Category Archives: Pray

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today we will finish our look at the proper types of prayer that we must have.

Praising Prayer

Psa 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Praising prayer is key in our relationship to God. Psalms tells us that when we enter into the gates of Heaven we must do it bearing thanks to God for all He has done for us and all He will do for us. Why were we created? Revelation 4:11 tells us that we were created for the pleasure of God. So why does God answer our prayers and give us all “good and perfect gifts”? God does everything good for us because He loves us and, like any parent, wants His children to be grateful for the things that He does for us. When God answers our prayers He is looking for us to acknowledge Him, to praise and thank Him for the answer. He wants us to acknowledge Him to other Christians for their encouragement, and to the unsaved, so that they will see that He does care for His people.

Persistent Prayer

Luk 11:5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? 7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. 8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

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 Bible word for persistence is “importunity”. The story that Luke gives us is of a man in need that goes to his friend to meet that need but His friend does not meet the need right away. The man, Jesus said, would not meet the need because it was his friend asking but he would meet the need because the man would not leave him alone. What Jesus was teaching is that we need to be persistent when we pray. The motto of the youth group at the church I used to attend is PUSH “Pray Until Something Happens”. We persist in prayer, not because God hates us and is bothered by us making requests, we persist in prayer to prove to God and ourselves that we really are serious about the thing that we are asking for. We can say that a relatives salvation is very important to us, but if you only pray for them once or twice how important to you is it really?

Petitioning Prayer

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. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Dr. Jack Schaap once said: “We do not pray specifically to ask for things, we pray to acknowledge the One who gives us all things.” I believe that statement is very true. God already knows are needs, even before we ask Him, but still Jesus told us to ask God to provide our “daily bread”. When we come to God petitioning Him, asking Him to meet our needs we are not informing God, we are demonstrating to God that we know that He is the one that give those things to us. We ask Him as a sign of humility and acknowledgement, the same reason that we give tithe. James says that the reason that we don’t have is because we don’t ask for it.

Prayer

Introduction

For the past two weeks we have been looking at the things that we must do when we come to God in prayer. For this last day in this series we will look at the things that God has promised to do for us when we pray to Him.

Bible Reading

Luk 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

1Jo 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

Promises NOT from God

Some people believe that the promises that God gives us in His Word for prayer mean that He must give us everything that we pray for. Most, if not all of us have heard the “name it and claim it” preachers on TV. They tell millions of people that all they have to do tell God that they want something and believe that they are going to get it and God will give it to them. (“If you want that Ferrari just tell God and He will give it to you!”). If they really believed that was true, why do they have to have their viewers send in the “largest check you can write”. Why can’t they just tell God that they want a new custom Gulfstream jet, and just wait for it to come their way? They can’t because they know that is not how God works, they just want to convince their viewers that it is so the viewers will send them all of their money. God is not obligated to answer your prayers because you are a good or nice person. He is not bound to grant you the things that you ask for. God is only obligated to keep His own Word.

The True Promises from God

The question is then, “What does His Word say?” First, let us look at Luke 11. In Jesus’ promise that God will answer our prayers He uses the illustration of a son asking a father for some food. In the illustration Jesus does not say that the father gives the son what he asks for because he was a wonderful or good son, Jesus says that the father gives the son what he asks for because he is a good father. So too, God does not give us the things that we pray for because we are good people and we deserve them, He gives us the things that we pray for because He is a good God. So what is the balance of this idea?

Does that mean we can be horrible, unkind, wretched people and God will give us everything that we ask for? Absolutely Not! Pro 21:13 says: “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

Passages assuring of that God will answer our prayers must be understood by comparing Scripture with Scripture and understanding them in the light of verses like John 15:7 and I John 3:22. By reading and truly understanding these passages, we understand that God is not giving us a blanket promise to give us anything, anytime, anywhere we ask. We must understand that as we live in Christ and read the Bible, doing the things that He teaches us we will start to desire for our lives the things that God wants for us and as we desire the things that He wants for us we will ask Him for the things that He already wants to give us. Additionally, as we do the things that God asks and tells us to do we please Him and He will be happy to give us things that we want. Looking back to the passage in Luke we understand this in the light of the father/son relationship. When your children disobey and ignore the things that you tell them to do are you inclined to give them gifts that they ask you for? (“No! Dad, I won’t clean up my room, but can I have an X-Box 360?”) We smile at the illustration, but we do the same thing to our Heavenly Father. We ignore the things that He tells us to do but then we want Him to bless us with gifts. So we must understand that as we read and do God’s Word and seek to please Him, He will seek to please us. It’s not that God is mean and evil, but He will not bless us in our disobedience.

What About You?

  • Are you keeping His commandments and doing the things that are pleasing to Him?
  • Are you spending time in God’s Word so that you can know what things God wants for you?
  • Are you ignoring the things that God tells you to do, but still expect Him to grant your every wish?
  • Thank You!

    I’d like to thank Nathan for getting our new year off to a good start with his insightful series on prayer. You can count on hearing more from Nathan as the year progresses.

    Keith Gardner