Photo by Michelle Pearson
A Lesson on Prayer-Part 1
In my last series, we talked about putting on All of Gods Armor from Ephesians chapter 6. I ended the last post with verses 18-20 where it just says over and over again to pray.
In these few verses, Paul says a lot about prayer. He has just finished telling us to put on all of God’s armor, now he tells us to Pray in the spirit at all times. He tells us to pray for All believers everywhere, that’s right, even the ones you don’t particularly like. He tells us to pray for him, or any of our Church leaders, and goes on to tell us what they need prayer for. First of all, that God would speak through them. We don’t need to hear what they think the Bible is saying, we need to hear what the Holy Spirit wants them to say. And then he says to pray for boldness, and that applies to every Christ follower. We need to be bold to speak the Gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:2 he says, “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” What he is telling us takes boldness. You have to be bold to correct, rebuke, and even to encourage people, whether the time is favorable or not. This is especially true in our society where everyone is offended at everything. The time is definitely not favorable to correct and rebuke people today. So we need boldness. But, of course, when you boldly correct, rebuke or encourage people, always do it in love and from scripture, not your own opinion. And, don’t miss that one word that precedes it all…Patiently.
So, today we are going to start looking at prayer. The words pray, prayer, praying and prayed appear 436 times in the Bible, not to mention the number of times it talks about speaking to God or meditating on His word or any of the other references to prayer without actually saying the word. Prayer and Bible study are the most important parts of the Christian life. They are our link to God. The Bible is His letter to us, His instruction manual if you will. And, prayer is our personal link to Him. It always amazes me how we have a direct line to God. I couldn’t speak to the President of the United States if my life depended on it, but I can talk to the God of the universe, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, anytime I want. I hear people say all the time, “I don’t know how to pray.” Well, if you are one of those people, this is your lucky day, because I’m about to show you what the Bible says about prayer. And, if you do know how to pray, this will still be good for you, because sometimes we miss things in the Word that can be a huge blessing.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m some kind of expert on prayer or on the Bible, I’m just saying that I might catch something that you have missed, and vice versa. The Bible says, Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” We are all here to sharpen each other, and that’s exactly why I am writing this blog, to help sharpen others. I will always strive to back everything up with Scripture, and not my opinion of what it is saying. Also, at the end of this blog, I will include some links for some great Bible study aids.
When speaking with people about prayer, both believers and non-believers alike, the 2 biggest questions I hear are; “Does God even hear me when I pray?” and “How do I know that He will answer my prayers?”. They want to know if God really has time to listen to their prayers and if He really cares. These are valid questions, but once you know what the scriptures say, it is extremely clear. We also need to ask one more question, not just is God listening to us, but am I listening to God? Andrew Murray said, “Prayer is not a monolog, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part.”
So, let’s take the first question. “Does God hear me when I pray?” The Bible clearly says he does hear us, but if we really want to be heard, we are given steps to follow.
STEP 1: To be heard, you must be righteous. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.” And in Proverbs 15:8 “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright.” We learned in the last blog that the Body Armor of Righteousness comes from studying the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”
STEP 2: Our loyalty cannot be divided. James 1:6-8 “6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Are you truly loyal to God, or is your loyalty split between God and the world? Romans 12: 2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Also in James 4:4 “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”
STEP 3: Does what we ask for, please God? 1 John 5:14 “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.” It’s just like with your earthly father. If you ask him for the keys to his car so you can go buy some drugs, chances are you won’t get the keys. But, if you ask him for the keys so you can go buy your mom a birthday present, he’ll probably do that, because it pleases him.
STEP 4: We must call on Him in Truth. Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.” And, where did we learn truth comes from in the last blog? The word of God IS truth, John 17:17 and Psalm 119:160.
We’ll continue this discussion in the next installment. We’ll pick up by looking at the question, “Does God Answer Our Prayer?”
A Lesson on Prayer-Part 2
Now for the second question, does God answer our prayers? 1 John 5:15 “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” Also, in Matthew 7:7-11 we read, 7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him”. And in Jeremiah 29:11-12 “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen”. There are many more verses on God answering prayer, but suffice it to say that He does.
In the New Testament, Jesus gave us an outline for prayer. Many people call it “The Lord’s Prayer”, but The Lord never Prayed it, in fact, the real Lord’s prayer is found in John chapter 17. This was simply an outline to teach his disciples to pray. We find this both in Matthew 6:5-18 and Luke 11:1-13. We know that it is just an outline and not something to be religiously quoted, by reading verses 5-9. In verses 5-8 He is telling his disciples not to pray like the religious people who pray for show, and not to pray like the pagans who just babble on and on, but to get alone and sincerely pray to God. Then in verse 9, He says “Pray like this:”. Notice He doesn’t say pray these words, He says pray like this. So let’s look at the outline.
- Vs. 9 “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”
- Start by praising God
- Vs. 10a “May your Kingdom come soon.”
- Pray for His second coming…soon.
- Vs. 10b “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
- Pray for His will to be done in your life, and to be done here just like it is in Heaven.
- Vs. 11 “Give us today the food we need,”
- We are to pray for today’s sustenance…not next years, not for the rest of our lives…TODAY’S.
- Vs. 12 “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
- Notice He didn’t just say, “forgive our sins.” He said to forgive our sins the way we forgive others. So, if you hold a grudge, you’re asking God to hold a grudge against you…just sayin’.
- Vs. 13 “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
- Do you have a sin in your life that you have trouble letting go of? I know I do. We need to remember that our willpower isn’t enough. We can’t resist temptation without God’s help. Pray that God will not let you yield to that temptation, and name the temptation. News flash, God already knows what that temptation is, He just wants you to admit it.
- Then ask Him to deliver you from the evil one, and He will.
Next time we will answer the questions, like: When Should I Pray? How Should I Pray? How Long Should I Pray? And, What Should I Pray For?
A Lesson on Prayer-Part 3
Okay, we know that He hears and answers our prayers, so let’s move on to the mechanics of prayer. We need to answer questions like, When Should I Pray, How Should I Pray, How Long Should I Pray, What Should I Pray For, Should I Pray Alone or With Others, and that nagging question, What Is This “Praying in The Spirit” All About?
When Should I Pray?
This one is pretty simple. 1 Chronicles 16:11 “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” Always, there is never a bad time to pray. Prayer isn’t just asking God for the things you want, God’s not a genie. Prayer is our link to God, it is meant for us to commune with him. Just talk to Him, all the time. Talk to Him about how your day is going. Talk to Him about the guy that just cut you off on the freeway. He wants us to spend time with Him, He wants a relationship with us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
How Should I Pray?
We should pray with an alert mind and a thankful heart, Colossians 4:2 and Psalm 95:2. We should pray earnestly, 1 Peter 4:7. We should pray boldly, Hebrews 4:16. We should be thankful to God when we pray, 1 Corinthians 1:4 and Philippians 1:3-4. Sometimes, we need to pray to God privately, Matthew 6:6. And, we should pray in the Spirit which we will talk about shortly, Ephesians 6:18. We should pray with lifted hands…that’s right, get those hands up. 1 Timothy 2:8 “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” And, Psalm 141:2 “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” That’s right, it’s not just for the charismatic crowd.
How Long Should I Pray?
Of course, everyone says “Pray without ceasing”, 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The problem is that it’s not that simple. What are you praying? Are you just babbling on and on? Matthew 6:7 tells us, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles (or pagans) do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” To “never stop praying” is talking about that relationship with God I mentioned earlier. Don’t just repeat words…talk to Him.
Luke 6:12 “One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.”
Luke 18:1 “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”
Matthew 7:7-8 7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
What Should I Pray For?
The simple answer is found in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Pray about everything and thank God for what you have. We should pray for wisdom, James 1:5 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” I learned to take this verse literally from my youngest son. Caleb is one of the wisest young men I know, so one day I asked him about it. He said he read this verse when he was about 13 years old and has prayed for wisdom ever since. Matthew 5:44 “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” and Luke 6:27-28 27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” Enough said. As it said in the model prayer, pray that you won’t be tempted, Matthew 26:41 “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”. Pray for others, Romans 15:30 “Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 “And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety”, especially our leaders…yes, even the ones you don’t agree with, 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” Don’t just pray when you are in trouble, but be ready when you need to; Psalm 50:14-15 “14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” And, most importantly, pray for your loved ones to be saved, Romans 10:1 “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.”
We’ll finish up this talk on prayer in the next installment by answering a few more questions, like; what does the Bible say about praying alone as opposed to praying with others, and the big one, what is this “Praying in the Spirit” all about? See you then.
A Lesson on Prayer-Part 4
Should I Pray Alone or With Others?
The answer to this question is yes…The Bible talks a lot about praying in private, like in Matthew 6:6 where it says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” But, it also has a lot to say about praying together or corporate prayer. In Acts chapter 1 we see the beginning of the first church, and the first thing they did together wasn’t to sit down and listen to a sermon, it wasn’t to have a potluck dinner, it wasn’t even to take up an offering, it was to meet together and pray. Look at verse 14, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” And then in the very next chapter, we see an outline of how their meetings went. Acts 2:42 “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” Prayer is extremely important in the Christian life, but it is equally important to the life and health of the body of Christ, the Church.
What is this “Praying in The Spirit” All About?
This is a question that has caused a lot of controversies, and even divided church bodies. The reason this question has been so divisive is that so many church members, and even church leaders, try to interpret the scripture, they don’t take it literally and in context. So, what does the Bible say about “praying in the Spirit”? Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
So, praying in the Spirit means to always be in a prayer attitude and constantly pray for all believers everywhere, but is that all? No, there is much more to it than just that. If you look at Romans 8:26, you’ll see this; “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” This is saying that praying in the Spirit is also letting the Holy Spirit intercede for you when you don’t have the right words to say, but there is more. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says, “Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” This passage, along with others, is clearly talking about praying in an unknown language, not a foreign language, but the language of Angels, 1 Corinthians 13:1 “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” The languages of earth and of Angels…that isn’t French, or German, or even Hebrew, it is an unknown language to us. But when we let the Holy Spirit intercede for us, He prays through us in the language of angels.
What are the Results of Prayer?
Well, as we’ve already seen, He hears and He answers our prayers, but there is so much more than that. The first benefit of prayer is Peace. Philippians 4:6-7 “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” He’ll show you things to come, Jeremiah 33:3 “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.”
So, as it says in Ephesians 6:18-20 “18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.”
For more on prayer, also read James chapters 4 and 5…Oh yeah, I promised some study aids. Well, here they are:
Blue Letter Bible
The Linked Word Project
Bible Study Tools
Here are a few more quotes on prayer:
“Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.” ~ R. A. Torrey
“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.” ~ Matthew Henry
“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” ~ John Bunyan