Friday, January 6, 2012

By Way of Prayer

I have recently read a couple of books on prayer and have been contemplating my own prayer life in light of what the Bible teaches. It is interesting to note that Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach but He did teach them how to pray. Prayer is the means that God Himself has instituted to perform the will of heaven on earth. How it all works is hard to really put your finger on exactly just like so many other spiritual realities, but nonetheless, we can be assured that when we pray angels and demons are moved into action.

But why does it seem that so often our prayers never reach higher than the ceiling? I think James 5:16 provides a clue, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” The key word being “righteous.” Our prayers are only as effective as our life is holy and obedient to God. Of course, Jesus tells that if we put His kingdom first than all things will be added unto us. The Apostle John echoes this same sentiment when He tells us in his first epistle, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

Do you see a pattern emerging? If our prayers are to be heard then they need to be according to the will of God which is only possible if we are abiding in Christ. In other words, God is not obligated to answer any prayer from anyone who is not following His commands. I would also go one step further and add that if we are not following Christ then it is impossible for us to even ask the Lord for the right things in our lives or the lives of others. And I believe this point is paramount. Many of the prayers in the Bible are intercessory in nature. The praying person is praying for someone else. Abraham prayed for Lot and spared him from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses prayed for the people of Israel after they had erected the golden the calf and the Lord spared their lives because of Moses petition.

Our prayer life becomes strangely void of self the closer we are to God because he lays His will on our hearts. This is not to say that we are not to pray for ourselves as the Lord tells us to bring all our cares to Him but I have found in my own walk that the closer I am to the Lord the things that burden the Lord’s heart become my prayers. So often in mid-sentence my prayer will change as the Holy Spirit prompts the prayer that is most needful.

The Bible also admonishes us to prayer fervently and unceasingly. Prayer is to be the central focus of lives as believers. We see this in Acts chapter 6 when the church was in its infancy and it was brought to the apostles attention that the widows were being neglected. The apostles called the other disciples and told them to appoint seven men to help minister to the widows so they could give themselves completely to the ministry of the Word and prayer. Right here we see the importance of prayer as the apostles understood that it was critical that they did not neglect this area as the power of God over the church was at stake.

We seem to have lost this sense of urgency regarding prayer in today’s churches. I am not sure if it is because we do not believe in the power of prayer as much anymore or if it is because we have gotten too busy with life or even the ministry. It is critical that we get back to constant communion with God. I know it is something I want to be a focus in 2012. I hope it is for you as well.
"Prayer strikes the winning blow; service is simply picking up the pieces." - S.D. Gordon

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