as well. “Thy will be done” is the point where the person praying understands that everything we pray for must be in tune with God’s will. Acknowledging that He is in charge not us and our prayers will not stand a chance of being heard or being answered unless we are fully submitted to His will. Jesus was the perfect model following the Father’s will. The plan of redemption called for the death of Jesus and He knew the Father’s will and did not do His own will but the will of the father. Before the arrest of Jesus, He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and proclaimed “not my will but yours be done” (Matt. 22:42). This act of obedience and submission is how we should model our own lives in submission to God’s will.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We go from exaltation to God to asking what we lack on a daily basis. Not that literally we need to ask God for every meal to be given to us but we do need to acknowledge to Him our needs. This solely shows God that we are dependent on Him for everything. We have submitted ourselves to Him knowing we cannot even supply our own daily necessities unless they come from Him. We then pray for our needs to be met in a submissive way asking according to His will.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is regarding repentance of sins. We are to repent of our sins directly to God. Not that we may lose salvation but to acknowledge that we have sinned against His Law. Repentance is ongoing until we reach glorification in Heaven. This requires introspection in our lives daily to come to this repentance. The forgiveness of sins we show others reflects the forgiveness we have received through Jesus Christ. It is also a display of love as we are commanded to love one another.

“Do not lead us into temptation but delivery us from evil.” We plead with God to continue to protect us and not allow us to fall for temptation and enter sin. We are weak and vulnerable to sin and we need the strength that is not in us but in God alone to keep us from falling. We must ask in prayer for the what we desperately seek for, His protection and His power.

“For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” Finish up every prayer with a doxological theme. God deserves every praise and glory for our lives. The grace and mercy shown to us by God deserves our deepest heart felt thoughts and words to ultimately bring Him every ounce of honor He is worthy of.

The order of prayer should be as follows:

We praise God for all He is and provides for us

We ask for our needs to be met

We submit to His will

We confess and repent from our sins

We close in doxology

The importance of prayer cannot be stressed enough. As believers, cannot survive without prayer. It is our line of communication to God, it is our “life line”. Through prayer, we receive all we need from God. Our eyes begin to open as we are guided to His Word and fill our minds with the wisdom that is found in Scripture. Growth, peace, joy, discernment and maturity are fruits of a great prayer life. Many around the prayerful believer are benefited. Not only the fellow believers but also the lost who have become burdens on their hearts who desire them to be saved by the same grace and forgiveness that has been shown to all believers.

We can only hope that as we mature, so does our prayer. There is not perfect way to pray but we must develop a deeper and more intimate line of communication with God. Our submission and obedience to God’s will is the key to answered prayer. God sees our hearts and knows what is in them. Our expressions should be truthful full of joy no matter what the current season we are in. We will always have the peace in our hearts knowing that God speaks to us through His Word and we have the gift and privilege to speak to Him through prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Andreasen, M. L. Prayer. Brushton, N.Y: TEACH Services, Inc., 2003.

 

Beeke, Joel R., and Brian G. Najapfour. Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer. Grand Rapids, Mich: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.

 

Calvin, John. Suffering: Understanding the Love of God. Darlington, England; Webster, N.Y.: Evangelical Press, 2005.

 

Henderson, Daniel, and Nancy Wolgemuth. The Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ’s Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

 

Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Penguin Books, 2016.

 

Mitchell, Isaac F. II. The Prayer Ministry of The Church. Place of publication not identified: Xlibris, 2012.

 

Sproul, R. C. The R.C. Sproul Collection Volume 1: The Holiness of God / Chosen by God. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017.

 

Sproul, R. C., Alistair Begg, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Michael J. Kruger, R. Albert Mohler Jr, et al. The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives. Edited by John MacArthur. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

 

 

[1] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Penguin Books, 2016). Electronic no page #

[2] Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour, Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer (Grand Rapids, Mich: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011). P239

[3] M. L. Andreasen, Prayer (Brushton, N.Y: TEACH Services, Inc., 2003). P. 102

[4] R. C. Sproul, The R.C. Sproul Collection Volume 1: The Holiness of God / Chosen by God (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017). Electronic Copy

 

[5] Daniel Henderson and Nancy Wolgemuth, The Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ’s Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2016). Electronic Copy

[6] Isaac F. II Mitchell, The Prayer Ministry of The Church (Place of publication not identified: Xlibris, 2012). P. 57

[7] Beeke and Najapfour, Taking Hold of God. P. 13

[8] Ibid. P. 34

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s