Bible Lesson 119

PRAYER

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“Did any of you, parents, ever hear your child wake from sleep with some panic fear and shriek the mother’s name through the darkness’ Was not that a more powerful appeal than all words’ And, depend upon it, that the soul which cries aloud on God, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” though it have “no language but a cry,” will never call in vain.” Alexander MacLaren

In this lesson, we will open the Word of God, the Bible, and seek God’s face, and will for us, concerning prayer. First, let’s make sure that we all understand what prayer is. Prayer, in the simplest terms, is speaking to God about things that are important to us.

We cannot call it a conversation in the sense of how we normally converse with anyone else; because God is Spirit and His throne is in heaven. God knows what we say, even before we know that we are going to say it (Psalms 44:21; Psalms 94:11). That does not mean that God does not want to hear from His creatures, on the contrary, God desires to hear from those who know Him through His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ (1st Peter 3:12).

We need to clearly understand here and now that Prayer is for the people who have been redeemed by Christ and adopted by The Father. We dare not make the mistake that the visible church has compounded over the past decades, and that is that they have muddied the waters concerning the saved and the lost.

Prayer is many things to the truly saved person, first, it is a duty, second, it is a privilege, and third, it is a blessing. Just imagine, the creature, which has lost the ability to even communicate with God on any level, being able to boldly come into the presence of the Creator, to petition, to ask, to seek, and praise the One who is overall. Someone has said, “Prayer is the preface to the book of Christian living, the text of the new life sermon, the girding on of the armor for battle, the pilgrim’s preparation for his journey; and it must be supplemented by action or it amounts to nothing.” Prayer is a special language between every child of God and His God, and we can feel secure in baring our hearts as we use language that we would normally use in speaking to our earthly father or mother.

I have noticed that many of us use language in our public prayers that seem stilted or strained, but, remember, when we become to glib in prayer, it is highly probable that we are simply talking to ourselves. When we speak to someone that we love, we want that conversation to be between ourselves and the person that we love, and that applies especially to our prayers. Since prayer is a ‘family’ conversation, a child to its father, we normally would want to be alone when we pray; however, we have to know that public prayer is acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

Public prayer, just as everything that God ordains for His children, has been set in brackets so to speak. When we pray in public, we must not attempt to impress those who hear our prayer. We never are to pray in some unknown language (1st Corinthians 14:11-16). We are not to pray as the Scribes prayed, as they, for a pretense made long prayers (Mark 12:38-40). We are not to pray so as to be seen or heard by others, because that makes us hypocrites (Matthew 6:5-8).

We have nothing to brag about to God, since God is Sovereign in everything, so never pray like the Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not like other men’.extortionist, unjust, adulterers, or even like the tax-collector who stood nearby. He bragged to God that he fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all that he possessed’but the Tax-collector, beat upon his breast and said “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” We will talk more later in this lesson about prayers that God does not hear, but you can bet that God did not hear the Pharisee’s prayer (Luke 18:10-14).

This might be a good time to deal with the question of “Whose prayers does God hear'” We are perfectly safe and supported by the Bible when we say that God hears the prayers of those who are His children, so now the question becomes, who are the children of God’ The child of God is that new creature that comes forth from the new birth or that birth from above. That creature can be said to be saved, born again, and obedient to Christ. We are told that even, that creature, will not have his/her prayer heard when they are in some unrepented sin (Isaiah 59:1:2; John 9:31; John 15:1-7; John 14:12-14; John 16:23; 1st John 2:14). The easiest thing for us to remember before we approach the throne of Grace is that repentance (turning from sin to God) is always required before prayer.

Like most everything else connected to the church of our day, we have played fast and loose with prayer. We dispense prayer as the medicine that is required to gain anything that we desire from God. We dispense it without any preconditions and we dispense it to sinners and saints alike. If some drunk or drug addict bumps into us on the street we immediately prescribe for him a dose of prayer. We tell them that they need to pray about their condition and we fail to tell them about the only way for anyone to have a prayer heard, and that is they must first have been or are being plunged beneath that fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. Prayer, at least what we call prayer is a Christian virtue and only those who know Christ in that intimate relationship that we call salvation can truly practice that virtue. It takes a born again creature (Created by God, in Christ), who is living in newness of life and obedient to all that we know Christ has said we would do. The virtue of prayer is not something that can be wrested from God, it is a duty given to His Children who are bought by the blood of Christ. Further than that, God has prescribed how even His adopted children must handle prayer (Matthew 6:5-8; Ecclesiastes 5:2;).

God is concerned about the prayers of His children and so God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us in our prayers. We are creatures and in prayer are speaking to God, which must never be careless or foolish; and so God gives us the Holy Spirit the moment that we are saved, to lead, teach and strengthen us, and He makes intercession for us when we reach our limits and cannot know what or how to pray for certain conditions (Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:17-20; Hebrews 4:12). We must always remind ourselves that prayer is not like a raffle or a crap-shoot, instead when we pray we must always pray for the will of God to be done in every situation (1st John 5:14; Matthew 6:10; Luke 22:42; Romans 12:2). True Christians are not of the mindset that they can name and claim anything from their Creator. We know intellectually and by the moving of the Holy Spirit what we should pray for and what we should ask God for. We, who walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, will never pray for a diamond ring or a pink Cadillac or things that the world and the worldly would desire. Our aspirations are always higher than the worlds and we pray for things that we need to use in our service for God (James 4:4-10).I think that the Bible would advise us to be careful how we advise those in need of prayer.

There is no prayer heard that does not come from a person that has saving faith, all others have no greater need than the need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That requires a work of God in their lives so do not walk about handing out what sounds like ‘get out of jail free’ cards, by telling those who need to know about and know personally, Jesus Christ. Tell them about the gospel of good news, point them to Jesus Christ and walk with them long enough that they can know the truth. It is the truth that sets people free, it is not comforting words or platitudes. A person who is not walking daily with God, in Christ, is wasting their breath by praying so instead of advising them to pray about their condition, or problem, tell them about our Wonderful Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

We said earlier that God gives His children a duty to pray, and so He does, and God expects that we will pray (Mathew 6:5-9: Luke 18:1; Luke 11:5-13). We are also instructed by Christ that our prayers are to be lifted in His name, just as He prayed while here on the earth (John 14:13). We are advised that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us when we have reached a point that we do not know how or what to pray. The Bible tells us that it is the Spirit Himself that makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). That again, reminds us that only those who are saved and indwelled by the Holy Spirit can have a prayer heard (Ephesians 1:13). Those who are truly saved, born again and obedient are people who are devoted to God and His purposes, so we must devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2).

We are commanded to pray without ceasing; and that continual attitude of prayer enhances our relationship with God. We are always on speaking terms and on a conversational level with our Creator God (1st Thessalonians 5:17).If you are wondering what I mean by an attitude of prayer, I mean, that our inner man is always focused upon God and what God wants from us as He allows us to live here on the earth. We certainly cannot go about with our eyes closed or head bowed, or on our knees; however our heart and our mind can always be open and attentive to what God’s will for us is. Those who are born again, know for certain that they can do nothing productive unless they are doing what they do to honor God and as if they were doing it for God (Ecclesiastes 9:10;Colossians 3:17; Colossians 3:1-2). The great church reformer Martin Luther had this to say about prayer’.”As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” Certainly it makes no sense for us who can do nothing without Christ, those who gain our strength from Christ, to attempt to live or glorify God without prayer (Philippians 4:13). It is always a good exercise for Christians to examine themselves according to God’s Word, the Bible (2nd Corinthians 13:5). With that in mind we should ask ourselves about our prayer life. In setting down this commentary or lesson about prayer, I can certainly see where mine falls short of what it should be, so I will pray and ask God to bring me back on track in order to adjust my prayer life and I pray that you who read this will do the same.

Prayer is a signal or a sign of conversion; and we can look at Saul of Tarsus, after his Damascus road experience with the risen Christ and we find in Acts 9:11 that the Lord spoke to Ananias and told him to go to the street called straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold he is praying. If you remember the account of that Damascus road experience, God had struck Paul blind and given him his duty that he was to perform. Paul who at one moment was full of rage at this new movement called Christianity, was on his way with warrants from the Jewish religious hierarchy to arrest those who were followers of the way, and now he will turn out to be the main architect or at least the greatest preacher in the furtherance of their cause. John Calvin said this, “To pray rightly is a rare gift, ‘”The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26. Calvin continues “God gives us the Spirit as our teacher in prayer, who arouses in us assurance, desires, and sighs of prayer.” He viewed faith as the mother of prayer.

Let’s understand and agree right here and right now, that prayer is not a tool that we use to cause God to look favorably upon us. Prayer is the way that God gives us to thank Him, to praise Him, to ask him for things that we know He has said that He will do for us, and to petition Him for others. Every prayer should begin with praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings to us in every day. What we have to learn is that we should never take God for granted. If we wake up in the morning, we have that to thank and praise God for because He has granted us another day and life to live it. It was interesting this morning as I watched the news on T.V. to see that one of the first miners brought up from being trapped below ground there in Chili for many days, had this to say, “God was with me’.the devil had me’ but God took my hand.”

That’s a prayer or a blessing that we can all take hold of, because when we were born the devil had us all, but for those of us who sought after God, He has taken our hand and brought us out of darkness into the blessed light of His love. As we said before prayer is to always be thanksgiving to God, so ask yourself right now, what do you have to be thankful to God for’ Is your life free and without pain or sorrow’ Then thank God for that! Did you wake up with pain and sorrow and trouble this morning’ Then thank God for that, at least the fact that God gave you life to live and strive to do better today than you did yesterday. All too often, we have all been so blessed by God that we think that anything that causes us any trouble or grief is a curse sent by God. No, God is not that kind of God, whenever God allows us to have pain or grief, it is to either give us cause to examine our lives and make a change or else it is to teach us patience. Many times we see blessings from God as curses and often we see curses as blessings. I use the term curses in place of trouble or grief, because God never curses His children. God gives gifts to all of his creatures and in His providence He provides what they need; however God blesses His Children, and gives them things that causes them to see that they should be happy because their names are written down in heaven.

Prayer is a gift from God that allows those who are saved to connect to God and it seems to soften our hearts and focus our minds on the most important person we can know, and that is our Creator God. There are all kinds of prayers but they all are generated from man’s need for God and for affirmation that He is always there for us. There are several types of prayers or classification of prayers and we will mention several of them in our lesson. Not that I think that it is important as long as we are people of faith praying in faith and our prayers are from a pure heart. There is a prayer of adoration, in which we center on God and His eternal character. We should be familiar enough with God’s Word, the Bible to be able to thank Him for all of His glorious and gracious ways with us as His children. Then there is the prayer of penitence, where we seek God’s forgiveness for some sin in our life as we turn away from that sin, (David’s prayer in Psalms 51).

There is the prayer of Thanksgiving in which we give thanks for God’s gifts to us including the gift of prayer. Then there is the prayer of intercession, in which we lift upon friends or acquaintances who are in need of God’s help in some situation. Normally we will touch on at least some and perhaps all of these kinds of prayers, in all of our prayers. Most nights after I go to bed, I find a minute or two to ask God to bless my family and keep them safe and then my mind just rolls over to that short little pray that is actually a Hymn, that says “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul, Thank you, Lord, for making me whole; Thank you, Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.” I can think of no sweeter prayer to me and I believe it glorifies God and His Grace when I pray that as my prayer of the day so to speak. We have so much to thank God for in every day that perhaps we should always close our day with that prayer that thanks God for saving our soul. We did not deserve it but He gave it to us freely; however it cost Him the blood and humiliation and death of His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. Our prayers should always be filled first and foremost with praise and thanksgiving for God’s grace toward us. We owe God our praise for His majesty, His glory, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His power, His wisdom, His provision, and His forgiveness and cleansing of our sin.

One thing that will help us when we pray would be to forget all of the things that we have heard others pray, that we tend to use in our own prayers. We are all too easily led to copy prayers of others, who have copied prayers of others, who have copied prayers of others. Do you suppose that God would not be glorified by some simple, heart-felt, prayer from the heart of one who is speaking the truth in love’ We are, pretty much, unconcerned about what God thinks about our prayers. We mumble something that we think would be appropriate for the occasion, and usually we are more concerned about what those around us will think of our prayer, than we are about whether God will accept it. I truly believe that God hears a lot of things that we call prayers; but because He knows our hearts and our intent, He simply allows it to go by unattended by Him (Psalms 66:18). Perhaps we are too short on prayer, because we are so busy with the enchantments of the world that we just don’t take time for serious prayer, which always believes that God is and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Think about this: we wake up every morning with so much of the world to deal with that we don’t even think much about God. We jump into our clothes and dash out to work and we drive or ride with the ever present telephone in our ear until we get to work where we are busy doing what we are paid to do. Then in the afternoon we do the same thing in reverse. We might as well know that God will not play second fiddle to the world or to the things of the world. We must make time for the Lord to praise Him and give Him thanks for all the blessings He showers on us. That is why God gave us prayer! God will not excuse our not spending time on in-depth communication with Him every day. If you can afford to ignore God then I would have to question your salvation.

The Bible describes the positions of pray in many ways, for instance, in Ephesians 3:14, bending the knees is mentioned. In Psalms 5:3, the psalmist prays as he looks up. First Timothy 2:8, mentions lifting up holy hands; but I believe that the most important thing that is required in prayer is the yielding one’s self completely to identifying with God in praise and thanksgiving. In order to pray properly, we must move self aside and see God as our all in all. Prayer, when properly understood, is the Holy Spirit in the saved person reaching out and connecting with its source who is God the Father. Since prayer is something that we have been commanded to do, we should prepare ourselves to be better prayers so that we can more perfectly enjoy that great Christian virtue of prayer.

We need to study the Bible about prayer and learn how the Saints prayed about different situations. We know that God hears the prayers of His Children, knowing that we should constantly be asking, seeking, and knocking until we know that God has heard our thanks and praise, and our petitions and has answered them. It would be a good idea to list things that we are praying about and then mark them off as God answers them. God always answers the prayers of the righteous; however God does not answer them always in the way they are prayed. We, as God’s children, must pray according to His Will and sometime the answer to our prayer is yes, and this is what we always want to happen. But God’.sometimes answers our prayers with a no, because we have asked amiss, or asked for the wrong reason (James 4:1-4). Sometimes God answers with a, not now, or later. Sometimes when we pray we think we are praying for God’s will but we attempt to schedule the answer’.and our desire is that God answer our prayer right now. We do not think like God, we do not know His perfect plan for His creation, and we cannot foresee all things as God does. When you run into something like that ‘just keep on praying, keep on asking, and keep on knocking!

George Muller once said, “The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do no go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire anything for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it.” Now, unless I am sorely misguided, there are many today who have surrendered their lives to the “rat race” mentality and we have become so entangled in the world’s ugliness and grief that we actually think that we do not have time to pray as we should. We will apply worldly wisdom to everything except what God has commanded us to do. When the world began to notice how fat and overweight we were, they made recommendations and we followed them, at least for awhile. When the World noticed that cars were using more gas at 70 MPH than they did at 50 MPH, we adjusted the speed limits and on and on.

So why don’t we read our Bibles and follow God plan for our lives’ J.C. Ryle had this to say about prayer, “What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others’ I believe the difference, in nineteen out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.” Christ prayed often and it was because prayer was a discipline with Him. That being true, why is that we find it so hard to develop a discipline of prayer’ We are always careful to send thank you notes and make telephone calls to thank those who have perhaps, simply, sent us a card or called and encouraged us; however we overlook and pass by the multitude of life’s enriching blessing that God showers on us every day. If you are able to read this lesson and make sense out of it, then God needs to hear from you, because He has given you life and woke you up in a new day and given you eyesight and a brain that is able to comprehend. If you have had anything at all to eat today, thank God, because if He had not given it to you, along with life to enjoy it, whatever it was you would not have had any nourishment. I want to close this lesson with an encouragement to pray and I take that same encouragement myself; because none of or probably not many of us, never come close to being thankful enough for God gift of life that He gives us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Until next time,

may God bless and keep you

This is Bro. Bob