Prayer | Part 2

People today are going crazy and spending big money to go to classes and spas that will teach them how to meditate so that they can relieve the stress caused by their frantic paces and ungodly lifestyles.  God in his great wisdom gave us the answer for this problem years ago in His Holy Word.  Our Heavenly Father knew that we would need time to slow down and get answers for our  problems.  He even prescribed meditation; but it was not the kind that clears the mind!  It was meditating on God’s Word and learning to communicate with God through prayer.

              This lesson is part 2 on the subject of prayer.  I have heard many people say “I can’t pray because I don’t know how.”  Read the following lesson and then get to work praying so you can reap the blessings of peace and answered prayers.

 HOW TO PRAY        

In the last blog we discussed where we should pray and when we should pray.  This lesson will be devoted to what God says about how we should pray.  As I said in the previous lesson, prayer is simply talking to God like you would talk to your best friend.  So you may be wondering why there would be rules for praying. 

Do you remember when you were growing up?  As you made friends you learned that there was unspoken social rules for conversing and there was a right and a wrong way to try to persuade people to see your point of view.  When you wanted your parents to approve a plan there was a successful formula for approaching them and persuading them to agree with you.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am placing God on the same level as sinful human beings.  But the Bible does tell us that God is our Heavenly Father.  Jesus even commands us to pray to our Father in Heaven.  Therefore we can assume that approaching God in prayer would be similar to petitioning a good, loving, earthly father. So let us see what our Heavenly Father tells us about how to pray.

1.     We must be his child.  If one of your children ask you to buy them something expensive like a computer for Christmas and you were financially able to do that, you might consider it.  But, if your child’s best friend asked for a computer you would most likely tell them to go talk to their parents.   Why?  Do you not care about that child’s educational opportunities?  No, it is simply that you are not responsible for the training and rearing of other people’s kids.  You may help but it is not you that will get blamed if your neighbor’s child does not turn out well. 

God cares about the whole world.  But until we accept His gift of His only son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and ask Him to come into our hearts we do not have the right to call Him Father.  John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Jesus in our hearts God adopts us into his family.  We then have a heavenly Father that wants to hear from us and delights in granting our requests when they are for our benefit.

2.  We must not have sin in our life.  When your child has been cheerfully obedient you desire to reward him or her for following the rules.  But when they are grumpy, sneaky and rebellious you have no desire to give them what they want in fact, you are more likely to take away something that they love to teach them a lesson.

The Psalmist, David, tells us in Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.  The prophet Isaiah reprimands the children of Israel in chapter 59 verse 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 

We are all sinful and God knows this.  He simply wants us to keep a clean slate with Him by confessing our sins as soon as we are aware of them.  That way we can come to God with a clear conscience knowing that He will listen and respond.  Our heavenly Father has promised us in I John 1:9 that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Once we learn to confess sins immediately it will become second nature to stay in a right relationship with the Lord.  Then when we feel a need to ask God to help us or someone else or we want to talk with him about a problem we won’t have to spend time first confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness.  How sweet it is to stay in a right relationship with your Heavenly Father.

3.  We must ask according to His will.  In the sample prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples it says, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.  It is part of God’s command  that we pray seeking God’s will.  Even our Saviour prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Not my will but thine be done.  If God’s Son set the example by submitting Himself to the will of His father, can we do less?

God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices.   He will not force us to do His will even though following the will of God is what will bring us the most happiness.  As finite human beings we cannot see the end results of our desires and requests.  Frequently I believe that we demand God answer our prayers our way with no room for our creator to give us the best answer.  Just as a parent might allow a child to get in trouble so they could see the results of their actions God will allow us to have what we have begged Him for even though He knows it is not best.

If we truly wish to be blessed we must learn to pray for what we want with the condition that it is in the will of God.  We tend to think that we can help God by making suggestions on how He could work out our problems.  Instead we should be simply bringing the problem to Him like a son would bring a broken toy to his father and in childlike faith say “Fix it, Daddy”.

We have two examples in the scriptures of great men of God who submitted to God’s will even though it was not what they requested.  In II Samuel chapter 12 we read the story of David’s sin being revealed by Nathan the prophet.  Nathan tells him because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.  The child became sick and for seven days David fasted and prayed for God to spare the child.  But God kept his promise and the child died.  When the king was told that the child was dead, he got up, washed himself, ate and went back to business.  David, a man after God’s own heart, knew that the Lord loved him and his child; therefore, he accepted God’s answer and went on to serve the Lord.

In the New Testament we  read in II Corinthians 12:7-10 how the apostle Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”.  Paul says that he asked the Lord three times to remove this affliction from him

In verse 9 and 10 Paul shares with us God’s answer and his reaction.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Instead of demanding that God answer his prayers his way or else, Paul accepted God’s answer knowing that he would be a far more effective minister and testimony when he allowed God to work through him in spite of his infirmities. 

We must remember that God sees the whole picture, we only see a tiny part.  If we will learn to graciously accept the Lord’s answers to our prayers,  He will give us strength to deal with whatever He places in our lives.  God’s blessings for sweetly submitting to His will far outweigh any imagined happiness we would attain by having God give us what we think we want.

4.      We must ask in faith, believing He will answer.  James 1:5-6 says If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  Our Heavenly Father has given us all kinds of wonderful promises in His Word.  We know that God never lies and always keeps His promises.  So why do we have such a hard time believing that He will answer us with the solution that is in our best interests?

I don’t know about you, but part of my problem lies in the fact that I am a sinful human being.  I know that I do not always keep my promises and I fail God, myself, and others; therefore, I have a hard time believing that God will do what He says.  I also have a very short memory.  My God has performed miracles for me time and time again.  I always praise Him when He answers my prayer in a way that is so superior to what I could imagine.  Yet, the next trial appears and I panic!  I read about the Children of Israel and  think that they were so immature when they so quickly forgot God’s miracles for them…yet I am no better!

So, how do we learn to have the faith to believe that God will answer our prayers?  First we need to remember that when we waver and panic we are sinning.  That is what the devil wants so he plants seeds of doubt in our minds.  We must ask God for help and learn to say Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24).  Our creator already knows when we are frantic and having trouble believing that He will answer.  James tells us that our Heavenly Father will not rebuke us when we ask for help in our faith.  In fact, I believe God is pleased when we finally admit our weakness and ask for His help. 

Once we admit that our lack of faith is sin, then we must tell God what we need and act upon it.  For instance, it doesn’t take great faith to tell the Lord “if you give me $1,000, I will write a check to the church for $100”.  Faith in action is writing the check first then trusting God for the money.  I am not trying to encourage you to give away money foolishly.  What I am saying is that if God impresses on you the need to give a certain amount you must obey and then trust God to provide.

First, we confess our sin of doubting, Secondly we act upon our faith and third we must be prepared for the devil to fight us.  Satan does not want us to be a victorious Christian telling others how God answers our prayers and praising the Lord for the miracles that He does.  Therefore, he will constantly try to remind you of how hopeless your situation is and do his best to steal your joy so that your testimony will be null and void.

We need to memorize God’s promises so that when the sin of doubt pops into our mind we can quote scripture for our own encouragement as well as a shield against the devil.  You could start with the following verses:  Psalm 91:15, Luke 11:9, and Phillipians 4: 13,19.  Once you have these verses committed to memory, start a study of God’s promises to you in the scriptures.  You will be amazed at all the verses you will find to encourage yourself when Satan wants you to panic or become depressed.

5.     We should pray specifically.  Years ago while I was still in college a chapel speaker asked, “How can you know if God has answered your prayers if you do not pray specifically for exactly what you want?”   I thought about that and the answer was simple –you can’t!  If I prayed God bless the missionaries it only stands to reason that some of them would be blessed.  But if I asked the Lord to provide the $500 that a certain missionary needed to pay for shipping books to his field of service and God provided, that would be an exciting answer!

Over the years I have made this practice even more personal.  When I need a new appliance, piece of furniture or whatever, I tell the Lord what I want, what color I would like, and how much I can afford to spend then I go shopping.  The idea is that if God wants me to have that item, He will provide exactly what I want for the amount of money I can afford.  If I should not have it, I won’t find anything to fit my specifications and I know that God has a better plan.  I have been amazed over the years how God has provided.  This method has saved me a lot of time and hassle because I don’t feel any great need to stand in long lines at outrageous hours (like 4 AM) so I can be the first to get some great deal.  My philosophy has become “If God wants me to have it, it will still be there when I arrive.”

When a friend or a missionary requests prayer for something, I always try to find out names and details if possible.  That way I can help them pray specifically for the problem and we will both know when God has answered.

6.  We must never forget to praise God for all he has done and all he will do.   When we do something special for someone, we like to have them say “thank you” or “good job”.  Good parents always teach their children to say thank you when someone gives them a gift.  God is our Heavenly Father who is constantly giving us blessings and answers to prayers.  How often do we thank Him for everything that He does for us each day?

The Bible has an abundance of verses that tell us that when we ask God for something we should also thank Him.  Phillipians 4:6 says Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Colossians 3:17 gives a similar command And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  We read in Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  I believe that our creator knew that we would need to be reminded to be thankful otherwise we would become like whining, spoiled children.  When we focus on our blessings we learn to put our problems and wants into a Godly perspective.  That is why we are told in I Thessalonians 5:18  to give thanks in everything.  One of the best ways to obey this command from God is to sandwich your requests between praise and thanksgiving.

Let me challenge you to check your prayer life.  Is there more prayer requests then thanks?  Do you remember to thank the Lord when He answers your prayers?  Are you getting specific answers to your requests?  Is talking to your Heavenly Father as natural as talking to your best friend?  If the answer to any of these is “no” then you need to commit to working on your prayer life.  Caution:  Be prepared for blessings and spiritual growth.

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