WHAT IS PRAYER ?
Like oxygen to the body, prayer is vital to the soul. The body cannot exist without oxygen, and the soul cannot survive without prayer. Prayer is more than a privilege. It is a necessity.
"...the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much..."
Many Christians have come to the false idea that prayer is only a form or ritual. Somehow they have come to think that God does not really hear prayers of most people. However, God does hear prayer. It is His nature to listen to every word of our prayers.
"O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come..."
God is eager to hear our prayers. He heard:
Elijah when he prayed for it to cease raining, and later for it to rain...
Daniel when he prayed for help in the lion's den...
The three Hebrew children as they went into the fiery furnace...
The thief on the cross as he asked for mercy...
The Publican who asked for mercy near the temple...
The church as it prayed for Peter to be released from prison...
Abraham when he prayed for souls to be spared from Sodom...
Eliezer when he sought a bride for Isaac...
Hannah when she prayed for a son...
Solomon when he prayed for wisdom...
Peter when he sank into the waves...
Blind Bartimaeus when he wanted his sight...
We can have confidence that God will hear our prayers.
I John 5:14-15
"...if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us: And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him..."
"...if any man be a worshipper of God and doeth His will, him He heareth..."
"The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous..."
The angel said to Hagar:
"the Lord hath heard thy affliction..."
"the Lord hath heard that I was hated..."
Of Israel in the bondage of Egypt:
Ex. 2:24, 6:5
"God heard their groaning..."
When Israel began worrying over the source of food in the wilderness:
"I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel..."
When the widow's son died, Elijah prayed, and:
I Kings 17:22
"the Lord heard the voice of Elijah..."
"The righteous cry and the Lord heareth..."
"The Lord heareth the poor..."
So, shall we learn to pray? The disciples often saw Jesus pray to the Father. The were amazed by His prayer life. Finally, they came to Him and said:
"...teach us to pray..."
The Christians of the last days had better learn to pray. We live in the "perilous times" about which the Bible warned us. We had better keep in communication with the Almighty God in these dangerous times.
"...men ought always to pray...when He cometh, shall He find faith on the earth...?
A lack of prayer causes a lack of spiritual power. Therefore it is sin. We are all encouraged to pray, yet - we are all guilty of not praying enough. This grieves the Holy spirit.
Many are afraid to venture a promise to pray more. They feel that they will be unable to maintain a great prayer life. God can save us from all sins, and the sin of prayerlessness is one that He can save us.
Prayerlessness shows a lack of faith. Lack of prayer comes because people do not believe that God cares and loves. If we truly believe that God loves us, and wants us to ask Him for our needs to be supplied, and that He longingly desires to commune with us... why don't we pray???
Many don't want to call prayerlessness - "sin." Our Consciences make us to feel miserable, if we call it "sin." But it is sin, because it is a reproach to God. God has invited us to pray. He has told us to tell Him our needs and desires. He created us for fellowship. He redeemed us to restore that fellowship. Prayerlessness is neglecting this heavenly privilege.
Prayerlessness is the cause of the deficient spiritual life of many. To neglect prayer causes a Christian to get weaker spiritually.
Prayerlessness damages the church's gatherings. God is waiting to hear our prayers so He can give and bless. Souls are not being converted in worship services as they should, because of prayerlessness. The worship services need an atmosphere of fervent prayer.
There are two ways of living. We may live after the flesh... or we may crucify the flesh and live after the spirit. The flesh wars against the spirit's desire for us to pray. The devil will aid the fleshly desire to not pray. He will tempt us to keep postponing prayer. He will encourage wandering thoughts. He will bring distractions. He will try to instigate unbelief. He will stimulate hopelessness.
We are commanded to pray.
I Thessalonians 5:17
"Pray without ceasing."
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit."
I Timothy 2:8
"I would that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting."
God has a controversy with many Christians today. They will not pray to Him as commanded.
"And there is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee."
How do we fight prayerlessness? First, we must learn to abide in the relationship with Jesus that we received at salvation. Resolution to pray more is not enough. Efforts of self will not be sufficient. We must learn to live in His presence. We must keep our relationship current, and then prayer will be natural and easy.
Many try some wrong methods. Some will try to pray by the clock. They will measure prayer by time. Efforts are made to spend more and more time in prayer. These ones will often try formulas, regimented times, different positions, etc. These are all futile. The key is relationship. As we come into His presence, we can easily cast our cares at His feet.
Since Christ wants a right relationship, and offers it to us... prayerlessness is no problem for those who have that relationship. To pray without ceasing, is as easy as being a Christian without ceasing. If our spiritual life becomes defective, and the relationship with a loving Jesus is lost... prayerlessness will become one of our sins.
I John 1:9
"If we confess our sins..."
Since prayerlessness is a sin, sin should be repented. Many don't want to do this. They will confess the sin of temper, or of gossip, etc.- but they do not want to confess the sin of prayerlessness. However, if we confess the sin of prayerlessness, He will be "faithful and just" to restore unto us a relationship that will make prayer to be natural.
Don't measure your prayer life by the list of answered prayers. We are never instructed in Scripture to do that. Answers to prayer will come. The goal of prayer is the maintenance of a relationship. This is what we are to seek. We are told to:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you..."
When our desire is the continued relationship with the Lord, He will see that we have all the answers to prayer. If we ask with the lusts of the flesh seeking only to receive from the Giver, instead of to receive the Giver... we will displease the Lord.
"Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts..."
The church of these days is too often so wrapped up in theological indiscretions that they are missing the simple truths of prayer. Orthodoxy is trying to be so "sound" that they have become "sound asleep." Too many body churches and Christians are amidst a "deep frozen" religion. We need to get back to the simple truths of the gospel message. One of these is the relationship nature of the Christian faith. This makes prayer so easy.
I Peter 2:5,9
"...a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ...Ye are a chosen generation... that ye should show forth the praises of Him that called you out of darkness into marvelous light..."
The Christian that fails to have a relationship-based prayer life is failing to live up to his called vocation. Like Martha, we can be so distracted with the Christian serving, that we neglect the sitting at the feet of our Lord as did Mary. Do you get so busy with church, home, job, etc. - that you neglect your prayer and worship? There is a better way. Martha needed a gentle rebuke by the Lord, and so do many today.
True prayer and worship may begin with a heaviness and a burden from the experiences of life. Yet, if we continue in pouring out our hearts and hurts to a loving Savior, we will find our real joy and purpose in prayer.
Sometimes God wants us to do our praying corporately.
"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together."
God wants the body church to worship together. We need to worship as a body of believers. But our prayer life should not be totally there. Jesus often departed to be alone with God. We are told to retire to a "prayer closet" to pray alone with the Lord. We need to find places where we are uninterrupted by others and talk personally with our Savior. He longs for these intimate times.
This finding of times to be alone with the Lord, is the hardest of things for many Christians to do. Most would rather give a public testimony, or pray before a huge crowd, or witness, or whatever... rather than to simply find a private place and on purpose talk to a hearing God. Many hate these times, because they must patiently "wait" on the Lord.
"Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart, wait, I say on the Lord."
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him..."
The "waiting" is the patient times of being alone with the One with Whom we have established the relationship at salvation. Waiting is difficult. However, there are promises given to those who wait...
"shall not be ashamed that wait on Me..."
It is shameful to not wait. So if we wait upon our Lord, He will see to it that we will not feel shame for our service and worship of Him. The devil may try to make us feel ashamed of things, but a supernatural peace that passes understanding will be upon those who wait on the Lord.
INHERIT THE EARTH
"those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."
If we find times to patiently talk to our Lord and Savior, we will find that blessings will come to us. He will cause the things of the earth to come to us as our inheritance.
"they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength..."
People get weak, depressed, tired, bored... but when they begin to speak with the Lord in the quiet times in their prayer closets, they will find a renewal of strength come to them.
"...the Lord is good to them that wait for Him..."
The Lord is so desirous for us to have a quiet, relationship-oriented prayer life with Him, that He has promised to bring good things to them that will heed His desire. "All things will work together for good" to the Christians who "love God" and are in His will (Romans 8:28). We need to get into His will of praying to Him, of keeping a worshipful relationship with Him. Don't ever lose this relationship. It is hard at times. We will sometimes spend times weeping and crying before this Lord. We have times where we will tell Him things that we can tell no other. We will have Him tell us things that will surprise us. The times of weeping before Him may seem to be times that we would like to bypass, but they will become precious times.
"...mine eyes fail while I wait for my God..."
This Lord, with Whom we speak in our prayers, will answer and speak back to us. He will first of all speak to us through His written Word. The Holy Spirit will enlighten portions to us from the Word, and we will understand as never before. The preached-Word will also speak to us. We will enjoy Bible teachers and preachers as never before. Tongues and interpretation (or prophecy) will be a blessing in our corporate worship. Yet, beyond all those we will begin to hear the voice of the Lord. It may not be audible. It may be the "still small voice." Yet, inside of us, we will hear Him speak a message of love, comfort, and edification.
Has the Spirit of God spoken to you today? Yes, He has!!! You may not have heard Him, but He has spoken. He was sent from heaven by our Lord, and He was sent to be our "Comforter." If He hasn't comforted you, He isn't doing His job. He has been speaking words of comfort. But many are tuned to another channel. We need to learn how to tune in to this Spirit of God Who is speaking to us. Prayer is not meant to be a one-way conversation.
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
The Spirit will speak to you whatever He hears the Lord Jesus and God speak concerning you.
"...whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak..."
Learn to read the Written Word of God, and listen to the preached Word of God, and then quietly listen to the spoken Word of God to your heart. It is being spoken. When you have the Written Word and the preached Word in you, you will begin to hear the spoken Word...
II Corinthians 13:14
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."