Prayer

Introduction

For the next two days we will be taking a look at the different types of prayer talked about in the Bible.

Public Prayer

Act 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We must be careful when talking about public prayer. There is a difference between the public prayer that the Pharisee demonstrated in Luke 18 and the public prayer that the Bible encourages in Acts and other places. The public prayer of the Pharisee was a prayer of arrogance. He was standing out in the street for the sole purpose of being seen by others and to be praised for being so spiritual. The public prayer that the Bible encourages is corporate prayer for the church body or other gatherings of believers. Public prayer is as essential to the health of the church body as private prayer is to an individual’s spiritual health. If our churches are to grow we must spend time together in prayer, praying for one another and for the church as a whole. It is essential that every church member gathers together as frequently as possible to engage in this uplifting corporate prayer.

Private Prayer

Mat 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Private prayer is the life of a Christian’s spirit. It is in this private prayer that a person fellowships and talks with God. Just as a husband and wife must have time that they spend alone in order to get close to each other, stay close to each other and keep from drifting apart, a Christian must have that personal time with God where he can get to know God and keep from drifting away from Him. I will guarantee that if you ask any backslidden Christian, if they are being honest, they will tell you that they have not had a real prayer life in quite some time. When we fail to pray we start to stray. Just as when a husband and wife stop communicating their relationship starts to suffer, a prayerless Christian’s relationship with God will most certainly begin to die.

Penitent Prayer

Luk 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Penitence in prayer is definitely lacking in our day. We read Hebrews 4:16, that we can come “Boldly before the throne of grace…”, and we use that as justification to come before God arrogantly demanding that our needs be met. We treat God like a genie in a bottle and we demand that he grants our every wish any time we call on him. We must come to God realizing that we are worthy of nothing short of an eternity in Hell, but God in his mercy and grace has given us, not only His son Jesus, but also “freely give(n) us all good things”. James 4:6 tells us that God resists the proud person. If you want God to hear and answer your prayer come to Him with a humble heart.

Priestly Prayer

Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Jam 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

In the Old Testament the priest came to God representing a person that had sinned and asking God to forgive that person from his sins. Priestly prayer is the idea of coming to God on behalf of someone else. In Galatians and James we see that we are to pray for each other for the good of the Christian body. When a person falls into deep sin James tells us that we should come before the Lord on His behalf asking the Lord to bring him to repentance.

Prayer

Introduction

Some people may see today’s discussion as a non-issue. “So what does it matter how I am positioned when I pray? Can’t God hear me just as well whether I am standing or sitting or laying in my bed?” Today’s lesson is really not about God’s ability to hear you, it is about your attitude when you come to Him. How many of you would, when going to visit the President would throw your feet up on his desk and kick back in your chair? “Hey what’s up G.B. haven’t talked to ya in a while!” No one would do that. Why? Because the President is in a position that demands respect. The problem is that many of us do the exact same thing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We lay in our beds or kick back in our seats and act as though we are doing God a favor by talking to Him. Now granted, there are many people that are very humble that do these things and they do not mean any disrespect to God when they pray. But are they being as respectful as they should be? Hopefully this lesson will help you to look into your own prayer life and see if you are showing God all the respect that He deserves. There are three main positions the Bible talks about that people used when coming before the Lord:

Standing

Mar 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

This was a very typical prayer position for the Jews. The Jews today still stand whenever they pray, except for twice a year. Usually though, when someone was standing it was either because the prayer was a prayer of praise to the Lord (typically the hands would have been raised) or they were very prideful (like the Pharisee in Matthew). Today this position is usually only used in public settings to make the person praying more visible and audible. Though some people will walk around as they pray claiming it helps them to focus.

Kneeling

Psa 95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.

Kneeling has always been a sign of respect. When someone would come before royalty they would always kneel to show that they recognize that they are lesser than the person that they are addressing. When we kneel before God we demonstrate our humility and realizing that God is our Creator and Sustainer.

Prostrate

Num 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

To be prostrate means to be lying on the ground on your face. Over and over in the Bible, when people came into the presence of the Lord, or the Angel of the Lord visited them they would throw themselves to the ground. In the book of Revelation, John the Baptist was taken into the presence of the Lord and he records that he “fell down as one dead”. So why would people do this? Is God so controlling that He would demand such a thing of His people? No, God never once demanded that an individual throw himself onto his face in order to worship the Lord. What we see in every one of these cases are people as they come closer to the Lord then they have ever been becoming more aware than ever of their own unworthiness. As we draw closer the brilliant light of God we become more and more aware of the filthiness in our own lives, this was what caused these people to fall on their faces before God.

To sum up today’s lesson. The position of your prayer really is more about your attitude than it is about your actual position. You may think that you are coming to God humbly when you recline back on your couch and pray but let me ask you to search your heart and see if you are really showing God the respect He is worthy of. Remember that as the many in the Bible came directly into God’s presence they were so overcome by it that they couldn’t even stand.

What about You?

  • Are you really coming humbly before God when you pray and you just like to kick back, or are you so far from the light of the presence of God that it doesn’t bother you?
  • Your position usually betrays your heart.

Prayer

Introduction

Editor’s note: Nathan had this devotion ready on time, but I neglected to post it. Sorry for the delay. KG

Today we will finish our look at some of the problems that we face when we pray.

Asking Sinfully

Our relationship with God is similar to a relationship between a father and a child. When a child disobeys a parent the parent does not hate him but he also does not shower him with gifts. When a child does wrong there is a break in the relationship that he shares with his Father and they cannot enjoy the closeness that they once enjoyed until the child comes and asks for forgiveness for the wrong that has been committed. The same is true with God. When we do wrong He does not hate us, but we can no longer have the closeness that we at one time enjoyed.

Psa 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

What David is saying here is that if he looked in his heart and saw iniquity or wickedness, he knew that the Lord would not hear his prayers.

2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

God says that one of the prerequisites for Him hearing us from Heaven is that we must first humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways. When we harbor sin in our hearts it causes a barrier between God and us.

1Sa 8:18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

God, through the prophet Samuel warned the people of Israel that, despite what they thought, they really did not want an earthly king. The people however, would not listen and demanded a king for themselves. God allowed them to have a king but he warned them that because of the sin of their hearts He would not listen when they prayed to have this king taken away.

Pell-Mel Prayers

There are passages in the Bible recording people praying both in hours long spans as well as seconds long brief prayers tossed up to God. Pell-Mell prayers means flying through a prayer without even really knowing what we are saying, just to say that we prayed (e.g. DearHnlyFathrThnkYoufrthisdayblessevryoneinJezznamen). Most of us have heard a person pray like this at one time or another or have even been guilty of it ourselves. We all have found ourselves at some point sitting down to read our Bibles and pray and started by asking God to bless the food. Every prayer does not have to be hours long but it should always be sincere.

Pointless Prayers

Mat 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Jesus was very clear in Matthew 6:7 that we are not supposed to mindlessly babble words, for the sake of saying the words. It is fine to pray for the same thing over and over until you get an answer (like the salvation of a loved one) but Jesus said don’t just say words to say them. Many people say this and refer only to the “Hail Mary” or “Our Father” prayers but it is possible to use vain repetition even in Modern English terms. Many of us do this when we pray about certain things, “…bless this food to our bodies…”. There is nothing wrong with asking the Lord to bless your food every time you eat, but are you asking because you really want Him to bless your food, or are you asking because that is what you are supposed to say before you eat? It’s OK to repeat your prayers, just make sure you are being sincere.

What About You?

  • Looking over the last two days are there things that you are doing that would be hindering a proper prayer life?
  • Be sure that you have a clean, unselfish heart when you pray and that your prayers are truly sincere.

Prayer

Introduction

For the next two days we will be looking at some of the problems that we face when we pray.

Not Asking

Mat 6:7 But when ye pray…

This one is pretty self-explanatory. When Jesus spoke He did not say, “But if ye pray” He said “…when ye pray.” There was an assumption in Jesus words – He assumed that we would pray. He did not suggest or command it here, He just assumed that it would happen.

Jam 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

James tells us that one of the main reasons that we don’t get what we want is because we don’t ask for it. He says that people fight and war and kill, all for the purpose of having stuff, but the lack that many people suffer boils down to the fact that they never bother to ask for it. People are mugged and robbed all the time, but the majority of people are generous enough that if a person expressed a genuine need to the public, most people would be happy to help them. Not asking for it is the only way to be absolutely sure that you don’t get it.

Asking Selfishly

Jam 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James says that another big reason that people do not get the things that they ask for is because they ask for them simply out of their own lust or jealousy. Praying to God is not rubbing a magic lamp and waiting for the genie to grant your three wishes. When we pray, we should be seeking the will of God for ourselves and for others, not just trying to get “stuff” for ourselves.

Prayer

Introduction

Today we are going to be look at the way in which Jesus taught us to pray.

Bible Reading

Matthew 6:5-15 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

The Pattern for Prayer

Jesus, while here on earth, gave us a pattern to use when we pray. Many people think of this as some kind of magic prayer, that if they say these words over and over that God will bless them simply for saying these words. Jesus was very clear in Matthew 6:7 that we are not supposed to mindlessly babble words, for the sake of saying the words. It is fine to pray for the same thing over and over until you get an answer (like the salvation of a loved one) but Jesus said don’t just say words to say them. Many people say this and refer only to the “Hail Mary” or “Our Father” prayers but it is possible to use vain repetition even in Modern English terms. Many of us do this when we pray about certain things, “…bless this food to our bodies…”. There is nothing wrong with asking the Lord to bless your food every time you eat, but are you asking because you really want Him to bless your food, or are you asking because that is what you are supposed to say before you eat? It’s OK to repeat your prayers, just make sure you are being sincere.

What About You?

  • When you pray are you following the pattern that Jesus laid out for us?
  • Are you allowing for each of the steps that Jesus gave to us when you pray (e.g. asking forgiveness, praising God, ect.)?

Prayer

Introduction

Yesterday we looked at the reason why we pray. Today we will be looking at how it is that we have the ability to pray.

Bible Reading

Leviticus 4:7 And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

The Power for Prayer

In the Old Testament tabernacle, worship at the altar of sweet incense represented the prayer of God’s children. Horns, all throughout the Bible represented authority or power. What we see is the priest taking the blood of the sacrificial lamb, a picture of Jesus shedding his blood for us, and applying the blood to the horns of the altar of incense. This act was demonstrating that the power that we have for prayer comes through the blood of the sacrificial lamb, Jesus.

We see also in Romans that the power for prayer comes through the help of the Holy Spirit. As we pray and seek the will of God, the Holy Spirit prays to God for us for wisdom and guidance even in our prayers.

What About You?

  • Do you look to the Holy Spirit for help as you pray?
  • Do you seek to know the will of God and the things that He would have you to pray for?

Prayer

I am very happy to have Nathan Gardner begin 2007 here at Progressive Devotions with a new series on prayer.

KAG

Introduction

This week ands next week we are going to be doing a study in prayer. We will be looking at many different aspects of what a true Christian prayer life should look like… and some things that it should not. Today we will be looking at the purposes of prayer and the reasons why we pray.

We Pray To Talk To Our Father

Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

When Jesus told us how we are to pray to God He told us to call him our Father. Of all the things that God is to us and could tell us to call Him he chose one of the closest most intimate relationships to liken our relationship to. Just like in our earthly relationships, if we are to know a person we must spend time with him or her. We come to know our earthly fathers by talking with him and listening to him. How can we know and please out Father, or become like his Son if we never talk to Him?

We Pray to Bring our Burdens to God.

1Pe 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

We are not designed to carry our burdens on our own; God wants to carry them with us.
We bring our burdens to Him, not to tell Him what they are, because he already knows. We tell Him to remind ourselves how much we need his strength.

Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Many times we get worn down and we can’t figure out why. We work and serve and try to do the things that we think the Lord wants for us to do, but we never bother to acknowledge Him or ask Him for His strength.

We Pray To Demonstrate To God Our Sincerity For The Thing About Which We Are Praying

Jam 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The effectual fervent prayer availeth much because God wants to see how important this matter really is to us. You can say that a relative’s salvation is important to you but if you never pray about it, how important is it really?

We Pray to Confess and Repent of Our Sins

Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We as children of God get to enjoy a relationship that millions have never experienced. When we sin however, we create a gap in that relationship, we break fellowship with God. We need to come to the Lord when we have done wrong and ask His forgiveness to restore the relationship that was broken when we sinned.

What About You?

  • Are you praying for the right reasons?
  • Or do you pray only when someone asks you to or because it’s the Christian thing to do?

Epilogue (6)

Introduction

Today, we’re going to look how to reach your God given goals and how to avoid being sidetracked.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 7:8) Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. (9) Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

Goals and Distractions

Solomon said that the end is better than the beginning. I don’t think he was being pessimistic here. You could paraphrase his thought this way: “Crossing the finish line is better than crossing the starting line.” When you think about it like that, it makes lots of sense. I think it ties in with what comes next.”

Crossing the finish line takes more than pride. It takes patience. Any work worth doing, any assignment from God, will have built in to it occassions where you’ll want to quit. In fact, all along this journey of the Christian life, you’ll need patience to experience God’s best for your life.

Heb 10:36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

1Pe 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

You’re a fool if you let anger settle into your heart. If you’re a hot head, you’ll be less likely to reach your God given goals.

What About You?

  • Do you have any idea what God’s goals are for your life?
  • Are you moving toward those goals?
  • Or are impatience and anger sidetracking you?

Epilogue (5)

Introduction

Today, we’re going to look at a curious verse that is one of my favorites from the book of Ecclesiastes.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 12:11) The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

The Impact and Source of Wise Words

God used Solomon to write many wise words. In today’s verse, he describes the impact and source of those words.

First, Solomon compared wise words to goads. A goad was a pointed stick, like a cattle prod, use to get livestock moving. Wise words are like that. They motivate people to get moving in the right direction. Like goads, they may also be pointed and painful.

Next, Solomon compared wise words to nails in the hand of a master carpenter. Like goads, nails are pointed, but that’s not the main idea here. Wise words are used to build something useful. They build people up. They help the lives of the listeners to be better.

Finally, Solomon told us where to get these wise words – from one Shepherd. The Lord is our Shepherd, and He is the One we can go to for the wisdom we need.

What About You?

  • Are you asking the Shepherd for wise words?
  • Do your words move people to action and build them up?

Epilogue (4)

Introduction

Today, we’ll continue our gleaning of some of the random verses in Ecclesiastes by looking at the topic of laziness.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 10:18) By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

(Ecc 11:4) He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

Laziness

Solomon noted that laziness leaves clues. Decay is inevitible. The diligent person acknowledges that fact and does what is needed to respond to it. The collapsing building is evidence that the sluggard is unwilling to do what is necessary to maintain what he has.

Solomon also notice how the slothful person is distracted. He pays attention to things that are unimportant. He makes excuses. As a result, he doesn’t do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Solomon made similar observations in Proverbs:

Pro 20:4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Pro 21:25 The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

What About You?

  • Do you see evidence in you life that you are slothful?
  • Do you get distracted and end up not doing what needs to be done?

Making Progress… Every Day.