|Posted on February 8, 2018 at 8:10 AM|
Photo by Ben White from Freely Photos.
Note: This encore post originally appeared on Totally Fit 4 Life’s website in 2014.It is based on the study, Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This is the second internal spiritual discipline, while meditation is the first. I fully believe that if we can discipline ourselves spiritually, the emotional, physical, and social aspects of our lives will certainly become more disciplined as well.
If you asked a group of Christians in a Bible study group what the most important thing we can do would be, the answer is a resounding, “PRAY!” It certainly sounds good since we know that is the right answer. But do we really understand it? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Hopefully, you can understand that this is not a subject which I can tritely pop up as a blog post without prayerful consideration and heavenly guidance.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is the foundation of all spiritual disciplines. We can't practice any of them without direct communication with God. It is our spiritual umbilical cord to our Heavenly Father. Without His leading and direction, spiritual disciplines are simply empty religious rituals. It is within this relationship we reach up to Him from our inner most being to grasp His hand.
Prayer is an intimate connection to our Heavenly Father, God Almighty. Unfortunately, many Christians never become intimate with God well enough that they feel they can approach the throne of the King of Kings. As a result, they resort to KJV language or treat Him as less than Who He is. "God please help..." is a prayer common phrase. God is not our sidekick! Another common problem is to roll out a list of requests as if He were a genie in a bottle granting our wishes or Santa Claus giving us what we want. Churches often fail to teach Christians what prayer is and how to pray. When we pray, we should consider the Majesty and Character of God, realizing we are His children with whom He loves to spend time. However, praying, "Yo, Daddy God!" as an inner city brother in Christ I once knew prayed is not a place to stay either. Although we may start out in the manners described above, we should grow more and more in our relationship with Him and our understanding of Him, with our prayers reflecting this spiritual growth in our relationship with Him.
Prayer is not a duty we must rotely perform to gain Heavenly favor. "Now I lay me down to sleep..." was fine when we were children. It certainly was a great teaching tool. But should we continue in a similar manner? If we listen to ourselves pray, we might be surprised that we reiterate the same words over and over. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, the Lord's Prayer was never intended to be recited robotically. It was a basic format for us to understand what is important in prayer. Sometimes people use the praying scripture concept to replace their own prayers. That method was never intended to be rote prayer either, although praying Scripture back to God is a valuable way to pray. Prayer comes from an internal compulsion or desire to converse with God in this love relationship.
We mature in our faith when we listen more and observe God's responses. God invites us into His work through prayer for others. He wants us and those around us to grow closer to Him as we see Him work through our prayers. It is not our prayers that truly do anything, for we can't do anything apart from Him. It is not telepathically doing anything for someone to change or to get well. Rather it is God doing the work and we are to give Him the full credit due His Name. When we do so, we point others to the One who saves.
When we understand God’s will, we know better how to pray. God's will is quite clear in Scripture, yet we neglect to pray in His will out of our lack of understanding in how to do so. Often we expect a certain outcome from our prayers finding ourselves frustrated, angry that God didn't listen. "Why did He let my father die?" or "Why didn't I get the job I asked for?" Because of our lack of understanding of what it means to pray within God's will, we form these sorts of attitudes. Death is the final healing. Why would we want to deny a loved one who knows Jesus as their Savior the privilege to be in His eternal presence in a perfect spiritual body? It is because we don't like loss. We don't want to miss someone we love. Instead, we pray in our own will. Also, remember sometimes God gives us what we ask for to help us understand that He has something much better in store for us. We need to be careful what we ask God for because He just might give it to us! When we see the contrast, then we better understand our need to seek Him out in accordance with His will.
Prayer is our spiritual shield against Satan’s onslaught of attacks. Once you grasp the essence of prayer, you will likely feel under attack. It is because you are. Satan doesn't want us closer to God. He certainly doesn’t want to lose the battle for our souls because he already lost the Heavenly war. Remember that he wanted to take God's place because he thought he was better. But Satan, a created-angel-turned- demon, tries to hurt us, discourage us, and lure us away. Don't be surprised by this. Instead, cling to God. Resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7). Also remember that spiritual leaders like pastors, evangelists, missionaries and Bible teachers are constantly under Satan's attack. They need you to cover them in prayer, to be their spiritual shield-bearers. It is the very best thing you can do for them. I’ve also been under some spiritual attacks while pulling this blog post together. I’m also no stranger to this sort of thing as a former pastor's wife and spiritual leader in a Christian martial arts ministry. Remember that Satan was defeated on the Cross when Christ died and rose again. As a believer in Christ, use the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God on your knees in battle. It is the only way to win the battles he brings your way.
Where do we start to understand what God expects of us in Prayer?
Start in God's Word. Look up these verses:
You can look up more about prayer by using a Bible Subject Search or a Concordance or go to Bible Study Tools.com or Biblegateway.com.
How to Begin Your Prayer Closet Moments
Begin in a place that is quiet at a time when it is best suited to do so. If you need to, set a reminder for yourself to prepare and begin. Your space should be simple and quiet, tucked away from noise and distraction (Matthew 6:5-6).
Always reflect on His nature and His works then share that with Him. Always keep in mind Who is God and who is not. He is not a heavenly Santa Claus to whom we bring our wish list. This helps us stay focused on who God truly is. Praise Him and give thanks to Him for who He is (1 Chronicles 16:34).
Keep a journal of what you share with Him and how He responds. When you hear from Him, which eventually you will recognize His voice, write down His responses to you (John 10:27). Write down what happens to the prayer requests you have. If an answer isn't what you expected, ask Him about it. Eventually you will either have a peace about it or He will share why He answered the way He did.
Consider Scripture passages He brings to you during this time. If a Scripture passage comes to mind, maybe you should echo it back to Him as He has a purpose in bringing it up to you. Find out what He wants you to do with it. Maybe it is for someone He wants you to share it with. Maybe it is only for you and for the situation you pray.
Confess any sin issues that may block your prayers. Feel like your prayers stopped at the ceiling? Ask Him to reveal what is in the way to you. He will show you what it is. You must make the changes in your life to remove the road block to your prayers (1 John 1:9).
Never forget to thank Him for what He has done and will do. Give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and what He has done for you (Psalm 118:1) Give Him proper credit for His work in your life and the lives of those around you (Psalm 29:2).
May you be blessed as you grow deeper in your relationship with God through prayer.
For further reading on the subject of prayer:
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
- Prayer by E.M. Bounds
- Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by Charles F. Stanley
- The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O Martian
- books on Prayer by C. Peter Wagner
- books on Prayer by Dutch Sheets
Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
Celebration of Discipline, Revised Edition by Richard J. Foster. Pp. 33-46. Copyright 1988 by Richard J. Foster. Harper Publishing Company, San Francisco.