Prayer is universal. Almost every culture prays in different forms and ways. The Bible tells us Jesus himself was a man of prayer. Whilst on earth He encouraged his disciples to pray, taught them to pray and modelled authentic prayer.Matthew 6:5-8 (New Living Translation)
"When you pray don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 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. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!"We are to pray
(When you pray).
Jesus doesn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray. He doesn’t say when we have all our mysteries figured out, or when all our questions are answered, or when we are perfect that we should pray. There needs to be some initiative, some discipline, some consistency on our part. We need to stir ourselves up to pray.
Acts 6:4 - the early disciples gave themselves continually to prayer.
- To give myself means it’s an act of my will, I position my heart towards God.
- To be intentional to put some energy into it.
- To be consistent Jm 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
When a person starts an exercise program the trainer will show them the right way of handling gym equipment, however, it’s the discipline and consistency which will produce the desired effect/results. A person can’t have spectacular results if they only give themselves to it once a week. Consistency brings results. Likewise your everyday consistent time with God will contribute to making wise decisions, to moving some mountains/giants in your life, to staying strong when everything around you is being shaken, to moving towards some achievable goals, to having a ‘can do’ spirit. Your daily consistent prayer life will water your own soul and everything connected to you. You begin to take on God’s perspective to things, and a spirit of faith and of peace settles on you. Prayer keeps us spiritually fresh, alive and strong.
When we pray we also
- Deepen our relationship with God.
Heb 11:6 God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. God loves it when we continually search/look for Him. Example in China the main attraction is – GREAT WALL. In USA main attraction is – GRAND CANYON. In Christianity the attraction is CHRIST. Do we spend time with Him; get to know Him more and more?
- Partner with God in seeing His plan carried out here on earth. Gen 18:16-33 – “ Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”
- At times engage in spiritual warfare. Paul tells us in Eph 6:12 that we do not just live our lives in the natural plane. When we pray, we actually switch realms and move into another dimension altogether. MOVIE: Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. Lucy comes upon a wardrobe but what she opens is actually a portal to another world. Likewise when we pray, we move into the realm of the spirit, a place where God’s angels are at work, but also a place where the demonic spirits resist the purposes of God. At times thru the power of the Holy Spirit we engage in spiritual warfare to dislodge and dismantle the works of darkness so that God’s light can shine upon a person, a family or a community of people! We advance His kingdom through spiritual warfare.
At CityLife we believe God really wants us to expand our capacity to pray this year.
He wants us to carry an atmosphere of prayer where we are easily moved to prayer when we see situations. Prayer is to become the engine room of our homes, our lives, our church and let’s believe God to do incredible things as we pray and seek His Face.
Jesus gave some very practical instructions that will enable us to deepen & increase the spirit of prayer over our lives.We are to Acknowledge the Father
(But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private)
Pray to your Father. The strength & consistency of our prayer life is certainly going to be influenced by how we view God in our lives. Norman Wright (an author) describes how people perceive God:
- Referee God: viewing God as a referee who tallies points for good performance on a scoreboard. People consumed by religious rules fear that if they step out of line they will suffer a severe penalty. Their relationship with God becomes established & motivated by guilt.
- The Scientist God: A superior reasoning power, withdrawn, distant, too busy running the galaxies to get involved in our daily petty problems. He sits in His laboratory conducting experiments with His door closed and “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on.
- Others hold a distorted view of God because of their negative human experiences with authority figures, their own earthly fathers or their culture.
One cannot hold these poor representations of God as Father. We need to take hold of the Bible image of God as Father.
Greek word Father: nourisher of our souls, upholder, protector.
He is also described as:
We are to be Authentic
- Jer 33:3 Our Father has a listening ear. He hears the cry of his people.
- Micah 7:18 Our Father has an understanding heart. Willing to show mercy, kindness.
- Is 43:1 Our Father has a helping Hand. He lifts us up when we are down, dejected.
(When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites)
Hypocrite means “to put on a mask”. To perform as an actor! Jesus is saying don’t perform in prayer, don’t use grand vocabulary to impress God or people around you. Be natural. Be honest. Prayer should demonstrate our emotions; what we are going through. God is not offended by our emotions. We all battle with fear, lack of confidence, discouragement, frustration, anger, disappointments – these negative emotions will lodge in our heart from time to time, but as we cry out to the Father to help us, our hearts will be kept soft.
Hos 10:12…we are to break up unploughed ground of our heart/lives .
Unploughed means: ground that has been neglected, an area that’s become dry and arid. We can either put on a mask or be honest with the Father and seek that fresh rain to soften our hearts.We are to Ask
(your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him)
Jesus didn’t think prayers or just meditate. Jesus verbalised his prayer. Jn 17 we have insight into how Jesus asked in prayer.
- He prays for Himself
- He prays for His immediate followers
- He prays for His yet-to-be followers
- Pray for yourself.
Everyday as you start out the day present yourself to the Father. Ask for wisdom, for needs to be met (daily bread), not just thinking it.
EXAMPLE: “Father, I surrender every aspect of myself to you: my mental faculties, my conversation, my intentions & desires. By your spirit guide me into all truth, keep me in step with you all day, let me see what you see, let me hear what you hear, let me feel what you are feeling, let me speak what you want me to speak. Ask for the ability to pre-empt schemes of the enemy, temptations. Ask for spiritual senses to be developed, for opportunities to use spiritual gifts, to be a blessing to someone.
One of the frequent questions people have is “How do I know what the will of God is”? The starting place to get acquainted with the will of God is to get a working knowledge of His Word. Naturally many situations we pray for, like healing, is a mystery. Maybe someone you prayed for didn’t recover - don’t let that circumvent your prayer life. Keep praying in faith, not by your mystery. Don’t let that fear hold you from holding out the power of God’s word towards a particular situation. Get the Word in you. Based on your working knowledge of His Word, pray it.
- Pray for others around you. Lk 11:5-8 (asking, seeking, knocking)
As we see someone else’s need, we ask on their behalf. Develop an attitude of prayer on behalf of others. It’s a very rewarding prayer adventure especially when their lives change and they grow in their faith because someone prays for them. Begin to shoot ARROW prayers. Release your prayers liberally. You may be watering someone’s life, you may be intervening in someone’s life, you may be partnering with God to set into motion something of His will in their lives.
- Pray for the wider community/the nation.
1 Tim 2:1-3 pray for everyone, for kings, & all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. We have a responsibility to pray for those in authority. Pray for uprightness, wisdom, discernment upon those in power.
We can invite God’s light into places under darkness, pray for strongholds to be dismantled. Let there be an entry of divine life, break that evil power behind situations & family dysfunction.
You could be saying what can my puny little prayers do? We are to focus on the mightiness of God’s ability not our ability. In the book of Acts, God used a concerted prayer meeting to bring about miracles. Prayer of one person has tremendous power and the prayer of many in agreement releases a multiplied effect, like a river, a mighty force of God’s power flows into that situation to establish His will and purpose. Tide turns as we pray.
We can pray in agreement in our: All church prayer, Small groups praying, Pre-celebration service prayer, Celebration prayer teams.
We are to pray with fervency at all times. Jm 5:16 the prayer of a righteous person releases tremendous power. Prayer is powerful because it transcends time & geographical boundaries. Whenever we pray we certainly establish something of God’s power upon our own life, upon the lives of others. We carry an atmosphere of faith. Discernment, wisdom and strength becomes evident in our lives as we pray.Sample Discussion Questions
- How is your relationship with God? Do you see Him as your Father or a distant deity?
- Do you make time to pray for yourself, for others, for the wider community/nation?
- What will it take for you to increase your praying in 2008?
- Is there an area of your life that you feel is unploughed/neglected?
- Have you considered inviting the Holy Spirit to give you a spiritual language to pray (Rom8:26)?