Part 4 of – My New Year’s Resolution is…

In our last devotion, we spoke on the first step of our action plan in helping us reach our goal for 2017 (a closer walk with the LORD), which was reading the word. In this devotion, we are going to focus on the second step of our action plan:

PRAYER

Martin Luther once said that “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” That is how important prayer is in our Christian living. But in order to live it, one must know how.

One of the most commonly asked questions from Christians is, “How do I pray?” It’s a very legitimate question. In fact, even Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. I know can remember when I first got saved I knew nothing about the Bible, God, or especially how to communicate with Him. Is there a certain method to prayer? Or is there a time limit we should put on it? Should I stand or should I kneel or even lay down? Can it be silent or do I need to pray aloud for God to hear me? What should I pray about? In this devotion we are going to answer all these questions.

First, let’s answer the most frequently asked question; “how do I pray”. Prayer is not complicated, nor is it meant to be complicated. God is not impressed or interested in long prayers with powerful statements, or in prayers that quote Scripture. Jesus even warned us not to pray in such a manner for the sake of trying to be extra “spiritual” before others when He said 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…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.”  Keep your prayers honest and sincere.

Prayer is not reciting what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6. Jesus was only giving us an example of how to pray. The true prayers of our Lord are the ones recorded where He prayed directly to God (Matthew 26, Matthew 27, John 11, and John 17). In these prayers, you will see a pattern of how Jesus communicated with His Heavenly Father.

As I mentioned, when I first got saved I knew nothing about anything and God knew that about me. I learned very early on in my walk what prayer was and was not. I recall one time while at work when I was driving to my next client. It was about an hour and a half before lunchtime. I remember I was very hungry and very broke. As I was driving towards my client’s office I recall praying a very short prayer. I simply said “Lord, I’m hungry and I have no money. It sure would be nice to have something to eat. Can You help me?”

I arrived at my client’s office, serviced their printers and was wrapping up my paperwork when out of nowhere a guy walked up to me and asked me what I was doing for lunch. Caught off guard by this question from someone I never met, I told him “nothing”. He then told me that he felt the Lord telling him to buy me lunch. Dumbfounded I agreed to go to lunch with him. We talked and he learned I was a relatively new believer. I told him about my prayer and we both praised God for His work. I was excited, blown away, and confused, all at the same time. What God was showing me was that prayer was simply talking to God like I would talk to anyone sitting right beside me.

Does prayer need to last a certain amount of time? Will God hear us better if we pray longer? The answer is NO. Jesus Himself prayed a very short prayer on the cross; “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” He simply was talking to His Father in heaven in His moment of anguish. No one is more spiritual because they pray for hours on end. Asking for the same thing a thousand times is not going to get God to change His mind either. Put your requests before God and move on. God does not give in to our demands because we ask over and over for the same thing. It’s not how long you pray or how many times you pray for the same thing. It’s about staying focused on communing with the LORD regarding His will. 1 Thessalonians 5 and Ephesians 6 tell us we should constantly be in a state of communion with the LORD.

As far as our position when we pray; there is no Biblical mandate for your posture or the place you pray. Jesus knelt when He was in anguish; He stood when He called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb; He stood when He prayed for His disciples. Moses, Elisha, and David prostrated themselves before the Lord. All through Scripture we see Godly people praying to the LORD in all different positions and places. The place is irrelevant. I’ve heard people say you get closer to God when you pray in church, or in a prayer group. Both of those are good but not necessary to commune with the LORD. Jesus told the woman at the well that; the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
God is not interested in where we worship or in what position we worship. He is interested only in the position of our hearts when we do come to Him. Are we seeking Him and talking to Him in sincerity and in truth, or are we trying to be spiritual?
 
Praying does not need to be done aloud or in front of others. Jesus told His disciples to go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Even Hannah, when she prayed for a child she didn’t pray aloud or in front of the high priest. She simply prayed in her heart. Eli, the high priest could see her lips moving but couldn’t hear what she was saying. Hannah was talking to God in her heart. God heard her prayer even when others could not.

As for what we should pray for, that’s completely up to you. I can only tell you that praying for money, prosperity, excellent health, a perfect body, a new car, or any other thing that is worldly God will not answer. When your prayers are focused on items to satisfy your wants, God is not going to respond. God is not our genie in heaven waiting to give us whatever we want. God answers prayers of true need and for things that will bring Him glory and honor. I’ve heard people from the charismatic realm quote Jesus when He said,if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” My response to that is “So go move a mountain then.” Jesus wasn’t saying we could do whatever we wanted and it would happen. He was simply making a point. Prayer is not about how much faith you have, it’s about how sincere your faith is. Jesus was telling them that even a tiny bit of faith is all it takes to get God to listen. But the faith must be sincere and the prayer must be selfless. God’s not going to give you a million dollars just because you think you could do a lot of good with it. I’m pretty sure that if you were honest with yourself you wouldn’t be asking for a million dollars just to give it all away. You want a nice cut of it first. That is a selfish prayer and God will not answer those. Keep in mind, Jesus said “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Understanding, “in my name” means in representation of who I am. Just like when the old Keystone cops would yell out “Stop! In the name of the law.” They were representing the law when they commanded folks to stop. Likewise, we represent Jesus when we pray. That means, we ask for the things that are pleasing to Him. And what are the things pleasing to Him? Jesus said; it’s not the Father’s will that any should perish.” And He said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest that He send out laborers into His harvest”.  So for starters, we know that God wants us to pray for those we know are lost and that He could send us into the field to do His work. 

God wants to accomplish His work on earth through us. That is what each one of us is here for. We are to be seeking how we might play a part in leading others to salvation through Christ Jesus, not on how to get the most out of this life for ourselves. John, in his letter told us clearly; Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

To sum it up; prayer should be a simple conversation between you and the LORD. Ask for the things you know will please and glorify Him. If you are in need, tell Him. If you are in want, ask Him to help you redirect your focus. Same thing if you are praying for those around you; don’t pray for fleshly desires to be fulfilled. Pray for the coming of His kingdom and how you can be a part of it. Pray for God to open the eyes and hearts of the lost and for you to have an opportunity to speak to one of them. If someone’s hurting, pray for strength. Can you pray for God to take away pain and suffering? You can, but sometimes it’s the pain and suffering that gets people to where they need to be before the LORD. Remember, it’s about a closer walk with the LORD, and sometimes that means going through the fire to get there. Paul had a pain and asked God earnestly three times to remove it from him. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient. Paul could have complained and whined about it. He could have spent the rest of his life asking God to remove his suffering. Instead, Paul recognized God’s purpose in his suffering because he was focused on doing the LORD’s will. Paul learned that it was when he was at his weakest moments that God’s strength kicked in. Same holds true in our lives. God doesn’t share His glory with anyone.

Practice praying. Talk to God as if He were standing right beside you. Be sincere. Be selfless. But most of all, be kingdom focused.

Next devotion, we’ll wrap up our action plan by learning how to apply what we learn from God’s word in our daily lives.