|PRAYER! This is probably one of the two most important aspects of our daily walk as a Christian. The other, of course, is Bible Study. Prayer is the one way that we, as Christians, can commune with God on a daily basis. It is as important to our spiritual health as is water and air to our physical well-being. It is absolutely necessary that the Christian spend time in earnest prayer. |
Remember, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16)
To many Christians prayer is not a meaningful act. All too often people pray but do not realize the full blessings that are available through this means of seeking God's will. They may be praying in a shallow meaningless way, or, they just do not really believe in the power of prayer. God does hear and answer prayers of Christians. I sometimes feel that we are guilty of asking for God's will in our lives, but what we really want is our will in God's life.
There is power in prayer! You, as a Christian, have the authority to enter God's throne room and ask for His blessing in your life. You may enter with the boldness of faith and knowledge that God hears and answers prayers. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) Why has God given us this authority? Because we Christians have been adopted into the royal family of God, "... that we may receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:5b) However, "come boldly to the throne" does not mean to come to the throne in a disrespectful manner. It means to come with the boldness that is present when we KNOW something to be true. In other words, to come with the boldness of faith and knowledge that God will receive us, hear our prayers, and answer them according to His will. Honor, praise, glory, and reverence should always be given to our Heavenly Father.
How should we pray? Prayer should not be offered to God in a negative manner. Matthew 6:5-7 tells us that we should not be like the hypocrites and pray to be seen, and use vain repetitions. Often we are called upon to pray in public for a particular purpose. On these occasions, we are to offer a community prayer on behalf of the group assembled. These prayers should not be given to bring glory to our ability to offer those prayers, we should not do it to be seen. We should not do it with pretense as the Pharisees did in Matthew 23:14, and Luke 20:47. Also when we pray, either in public or private, we should not do it with unforgiveness in our heart.
The Bible tells us how to pray. We should pray persistently (Luke 18:1-8), in faith believing (Matthew 21:21,22; Mark 11:23; James 1:6,7), expectantly, as from a friend (Luke 11:5- 10), assuredly, as from a father (Luke 11:11-13), fervently (Colossians 4:12), in Christ's name, or by His authority (John 14:13,14), boldly (Hebrews 4:15,16), and with confidence toward God (1 John 3:19-22).
Why do we pray? Jesus set the example for us as indicated in Luke 6:12, "Now it came to pass in those days that He (Jesus) went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." Jesus also taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13). Taking our needs and desires to the throne of God can do many things for us. It can help us to overcome temptation (Luke 22:40). Prayer can help us to realize those things which we need and desire (James 4:2 & 1 John 5:14,15). We can obtain forgiveness (1 John 1:9,10). We can help others to get well (James 5:16); to be forgiven (1 John 5:16); and to overcome sin (Luke 22:32).
It is interesting to note here that First Samuel 12:23-25) teaches us that we sin when we fail to pray for others. We can obtain wisdom as we see in James 1:5. Wisdom is not knowledge, but rather the application of knowledge. We can gain soul winners (Matthew 9:38). Even when we don't know what is best for ourselves, or we may not even know what is proper to pray for or how to express them, our prayers will be answered (Romans 8:26-28). We should know that God wants us to pray. Know also the, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16b).
We have discussed how and why to pray, but what is it that we should pray for? I have some friends who feel that the words of Jesus in Matthew 21:22 teach us that whatever we want we can have. "And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Does this really mean that if I want one million dollars, and I pray to God for that, and believe with all my heart, being and soul that He will supply it for me, that I will receive it? If the above statement by Jesus was a universal truth, the answer would be yes! However, to fully understand this statement by Jesus, we must examine other scripture to determine what God's word says we should pray for.
Here is what God's word says we should pray for: God's rule on earth as in heaven (Luke 11:2); our daily bread or necessities (Luke 11:3); forgiveness (Hebrews 7:25 & 4:16); shelter and rescue from temptation (Matthew 6:13 & Luke 22:40); for others (James 5:16, 1 John 5:16, & Luke 22:32); wisdom (James 1:5); soul harvesters (Matthew 9:38); for the church (Ephesians 6:18); for our enemies (Luke 6:28); for government officials (1 Timothy 2:1- 3); for open doors that we may spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to others (Colossians 4:3); and for the word of God to have a free course to expand the kingdom to all nations (2 Thessalonians 3:1). I can find no place in God's word where we are taught that we should pray for material blessings so we can have our lives more abundant in the things of the world. We should pray for those things which will make our lives here on earth more abundant in the things of the spirit.
In the scriptures we are also given several examples of when to pray. We should pray for others when they are in need. Jesus prayed for Peter when he (Peter) was tempted, Abraham prayed for Sodom because of its sinfulness, Moses prayed for Miriam when she was sick, Job prayed for those who abused him, and David prayed for his enemies. There are countless other examples of prayers for others in the scriptures. God's word has a lot to say about other times when we should pray. We should pray when we are tempted (Luke 22:40); when we are sick (James 5:13-15); when we are persecuted (Acts 16:25); always (Ephesians 6:18); continually (Acts 6:4 & Romans 12:12); without ceasing (Acts 12:5 & 1 Thessalonians 5:17); all night (Luke 6:12); night and day (1 Thessalonians 5:17); steadfastly (Acts 2:42); when fasting (Mark 9:29); and when eating to sanctify what we eat (1 Timothy 4:5).
A sister in Christ and I were recently debating the subject of baptism, when she began to feel that I was questioning her sincerity. She told me that the last few months had really been trying for her, and that without prayer she did not feel that she could have made it through her ordeal. She asked me, "Where do you pray?" I told her that I prayed everywhere, that I did not feel that there was any place that I could not whisper a prayer to God. God's word tells us where to pray: A solitary place (Mark 1:35); on your knees (Acts 9:40); in a place of prayer (Acts 16:16); in our closets (Matthew 6:6); and together (Acts 1:14 & 12:5). To say that we should pray in a solitary place or in a closet indicates that we should pray where we can be alone with God, just the two of us. This is important for us to be alone with God as we talk with Him, so we can share with Him our innermost thoughts and cares. This also gives us the opportunity to tell God how much we love Him, praise Him, and honor Him for the blessings we receive. But we should also pray together for blessings that will help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, individually and collectively as the church. To be sure, we can (and do) pray in other positions. However, we should not forget that when we pray we should humble ourselves before God. Getting down on our knees is one way to do this.
Who do we pray for? I'm afraid that all too often our prayers are for what we want or feel that we need. It is important that we make our desires known to God. However, we also need to pray for others and their needs. We should pray for friends (Philemon 1:4); enemies (Matthew 5:44); fellow Christians (Philemon 1:9 & 1 Thessalonians 5:23); for harvesters (Matthew 9:38); for sinning Christians (1 John 5:15,16); for the sick (James 5:16); church officers (Acts 6:6 & 14:23); for those in prison (Acts 12:5); and preachers (2 Corinthians 1:11, 8:4, & Ephesians 6:19).
Wouldn't it be great if all Christians had a very active, sincere, fervent, daily prayer life? Just imagine how much better this world would be if all Christians united daily in this kind of prayer. Unfortunately there are hindrances to prayer, and Christians are subject to those hindrances. If we have an un-Christian relationship with others, our prayers are hindered. 1 Peter 3:7-12 speaks to the relationships we have with others. We should "...be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous..." (1 Peter 3:8a). The opposite of these causes a hindrance to prayer. Having unforgiveness in our heart also serves to hinder our prayers as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:14.
I said earlier that we should not pray for material blessings so we can have our lives more abundant in things of the world. In reality, when we pray this type of prayer, it becomes a hindrance to what we should pray for as well as answers to prayer. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3). Self-righteousness serves to hinder us in our prayer life, read the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14. Other hindrances include Satan, lack of fasting, lack or persistence, unbelief, and iniquity in the heart.
This has not been an exhaustive study of prayer, for there are more than eighty prayers in the Old and New Testaments, as well as countless other references to prayer. However, I have tried to give you and overview of prayer which will teach you the basic truths about prayer. Learn to pray to your Heavenly Father. Praise Him, thank Him, glorify Him, and seek His guidance in a daily time of prayer. But most of all love Him with all your heart and soul, and express that love for Him in your prayer life. Does God answer prayer? YES! Remember, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16b).
I have many favorite scriptures that help me make it through this world and live each day in Christ Jesus. Here are just a few.
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19)
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to You: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed too bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance os Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8)
All scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
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