Every time I pray I am attending a family reunion because my Father and Brother are both there.(Hebrews 2:11) My Father provides the entertainment by singing (Zephaniah 3:17). What song is He likely to sing? What about the lyrics below, sung to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me". Child I love you. This you know. In my Word I've told you so. Little one, to me you belong. You are weak, but I am strong. I'm God. I love you. (3x) My Spirit tells you so. Many worship leaders decry the lack of passion and emotion in times of corporate worship (song services). But few seem to be troubled by such absence. James 5:16 says that one requirement for effective prayer is fervency. Can I pray fervent prayers if I don't care about the subject of my prayer? If fervent can be understood as "emotional attachment" I need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into a more caring attitude. This certainly applies to my prayer "Father, make me more like Christ." The purpose of my praying must be to converse with God, not convince God. And, like any effective conversation, both parties must listen. After I am done talking in my prayers I must sit and continue to meditate on the things the Holy Spirit brings to my mind. Prayer that is the most pleasing to Him is prayer that is Holy Spirit initiated and guided. Being Spirit sensitive will increase the effectiveness of my prayers. How should I judge the effectiveness of these prayers? By how much I am changed by my prayers. There is truth to the saying that "Prayer changes things", but the things that should be the most changed is the person doing the praying.
One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.
And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.
Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.
But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”
Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.
We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.
We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.
Has Twitter replaced prayer? Has Facebook replaced intimacy with God? Have cell phones replaced prayer closets?
The attraction of social networking comes from the fact that we all want to feel needed and need to feel wanted. We are comforted when we believe (accurately or not) someone is interested in what we like, where we go and what we do.
We want to “reach out and touch” across the city, state, nation and world. Our sense of worth is enhanced if we have a lot of “friends.” We value the fact that we can express our feelings, fears and victories to people who are significant to us. We hope they read our messages, understand our feelings and respond with sympathy and support.
For the Christian an intimate relationship with God provides all this and more. We can reach out to Him from any place, any time, across any distance. Prayer is that 24-7, no-limit, instantly received Tweet to the best friend we can ever have. We are never in a “no-service” area.
Our spiritual Facebook includes the friend that loves us like a brother and has the love and power to solve our problems. When our need for earthly relationships becomes greater than our need for God we are missing the joy, peace and power that Jesus, our best Friend, died to provide for us.
Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.
Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.
It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.
Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.
Corporate prayer, when one person leads a group by offering an audible prayer, is the spiritual equivalent of elevator music. In both cases there is a sound that can be heard by each person present, but it is ignored by most of them.
Usually a time of corporate prayer on Sunday morning begins with an announcement that Brother So and So will lead in prayer. Then Brother So and So intones something like “Let us pray” or “Please bow with me.”
And just what are the rest of us supposed to do?
Therein lies the problem. Exactly what are those of us in the pews expected to do while the good brother is praying aloud? There seems to be three courses of action available.
(1) Listen carefully to the audible prayer and in our minds say “amen.” (This is the equivalent of “I second the motion.”)
(2) Listen to the topics mentioned aloud and then personalize them to our own situation. (When the audible prayer asks for healing for the sick, we silently ask God to heal Uncle George or Cousin Betty.)
(3) Completely ignore the audible prayer and pray for our own specific, private concerns as we are led by the Holy Spirit.
No matter which of these we choose, it requires us to intentionally enter into our spiritual closet and communicate with God. It requires that we make the effort necessary to shut out competing thoughts and focus on what He wants to hear. After all, prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue.
To do anything else is to have a form of godliness but not truly be as spiritual as we want people to think we are. And wasn’t that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11)
When I start to pray I am being granted entrance into the very throne room of heaven, into the presence of the Creator of the universe. I have the undivided attention of the Almighty.
I am not worthy of such a privilege even once in my lifetime, let alone every moment of every day.
What if God limited the times I could pray to Him. For instance, what if I could pray only one hour per year, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on my birthday. Would I then enter His presence lightly, with scattered focus, interrupted thoughts and glib phrases? I don’t think so.
If such were the case, my prayers would be intense and organized and full of passion. I would be aware of the tremendous responsibility and privilege, determined to make the best of my hour with God.
Why should my current prayer times be any different? Even though my Father grants me constant entrance into His presence, I need to be always aware of the magnitude of this privilege. I should not enter His presence without the proper respect and gratitude simply for the privilege of going there.
This should be my attitude even before I make petitions and receive blessings.
Which is the greatest prayer in the Bible? The answer to this question is usually based on which prayer had the largest, most impressive result. Elijah's prayer in I Kings 17:20-22 brought life to the body of a young boy. Joshua's prayer in Joshua 10:12-13 resulted in altered movement of the sun and an Israelite victory. Moses' prayer in Exodus 32:11-14 caused God to "repent" of His idea to "consume" the Hebrew people. Each of these, in some way, worked for the benefit of the person praying. I maintain, however, that the greatest prayer of all was offered by Jesus in Matthew 26:39 when He said "...not as I will, but as you will." Simple and short, from a totally submitted heart, this prayer was answered by Jehovah God and ended in Jesus' torture and death. They both knew that death was imminent and both accepted it. The result was the offering of salvation to untold numbers of people throughout the world. And it serves as the type of prayer that Christians should be offering every day. The greatest prayer resulted in the greatest sacrifice and the greatest resurrection the world has ever known.
Faith and obedience are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.
God sometimes calls us to acts of obedience that have the possibility of undesirable consequences. We hesitate. We procrastinate. We rationalize. Then, finally, we call our weak faith into play and do the thing He has asked.
And because He is our Father He still supports and protects us. The possible unpleasant results do not happen. Our faith grows stronger. We are more willing to be obedient next time.
So each act of obedience results in increased faith. That increased faith, in turn, brings about a more instant, joyful and confident obedience the next time He calls. We become more mature Christians because of the upward spiraling interplay between these two spiritual aspects of our lives.
James was referring to this connection when he wrote “anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act”(James 2:18 LB) It was obedience that directed James’ actions. He was doing the things God selected for him to do, not the things he had chosen for himself.
If we are disobedient, we need to ask the Father for increased faith that will give us the courage to obey. If we lack strong faith we need to act in obedience anyway and our faith will be strengthened when we observe his protection and provision.
And our reward for increased faith and obedience? The greatest reward of all: “Well done” from our Father. (Matt 25:21 LB)
As a Christian, what is my responsibility toward the Sunday morning worship time? What does God expect of me concerning that one hour of “holy huddle” each week?
It begins with prayers on Monday morning. I need to set aside time each weekday to pray for the pastor and each person who will have a leadership roll during the next worship service.
Then I am to ask God if He wants me to invite anyone to attend the next service with me. Do I know anyone who needs what He will provide then?
I should also begin to pray for myself that I will learn what God wants to teach me during that time. I need to give the Holy Spirit permission to start preparing my mind and will to receive His message.
Throughout the week I should plan my weekend so that nothing interferes with my attendance at God’s house. It is my responsibility to control my time to guarantee I will be in my place.
On Sunday morning I must get out of bed early enough to be on time without any hassle, rush or last-minute confusion. The self-discipline of time control is vital.
When I arrive at the worship site I need to focus on God. I must yield my will to Him so I can be taught and molded. The actions of the pastor and worship leader should be secondary to my understanding of God’s word and will. The Holy Spirit will speak to me during the worship time if I want Him to and if I block out distractions.
Throughout the worship time I should be in prayer for others. I should be asking the Father to lead the pastor to say only the things He wants said, praying that all of us hear clearly and correctly.
Lastly I am to continue praying for myself that God’s message will produce His desired results in my life during the coming week. Then, with gratitude for the opportunity to worship and for those who have helped me do so, I must remember the Golden Rule as I drive out of a crowded and confused parking lot.
We have all heard the advice “Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.” In Numbers 14:28-35 the Hebrew people said they would have been better off if they had died in the desert. So God decided to let them do just that – die in the desert.
Should I ask God for what I want? Sure! But I must ask, not demand. And my requests should be accompanied by “But if You think something else is better, I’ll be glad to take that instead.” (And really mean it when I say it.)
After asking, I must remember to listen. Prayer is meant to be a dialogue, not a monologue.