Last Sunday concluded our worship series on PRAYER by focusing on the very practical question “How Should we Pray?” It is a question followers of Jesus have been asking since He walked the roads of Galilee. We generally recognize that prayer has value and benefit but we wonder if we should be doing it differently or we want to improve our practice. Usually we do that because we are looking at the “bottom line” of prayer — seeking better or quicker results. But as with so many other aspects of prayer we are missing the point. The main purpose of prayer is not to shape lives or circumstances in this world to our will, but to shape and change us to match God’s will. So how we pray is all about our attitude towards God. Prayer is meant to be personal, specific and consistent. Jesus gave us an example that we still remember today. The message title encouraged us to “PRAY LIKE YOU MEAN IT”. Here are some thoughts …
1) Make prayer personal. As the author of our 40-day prayer challenge book wrote in the introduction to the book “the secret to making a difference in your life is … to go home, get on your knees and draw a circle around yourself. Then pray fervently that God would begin a revival within that circle.” So much of the time our prayers are about other people and what we want to happen for them or to them or in their lives. Instead of praying for someone else to shape up our prayers might be for us to be more compassionate and understanding. Along with praying for God to open the heart of a loved one to come to faith we might pray for God to help us become more willing to share our faith with them. The key is that all too often we ask God to do things with the idea that then we won’t have to get involved. Think about the ever so common response when someone we know is in difficult times. It’s fairly common to say “I’ll pray for you.” Does that mean we are really going to go to the mat with God for them or does it mean “I really want the best for you as long as it doesn’t take any effort on my behalf”? The whole intent of prayer is to change you and me first and foremost. If that is going to happen we need to pray with a personal perspective.
2) Make your prayers specific. We have been working on this in our prayer group gatherings on Tuesday morning. The concept is to really tell God what you seek. Give him a God-sized purpose not some general thing that could be done by anyone. A good example is a practice I used when teaching my children to pray. I encouraged them to have some “thank you’s” and “be withs” in their prayers. I suppose that’s fine for little children but most of us can pick it up a little as we mature in prayer. I can explain to God why I am thankful for my health, my family, my job, for His grace and goodness. I can tell God what I want Him to do as He walks beside my sick relative, my depressed friend, my lonely neighbor. I can “be with” them myself. I want God to heal them, to lead them out of depression, to show them grace and mercy in times of fear, sorrow and anxiety. Lets show some faith and trust in the mighty Creator of the Universe. Let’s not be vague in our requests, as if we are ‘hedging our bets’ just in case it doesn’t happen. Speak with confidence and believe in the power of God to not only answer but to do what you ask. There’s no need to be vague. Then we sound like we really don’t think anything will happen. The writer of Hebrews reminds us why we can be confident —
“Since we have Jesus the Son of God [as our Savior], let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
In other words if you believe Jesus died and rose to pay for your sins, what are you doing beating around the bush about some challenges and difficulties in life. He can handle them and then some. Show some confidence!
3) Use Jesus example. We have gotten so used to the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of “catch-all” when we need a prayer that we fail to see its value as a model of “how” to pray. Remember Jesus used it as an example when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. In this prayer He covers our awareness of who God is (holy) and encourages us to pray for the advancement of God’s purposes (kingdom). He wants us to keep in mind that unity (will) is important and doesn’t want us to lose sight of our dependence on the Lord (daily bread). He highlights the importance of grace in our lives (trespasses) while encouraging us to follow our Lord closely (lead us) and expect Him to protect us (evil). After teaching His disciples this model of praying Jesus makes the following point – a good one for us to remember.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
This does not mean that we as parents are good for nothing. The point is that we are not perfect and despite our best intentions we fail our children, make mistakes and can cause hurt and pain. Yet we love and care for our children and want to provide and help them all we can. So if we can do that in our imperfect state then imagine how well and how fully our holy and perfect Father in Heaven can and will care for us.
So lets be personal, lets be specific, lets be confident and bold and pray like we mean it — because we do, don’t we?