While reading/hearing God's Word is God communicating with us, prayer is us communicating with Him. And it can go both ways at the same time. Read (or remember) a portion (verse, sentence, phrase) and then tell God about it. Run it through your day. Run your day (circumstance) through it. Tell God what is going on. Tell Him your hurts, hopes, joys and fears. This is what David did repeatedly in the Psalms. We must learn to do the same.
Prayer is talking with God. Our desire is that it will be a continuous way of life. Doesn't He live in our hearts? Intending continual communication, Jesus has sent us His Spirit: to be with us until He returns, to teach us, to lead us into truth, to teach us how to pray as we ought, and far more - above and beyond my comprehension. The Christian life is to be totally dependant on Christ. He desires to live His life through us, instead of us trying to live the Christian life in our own strength, so our communication with Him should be like our breathing - integral to our very life - continuous.
While everyday we need to seek God's face continually, spending time alone in secret with God is also very important. Time is essential. A continuous communication with God starts and is maintained by getting to know Him. Our prayer with other people should be the same as our silent prayer - sincere conversation with God. Spending extended time in God's presence is not something I have made into a practice, so I know very little about being still and silent before God. However, I do desire to know Him and then to commune with Him continually.
Unless I am in Submission to God, I don't pray. From experience I have found that I will not face God when I am unwilling to obey His prompting. For example, if He desires me to ask forgiveness from another or confess sin, often I will not yield my pride - reckon myself crucified to it (Rom 6). How then can I make a request of God? Of course I go through the motions and words of "praying" when in a group, but this never makes it past the ceiling. What we need in order to pray effectively is to submit ourselves to God. I need to rely and depend on Christ alone – not myself.
We are told to come boldly into God's presence. At the same time we need to remember who He is to whom we pray. (Consider what people have done when they just saw a tiny bit of God's glory in the Bible.) Only because Christ Jesus is our mediator can we know the Father, when we are in Christ. When God looks at us coming into His presence He sees Jesus Christ, because we are a part of Christ.
Prayer is a broad topic and volumes have been written on it. It covers everything from just talking to God and telling Him all our hurts and dreams, to asking Him for things we need. From thanking and praising Him for what He has done to worshiping Him and being still and knowing that He is God. Prayer is communing with God. It is a privilege that should fill our heart with awe and yet it is a privilege which we exercise far too seldom. Asking is what we do most but I wonder if we don't have it all backwards.
Thankfulness is such an important practice and yet how many things have we told God thank you for, today. If tomorrow's supply were based on today's gratitude I wonder how much you would have, I for one wouldn't have very much.
Praise and Worship are also very important. Romans 12:1 says "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies – presenting all your members and faculties – as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship." (Amplified) Another powerful form of worship and praise is to meditate on the Lord Jesus Christ's name and what He has done. For example: when we walk/run, Mom and I will sometimes pool our memories and prompt one another of all the aspects of who the Lord Jesus Christ is and what He has done. After each one we are silent and ponder that truth for a minute before moving on to another.
The list could go on and on. Think of as many as you can and watch for them as you read the Word, they show up frequently.
Supplication. God says we are to make our requests known to Him (Php 4:6). I think that pretty well defines this type of prayer. Of course God already knows our needs, but He desires us to seek Him. Involving most other aspects of prayer to some degree, this probably makes up the majority of my prayer time. As an example, the Bible tells us to cast our cares upon God because He cares for us (1Pe 5:7). To worry or carry our own burdens is sin. The same is true of failure to make known to God any of our other requests. Reliance on our self rather than on God is based in pride, which God hates.
Confessing sin. We will always need to repent before God of disobedience. While I know what He desires of me, I still willfully rebel against Him and do my own pleasure. I trust in my own wisdom. I rely on myself. I deny God. I sin. Even though God has made abundantly available to us His victory over sin I still choose to do my own will. I need to pray for the Lord's perfecting work in me. Only when I see Him above will I be perfect. Until then my constant need is to confess my sin when I commit it. That is, when He shows it to me. I request God to reveal to me not only my sin, but also more of His perspective on my self (my sin nature)[which is dead with Christ on the cross (Rom 6)]. If we ever saw all of how filthy and vile we are, from God's perspective, we might not live through the experience (I don't know). Graciously, God only shows us what we need to know right now.
Intercession for other people is another crucial aspect of prayer, it primarily involves making requests and supplication, for them, although it can involve spiritual warfare which is another important aspect of prayer.
Scripture is a powerful tool for prayer. Since it is God's inspired Word it teaches us to think like He thinks and thus our prayers supplicate that which is consistent with His heart. There are many prayers in Scripture, as well as, large selections of praise and adoration from which we can glean material for prayer. It is also a potent tool in resisting the enemy of our souls. Use your sword as a guide book for talking with your Lord. Our God delights to answer prayers and He honors His Word – what a powerful combination!
Sample prayers: Eph 1:17-19a, Eph 3:14-21, Eph 6:10-18
When it comes to praying Scripture it sure helps to memorize the verse first. I find the Psalms are very easy to pray. Sections of the New Testament also lend themselves readily to prayer. One form of this is to find a command and affirm it "Lord, by your strength I am…or, I do…"
In praying we often struggle to know God's will. Though many topics are not covered in the Scriptures there is a phenomenal quantity that is, especially in regards to our relationship with God. Some Scripture prayers like, 'Unite my heart to fear Thy name' (Ps 86:11) are very short while others are quite lengthy like Col 1:9b-22. When I pray Scripture, I like to put it into the first person and to also include the church universal because I know that if I need it then others do too.
I bow my knees unto You, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, and ask that You would grant unto us, Your children, according to the riches of Your glory, to be strengthened with might by Your Holy Spirit in our inner man; O that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith and that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all of Your fullness. Now unto You, who are able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to Your power that worketh in us, unto You be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (From Eph 3:14-21)
One way we pray is to pray God's word to Him. Certainly the Bible touches on and is applicable to every topic and issue. Even when I don't really understand a verse, I can pray for it, desiring the fruit of it in my life. When God tells us to do something, I can be absolutely sure that I need it. Some passages clearly show God's will for us. Even if I am in doubt as to God's will for a situation, these portions give direction. I don't pray Scripture much, but I do try to mold my prayer after Scripture. Praying Scripture back to God is profitable whether we pray in a group or alone. Scripture is God's words.
It is so easy to go through the motions of prayer without really praying. No expectancy. No joy. We do our duty and move on with our day, giving little thought to an answer. Prayer targets will change that. On a sheet of paper list out 10-20 things for which you need an answer from God. Be sure some are physical items while others can be more for direction and growth. Make it colorful and post it on a prominent wall. Now pray. Be specific and ask daily – especially as a group. Be watching for answers and discuss the progress. Be sure to date your list when the answers come. People will ask about your list, which gives you an opportunity to praise God for His specific answers to your prayers. Update your list when some of the requests have received answers. Save these documents to remind yourselves of God's loving provision for your needs.
Although I cannot fully explain it several years ago I felt very strongly that the Lord wanted me to pray for canning jars. January was just drawing to a close and the shortest month of the year was about to start. At thirteen, I was a young but growing Christian. I felt like God was challenging me to test Him and prove for myself that He cared about me and not only could but would answer my prayers. So starting on the first, I prayed for 100 quart canning jars to be received in the month of February. Who cleans out their house in the middle of winter? No one that I know of but I prayed and I trusted. Two thirds of the month passed with nothing, for about two days I was terribly disheartened but by reading the Scriptures my faith was renewed. The story of what God did is rather long, suffice it to say we received almost double the number I prayed for in that one month! I have absolutely no recollection of receiving canning jars before this time, since that day they have not stopped coming in. God can indeed do exceeding abundantly above and beyond all that we ask and even think both in spiritual and physical things and He delights in doing it too!
We had decided that we needed a clock to assist us in our school – the ½ hour chimes to remind the children to progress on with their studies. So we prayed for one trusting that if the request was according to God's will He would provide one. We prayed for that clock for almost three years before the Lord blessed us with a lovely Grandfather Clock to grace our foyer. His gracious provision and years of waiting on Him make that clock very special to us.
While some answers to prayer are more visible than others, I have experiences several specific answers to prayer myself most of them of the less visible variety. I always pray before a major test (but don't always remember to before the "little" ones). In return I have almost always been enabled to give thanks for a good score, although sometimes I have had to give thanks for not doing so well. I often pray for wisdom in decisions, the outcome of those decisions will be shown long-term, the reaping is not yet, so it is hard to judge outcome. I believe that God is able to direct me, and I seek to be humble before Him and seek His face and direction in the decisions I make (it should be Him making the decisions, but I admit I am not there yet).
I was about 10 years old in 1999 when we began prayer targets in a rather big way. We were preparing for Y2K and made a list of some of the things we thought we would need in case of trouble. This list was a matter of prayer for us, asking that God would provide these things if He, in His infinite wisdom, knew we needed them. In order to incorporate us children into the prayers, Mom let us each pick one thing that we would pray for every day. My pick was a wringer washer. I had no idea what it was, other than a clothes washer, but it sounded interesting so I was willing to commit to pray for it. I was neither a fervent prayer, nor a very faithful one most likely, but I did pray almost daily for a little while. Then one day Dad asked on a radio swap shop show for a wringer washer. Within a day an older lady contacted us saying she had a wringer washer that we could have if we would pick it up. We did so and received another answer to our prayers. I was delighted. This experience served to teach me that God does answer prayers, even my prayers.
I had an interesting time not too long ago looking through a prayer journal that I had written about eight years earlier. All the prayers were simple one or two liners, that did not say very much, but the ones that kept me scanning down the pages were the prayer targets. They held my interest as I thought of whether and when they had been fulfilled. Some of the requests had been answered that very year but others are still being answered today and some God may have said "no" to.
Some sample prayer targets.
Each morning after family Bible study time we close by praying as a group. There are four very specific things that we believe are essential for a successful day, so four individuals lead us in prayer before we split up into smaller prayer groups. The first person leads by submitting us and our day to the Lord Jesus Christ, yielding ourselves to Him that we might be empty vessels through which He can live, and seeking that we might decrease that He might increase in us and be able to produce the fruit of His Holy Spirit in us.(Jas 4:7, Rom 5:10, Ga 5: 22-25, Eph 4:30) The second person then takes over, claiming our place with Christ in His crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, they then take up and put on the armor of light which is provided for our defense against our enemy the devil.(Ga 2:20, Rom 6:1-6, Eph 2:1-6, 6: 10-18) Here the third person takes over and from the position taken by these first two, (namely, submitted to God, seated in the heavenly places and clothed in God's armor) they resist the devil and bind his work over our family. (Jas 4:7, 1Pe 5:8,9, 1Jn 3:8) Finally the last person finishes by seeking God's protection throughout the day, asking for His wisdom in the decisions that face us and seeking that we would continue to grow in sanctification and that His name would be glorified today by His children.(2Th 1:12, 3:3, Ps 34:7, Jas 1:5-8, 2Co 3:18) We then divide up and pray for the rest of our cards.
There are so many people in life and so many family needs that all require prayer, it can take hours just to mention them all in prayer. In order to solve this problem, we have written them all on index cards and divided them up among us older ones. The list includes each member of our family and our family friends with their specific needs, listings of family needs (mainly long term), groupings of saved acquaintances, groupings of unsaved acquaintances and relatives, Christian organizations that influence our lives, and political offices in the state and nation. Each morning after a brief family prayer time, we divide up into groups of two or three to pray for those on our card sets. In this way less time is used, since several groups can be praying at the same time in different parts of the house, and we still get everything prayed for. Through the week we pray with different family members, and at the beginning of each week we swap our card sets, so we receive encouragement and prayer ideas from everyone and get to pray for everything. The little children choose two or three people who are important to them and get a turn at praying too. As God becomes more real to each of us, our prayers become more meaningful, rather than rote and we truly seek God's blessing and guidance for the people for whom we pray.
I have been blessed by times of prayer with a group. Especially when we pray like a conversation with God. Each person can pray when God leads them, and as many times as they wish. A group can be as small as two or three. While sometimes we gather to pray for a specific issue, other topics are welcome. By each praying for only a short time others can input more before we start praying for something else. Sometimes we are silent.
"Pray without ceasing." (1Th 5:17)
"...in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know unto God." (Php 4:6)
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…for all saints." (Eph 6:18)
God's command is clear, we are to be a praying people. But what if we don't know how to pray? Don't be afraid to admit it, I don't know how to pray either. Romans 8:26 says that 'the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Sprit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God". The Holy Spirit knows how to pray and not only will fix our prayers but He will also teach us how to pray, for "the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). So if we don't know how then all we need to do is ask Him and He will teach us!
"If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land." (2Chr 7:14)
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