When You Pray
What is Prayer?
In a recent study done this year Barna found that prayer is not only the most common faith practice among American adults (79% have prayed at least once in the past three months), it’s also one of the most complex and multifaceted. The Bible speaks of numerous kinds of prayers (supplication, intercession, faith, etc.) and uses diverse language to describe the practice. Different traditions and denominations tend to emphasize certain kinds of prayer over others, or even develop and build upon those laid out in scripture. Perhaps the only consistent thing about people’s prayers is that they are different. Americans do not think about approaching prayer in any kind of homogenous way—or even pray to the same deity (if they pray to a higher power at all).
Strong’s #4336: Pray, proseuchomai (pros-yoo-khom-ahee); The word is progressive. Starting with the noun, euche, which is a prayer to God that also includes making a vow, the word expands to the verb euchomai, a special term describing an invocation, request, or entreaty. Adding pros, “in the direction of” (God), proseuchomai becomes the most frequent word for prayer.
This is what God’s Word has to say about prayer. Prayer is asking and receiving; it is talking with God. It is making your request known unto Him in faith. This is so simple on the surface, that we are in danger of failing to recognize it’s immensity.
Jesus instructs us in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Our Lord instructs the believer to ask, seek, and knock, because these three words cover the whole spectrum of prayer. Man (because of the Lie Whisper) has taken something meant to be so simple and made it so complex, and maybe somewhat intimidating. This brings us to Matthew 6:5 with Jesus pointing out the religious leaders and how they pray.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
Jesus is not telling us that we should not pray in public, what He is telling us is, that we should not be desiring others to take notice of us when we are praying. If we stand to pray with the intent that others would take notice how pious we are, then we are wasting our time. People like this are just seeking the admiration of others, and Jesus says that they will get that which is their reward.
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus is not telling us that the only place we can pray is locked in a virtual closet, albeit, sometimes it is very beneficial to find a quiet place alone to pray. And there are times when we need to be alone with God as we pour out our hearts in a personal prayer that nobody else needs to hear or know about. Jesus is also not telling us that there is a set time in which we should always come to the Father in prayer, such as the Muslims do, five times a day. He is telling us that when we go to the Father in prayer, we should not concern ourselves with who is watching or listening, because our prayer is not for their benefit but our own and for the Father’s ears alone. That private place can also mean one’s heart; we are connecting with the One True God in an attitude of worship when we are truly praying to Him without regard of what others may think. Jesus does not criticize public prayer, but He does condemn pretentious, ostentatious prayer that attracts attention to one’s self.
In secret - Who is unseen.
Who sees in secret - Who sees what the human eye cannot see; who sees the real designs and desires of the heart. Prayer should always be offered, remembering that God is acquainted with our real desires; and that it is those real desires, and not the words of prayer, that he will answer. We should pray in times of embarrassment and perplexity. Such times occur in every man's life, and it is then a privilege and a duty to go to God and seek his direction. In the most difficult and embarrassed time of the American Revolution, Washington was seen to retire to a grove in the vicinity of the camp at Valley Forge. Curiosity led a man to observe him, and the father of his country was seen on his knees supplicating the God of hosts in prayer. Who can tell how much the liberty of this nation is owing to the answer to the secret prayer of Washington?
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
Vain repetitions are not the same as repeating a request. For example: I have known believers to pray for the salvation of loved ones for over 20 years, this would be considered focused prayer. However, there are those who will repeat nonsense empty babble mixed in with long confusing prayers just to appear pious. They also believe that it takes many words for God to hear them, which indeed is very injurious to Almighty God, who already knows what is needed before we even pray. Jesus teaches focused prayer, which acknowledges God’s needed reign in every facet of life and society. Today there are those who will chant to the likes of Buddha, Shiva, chants to the many different Hindu gods, and yoga chants. We can see a great example of the heathen as they chant to their god in 1 Kings 18:26. “So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.” And then we see Elijah a short direct prayer in verses 36-37, after watching the Baal priests all day. “At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” A very short and concise prayer, of which God heard and answered. Jesus, Himself often prayed short prayers.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
We are to come to the Father as if we would to say our earthly father to ask a request of. The big difference between the two is that our Heavenly Father already knows in advance what that request is and will be and if it is in accordance to His will He will grant the answer in His sovereign time. One must study the Word of God to find what kind of frame of mind we should be in when we do come to the Father in prayer, and to learn daily from Christ how we should pray.
“In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”
The prayer that we are taught by our Lord has three parts, the preface, the petitions, and the conclusion. Jesus starts out His model prayer with Father which is the preface: A new note of personal intimacy with Yahweh originates with Jesus from which we can see in Romans 8:15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” And in Galatians 4:5. “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Hallowed be; establishes the principle of prayer on the precept of worship. The word “hallowed” means to render or pronounce holy. God’s name is essentially holy, and the meaning of this petition is, “Let thy name be celebrated, venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere and receive from all people proper honor.” God’s name is not to be used in a way that is flip or irreverently, such as an exclamation in a sentence.
Your kingdom come: the petitioner asks for the establishment of God’s rule, not only in it’s consummation in the Age to Come but in lives and situations here and now on earth. This is further defined, as God’s will be done on earth. God’s will is perfectly loving and righteous, and He has our best interests at heart all the time.
Our daily needs; Jesus encourages prayer for physical needs, which are vitally linked with kingdom concerns. Proverbs 30:8-9 would be a prayer of a mature believer. “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” God knows our needs and will provide them, mature believers recognize the difference between needs and wants when praying.
Forgiveness: a readiness to forgive personal injury brought upon us by others especially or brothers and sisters in the Lord qualify Prayer for forgiveness. Jesus told us to forgive seventy times seven (Mathew 27:21-22) and that when we bring our gifts to the alter (Matthew 5:21-26) and have something against our brother or him against you, we are to go and be reconciled with them. Forgiveness. Forgive as God has forgiven, because we will only be forgiven as we forgive others.
Kept from temptation: the disciples are to pray to be kept from temptation and for deliverance from the evil one. Jesus Himself experiences temptation at key moments in His ministry: in the wilderness prior to His public ministry (Matthew 4-1-11), prior to His transfiguration (Matthew 16:21-23), and prior to His crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46). Because of Jesus’ victory over the temptation to bypass God’s plan of salvation through the Cross, the disciples also can expect to overcome temptation in their lives, just as we can, through the grace of God.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“We cannot all preach, we cannot all rule, we cannot all give gold and silver. But we can all contribute our prayers.” Charles Spurgeon
Voices From Our Past: Wesleyan pastor Paul W. Thomas -
Wait Upon The Lord
Blessed is that person who, early in their Christian life, learns to wait upon the Lord.
The psalmist said, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning" (Ps, 130:5-6). In another place he gives a heartening word of encouragement: "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord" (Ps. 27:14).
Everywhere we go, we find discouraged people who have given up the struggle. Some of them have openly returned to the world. Others follow along "afar off" from the warmth and comfort of true faith and salvation. Ask them what the trouble is and there are almost as many excuses as there are backsliders. But to get right down to the truth of the matter, in nearly every case their trouble can be traced back to this: The failed to wait upon God.
Waiting on God means more than a few brief formal prayers. It means to pray until the soul lays hold of God and comes away with a blessing. This may be a matter of minutes or even hours; but it means to seek until we find, knock until it is opened unto us, ask until we receive.
There is a waiting upon God, a pleading of the promises, a heart searching, a holding on in the determination of love and faith, that puts the resources of heaven at our command. Here is the great difference between defeat and victory.
How different might have been the attitude and action of the disciples on the night of the Savior's betrayal, had they watched with him in prayer during the hour of agony!
Isaiah said, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31).