Category Archives: Prayer

Praying for what you really Love.

Praying Most For What You Love the Most:  

   

Your prayer-life is a measure of your spiritual maturity. Just about any decent book on prayer will tell you so. Your prayer lives exposes you to the reality that what is nearest and dearest to your hearts are those things for which you pray the most. It is an inescapable rule. In this respect, your prayer life may betray the public image which you, in turn, portrayed to others. Just a few years back, I became painfully aware that my prayer life was centered on…me. What a shock it was to realize that my prayers were essentially self-serving!

The practice of prayer has fallen on hard times in the church today. There may be many factors producing this rapid downturn in frequency and quality of prayer. Two of the most obvious are the affluence of western society and the lack of deeply spiritual representative prayer in our churches.

The Affect of Affluence: 

The affluence and relative ease of western culture has relaxed the grip that Scripture should hold on our lives. Our material lives are easier than they were even one hundred years ago: the present relief we have from infant mortality or child labor, from common sicknesses that often resulted in death but are now treatable have lulled us into a false sense of security. The Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen apparently had eleven children, ten of whom died in childhood–the one who didn’t die in childhood died of tuberculosis soon after she had married. Owen’s wife passed away eight years before him. People once knew–even expected–death and serious sickness to be a present reality in their lives, and often it drove them to prayer. They knew what it was to “number their days and gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12)  Sadly, it is not so now. As longevity and better quality of life are now expected–even deemed a right–we have been driven from pondering our mortality and eternal realities to filling our lives with less consequential matters – with trivialities. Prayers for health, wealth, success, family, children, friendship, employment, while not illegitimate topics of prayer (3 John 2), are the topics which saturate most Christian prayers today.

The Affect of Prayer in the Worship Service:

The dilution of spiritually rich prayer has also been aided and abetted by prayers from the pulpit. The casual manner of many public prayers – where Jesus is merely our best bud and God is little more than a divine handy man – teach the average Christian how not to pray. Awe, transcendence and a sense of holiness in prayer have been replaced with a superficial familiarity with the Almighty. Ministers lead and teach by example and must teach the manner and the content of biblical prayer.

How then should we pray, publicly and privately? Most books on prayer focus on using biblical petitions – this is the what and how of prayer. The ‘what’ is the content of our prayers, the how is the manner of our prayers. Have we adopted a biblical and God-honoring posture of prayer, or have we adopted an essentially selfish attitude in prayer? What are our priorities in prayer? Are we more concerned with the spiritual realities of our life and the lives of others than with the material? For example, when was the last time you prayed that God would “make you worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1; and 2 Thess. 1:11); or, that you would be “joyful in hope, patientin affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom.12:12); or, that “God…would give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had”. (Rom 15:5-6); or, that “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13); or, “that you will not do anything wrong.” (2 Cor 13:7).  Or do ceaselessly give thanks to God for your brethren, remembering them in your prayers? (Eph1:16; Col 1:9); or, do you pray that “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”(Col 1:9); or, we could turn to the Psalms – “create in me a clean heart of God, and renew a right spirit within me”(Ps. 51:10); “be merciful to me O God, be merciful to me for in you my soul takes refuge” (Ps 57:1); and “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Ps. 67:1)

The truth is that our prayers are not saturated with Scriptural petitions (which place a great deal of emphasis on our spiritual well-being and little on our material well-being) because we are not saturated with Scripture and its priorities. Resultantly, we often end up praying for the wrong things. Or, perhaps we might better say, we don’t pray for the right things. While praying for material matters is both permissible and necessary, there are more important things in life. We are not here to live our lives for material and physical well-being. We are to be supremely mindful of the life to come. To that end, our prayers ought to focus on those matters that will fit us for eternal life. In short, our spiritual condition is far more important than our material or physical condition.

 

 

Our Problem With Prayer!

Lord, Teach Us to Pray!;

(Arthur Pink)

It is my deepening conviction that perhaps the Lord’s own people sin more in their efforts to pray, than in connection with any other thing they engage in.

What hypocrisy there is where there should be reality! What presumptuous demanding where there should be submissiveness! What formality where there should be brokenness of heart!

How little we really feel the sins we confess! What little sense of deep need for the mercies we seek!

And even where God grants a measure of deliverance from these awful sins . . .   how much coldness of heart,   how much unbelief,   how much self-will and self-pleasing have we to bewail!

We need to be delivered from a cold, mechanical and formal type of praying which is merely a lip-service, in which there is . . .   no actual approach unto the Lord,   no delighting of ourselves in Him,   no pouring out of the heart before Him.

I often say my prayers, But do I ever pray? And do the wishes of my heart Go with the words I say? I may as well kneel down And worship gods of stone, As offer to the living God A prayer of words alone!

Lord, teach us to pray! Luke 11:1

Nine Profits of Praying with Company:

 

 

Nine Profits of Praying with Company:        David Mathis / January 19, 2015Prayer is one of the deepest joys of the Christian life. It is almost too good to be true that in Jesus we have the very ear of God. What an indescribable gift, that the God whose greatness is beyond comprehension actually stoops to listen to us, and is even more ready to hear us than we are to speak.

And the joys and benefits of prayer aren’t limited to our personal prayer lives. A shared joy is a doubled joy, and God means for us not only to pray in our closets, and “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) as we move through life in a spirit of dependence, but to pray with company.

Inestimable good happens when the regenerate rally with their fellows to come to their Father. It is past finding out all that God is doing when we pray together. Yet it helps to trace out some of the goodness, and whet our appetites with a few of the graces for which our prayer together is a means.

1. Added Power

Matthew 18:15–20 may be one of the more misunderstood texts in the New Testament. That often quoted promise “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20) comes at the end of a section on church discipline and when a “brother sins against you” (Matthew 18:15). The context is not exactly small-group prayer.

However, Jesus does appeal to a deeper principle here, which is a benefit of praying together. He says “anything” — “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask . . .” (Matthew 18:19). There is added power when we unite with brothers and sisters in Christ to join our hearts and make our collective requests to our Father.

2. Multiplied Joy

Here we make explicit what we already said above: When we share the joy of prayer, we increase our joy in prayer. When we make a regular practice of praying together with fellow believers, we avail ourselves of a channel of joy we otherwise would be neglecting. And by praying with others, not only do we add to our joy in God, but also to theirs. And when we work with others for their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24), we again increase our own.

3. Greater Glory to God

Our multiplied joy in God then makes for multiplied glory to God — because, as John Piper says, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. When we understand gratitude to him in terms of his glory (in light of Romans 1:21, where giving thanks to him is connected to honoring him), then 2 Corinthians 1:11 makes this truth explicit as it relates to prayer: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” Praying together not only adds power to the request, but also gets others involved and so brings more glory for the Giver when he answers.

4. More Fruitful Ministry and Mission

God means for us to pray for each other in our various ministries and manifestations of our great shared Commission. Paul modeled this when he asked the churches to pray for his gospel work (Romans 15:30–32; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18–20; Colossians 4:3–4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). He was more than able to pray these things himself, and doubtless he did, but he anticipated there would be greater fruitfulness in the work when others joined him in prayer for it.

5. Unity Among Believers

Praying together is one of the single most significant things we can do to cultivate unity in the church. There is a unity that is a given to those who are partners in Christ and share spiritual life in him. Acts 1:14 says it was “with one accord” that the first Christians “were devoting themselves to prayer.” Already we have “the unity of the Spirit,” and yet we are to be “eager to maintain” it (Ephesians 4:3). So praying together is both an effect of the unity we share in Christ, and it is a cause for deeper and richer unity. It is not only a sign that unity already exists among the brothers, but also a catalyst for more.

6. Answers We Otherwise Wouldn’t Get

James 5:14–16, and many other texts, implies that there are some answers to prayer we simply would not get without involving others in our praying.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

God means for some answers to prayer to wait for others to join with us in the plea. Often we pray alone for our personal needs, and God is pleased to answer. But at times, his means include the leaders of the church, or a special “prayer of faith,” or just the humble prayer of a fellow sinner made righteous in Christ.

7. To Learn and Grow in Our Prayers

Plain and simple, the best way to learn to pray is to pray with others, especially those who have had their prayers shaped by the Scriptures. Listen for those around you who are acquainted enough with God in prayer as to regularly draw others into communion with him through their praises and petitions. Give careful attention to their approach to God, the kinds of things they thank him for, and ask him for, and how they keep others in mind in the corporate setting.

And even beyond what we’re conscious of, we’re being shaped in profound ways for good as we join our hearts with others in prayer.

8. To Know Each Other

One of the best ways to get to know a fellow believer is to pray together. It is in prayer, in the conscious presence of God, that we’re most likely to let our façades fall. We hear others’ hearts in prayer like nowhere else.

When we pray together, not only do we reveal what most captures our hearts and truly is our treasure, but as we pray together, says Jack Miller, “You can tell if a man or woman is really on speaking terms with God” (Prayer, 23).

9. To Know Jesus More

Saving the best for last, the greatest benefit is that we know Jesus better when we pray together, in his name, with fellow lovers of him. With our limited vision and perspective, there are aspects of Christ we’re prone to see with more clarity than others. Our own experiences and personalities emphasize some features of his glory and make us blind to others. And so Tim Keller observes, “By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived” (Prayer, 119).

And since the great point of prayer is not getting things from God, but getting God, perhaps this benefit alone is enough to inspire you for that next opportunity to pray with company.