Prayer Teaching Series: In My Name
Why do we need to pray if God knows what we are going to say already? How can one prayer make any difference? Does prayer really change what happens? God loves me and understands me, so how will praying make our relationship any better?
Prayer is vital and God invites us to talk to him through prayer. Through this Series, In My Name, I will be sharing my thoughts and biblical teaching on these questions and more.
We have probably all known times when prayer has been difficult or non existent for us. There has been a void between us and our heavenly Father that seems impossible to bridge. Of course, we know there is a bridge to reach God through prayer but, how do we go there?
We live in a world of noise, distraction, temptation and an overload of information clamouring for our attention. Is it any worse now than years or even centuries ago? I think we can always blame other things for getting in the way of prayer.
As I put down my thoughts, I feel I could rename it 'When It's Hard To Write'. In a way, there are similarities between putting our thoughts on paper and our thoughts into prayer.
We set aside time and find a quiet space but still other things crowd our minds and suppress the communication. How do we overcome this? I don't want to over simplify things but 'just start' is my answer. We prepare, plan, prioritise and yet fail to practise.
We need to just get started. When it comes to either writing or praying, it is the same trigger we need. Start speaking whether through the pen or keyboard or through thoughts into prayer. Start simply and slowly and let it pick up speed as the distractions fall away and the main event takes off.
In Matthew 26:41 we are told to "watch and pray" because the "spirit is willing but, the flesh is weak". How true this is and how important that we make time to pray.
Of course distraction is not the only thing that makes it hard to pray. Let's look at other obstacles that can block prayer.
Guilt often prevents us from approaching our Father. We may know that forgiveness is awaiting us when we confess, but the weight of guilt is heavy and oppressive. God is so keen to have a relationship and open communion with us that He has made a way possible for us to enter into His presence.
It doesn't depend on us doing anything other than accepting that the price for our sin is paid for, John 3:17.
The devil loves to load guilt on to us. Sometimes, we even like to carry guilt and feel a kind of humility. This is false humility and is a deception from the father of lies. Guilt prevents us coming before God and enjoying communion with Him. Guilt hinders us.
If we truly confess and truly repent then forgiveness is ours. We must accept this most amazing gift from God.
In 1John 1:9, we are told that if we confess then we are forgiven. To reject the forgiveness offered is to reject the hand that God holds out to us, the hand that beckons us to step nearer to Him. So of course the devil wants us to carry our guilt for as long as possible.
Accepting that we are forgiven and free from the guilt and condemnation of sin is all that is required of us. Easy isn't it? But, sadly often it's not that easy. We love to hold on to our guilt. It is a habit to carry it around. But, it shapes our attitudes and governs our behaviour. If it blocks our sweet communion with the King of the universe then it must go. Once repentance is sought, we need to ask God to remove the guilt.
Power In Praise
Sometimes we can be hindered in praying because we don't know where to begin. We have the model prayer found in Matthew 6:9 from Jesus, as our guide on how we should pray. So start with praise: "Our Father who is in heaven".
Give God His title and position and lead from there into adoration of who He is. Through praise we submit to Him. There is power in praise because we give God the acknowledgment of His omnipotence.
In praise we raise Him to the place that is above us and we assume the place of worship. When we have God in His rightful place we have ourselves in the right place to know His power and majesty. Praising God is a wonderful gift that we can enjoy. It lifts our spirit but, more importantly, it is the Holy Spirit in us expressing worship to our Creator. We were made for worship!
Praise is therefore submission. Again putting God in His rightful place and assuming ours. Trust is submission. When we come before His throne to pray we must trust that He hears and answers, John 14:14, if we pray in His name.
If we submit to His will, we leave the outcome to Him. We participate in His will by offering prayer. We are co workers with Him as we submit, pray and partake of the blessings.
His Way Is Perfect
As we pray, we need to hand over to God the things we bring before Him. Leaving them on the alter, letting Him have His way and not returning to pick them up again at a later time. We must hand over, not in resignation but in trust that we give the matters we are praying for into the hands of the Almighty.
Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can approach His throne with confidence and that we will receive mercy. We submit our prayers in faith, with wonderful God-given faith and trust in His perfect plan.
This is where we see the power of God in action; knowing that His plan is perfect, we leave our prayers in His care. We must remember to whom we pray, John 1:3, and that He made all things.
What Shall I Pray?
At times we don't know what to pray for. Situations are complex and the desired outcomes not obvious. How should we pray through these situations?
It is good to be informed and gain understanding in issues before we pray. The Holy Spirit of God that dwells within us is able to prompt us to pray. We need to practice listening to that voice. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. It may require us to turn down the noise from other voices.
As we read the Bible we can tune out the noise and fix our mind on Him. There are many many scriptures about prayer and what we should be praying about. The short answer is we should pray about all things but not necessarily everything.
There is a difference! We are able to make decisions minute by minute without seeking God for direction. But, we should walk through the day in communion with Him, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and give all things in to His hands for Him to direct and use.
I want to pick out just one matter that we should be praying about. In Psalm 122 David speaks about Jerusalem and its place at the centre of worship. In verse 6 of this Psalm, David says: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." This city was the place the people travelled to for worship and to find peace and security.
The history of this city is well documented. It has been a place of great contention and division throughout the ages. We are urged to pray for this place. Why? It is the city of Zion. It is the capital city of the land and the centre of worship and site of the Temple. But, despite the prayers of many faithful followers of Jesus, there is not peace. Has God not heard the prayers prayed in accordance with the Bible's instruction?
We are urged to not only pray for the peace of Jerusalem but to take a deeper interest. We should enquire, "How are you?" and have concern for the welfare of this 'widow' as it is written in Jeremiah 15:5.
God is waiting for His people to return to Him. Jesus will not return until the cry from His people is "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord", Matt 23:39. So as we pray for Jerusalem, we are in fact praying for the nation of Israel to be restored and accept Yeshua Jesus, as her Lord. I will cover more of this prayer in Part 4 of this series.
Prayer is vital and exemplified by Jesus. It was necessary for Him to commune with God the Father. He is our example so let us do as He did and take time to withdraw to a quiet place and just start talking to our Father.
Philippians 4:6 says we should not be anxious about anything but take it all to God. Praise Him!