My Musings – Wise men (and women) still seek Him, even after they have found Him. Because being born again is not the end of seeking. It is merely the beginning. We become children of the Father and have access to Him 24/7. Regrettably, many only seek this access (through prayer) when in times of need. Then we pray in earnest, often wondering why the answers are not immediate. At other times, prayer may be nothing more than something we mumble before meals, or words we recite from memory without thinking before we retire for the evening.
Prayer is, or at least it should be, much more than any of these. It should be a continual state of mind. It should be more than a list of urgent requests or dry recitations. It should be an intimate two-way communication between a loving Father and devoted child. He, the Father, should be more than someone that we take for granted will be there when we need Him and standing by just in case when we do not need Him (or think we do not need Him).
The truth is, we would never dream of imposing upon someone with stature, such as the President of the United States, with urgent personal requests or patronizing platitudes that do little more than burn up oxygen and squander his or her valuable time, even if we did have a personal relationship with them. Yet much too often this is all that our prayer life consists of. We are passionate when the communication is important to us (urgent requests) and passionless when it is not (dry recitations). What kind of relationship is it when it is one-way?
But, how does it become an intimate two-way communication between a loving Father and devoted child? What is it about our relationship with God that can make our prayer life more (or should make it more) than selfish urgent requests (demands) fired off in frantic desperation or lifeless dry recitations rattled off as if they were an obligatory inconvenience (annoyance)? Like most parents, what He really wants from us is our time. He wants to know that we are listening to Him just as much as we want Him to listen to us when we make those urgent requests. Although He does not speak to us audibly, He impresses things on our heart, pricks our conscience, gives us insight into His Word just when we need it and brings other believers alongside us to affirm what He has “said” to us by these other means.
In its most basic form, prayer is an address by God’s people, in a spirit of humility and repentance (when needed), in an effort to seek God’s will. Sometimes it is difficult for us to express in words what is on our hearts. So the Holy Spirit, knowing what we mean, expresses to the Father what we cannot. What allows our prayers access to God’s “ear’ is our relationship with His Son Jesus. Because of His relationship with the Father, He is able to intercede on our behalf. In this world, we typically need someone to make an introduction for us if we want or need to approach a person with stature beyond ours. The person making the introduction for us can do so because we have a relationship with them and they have a relationship with the person of stature. In spiritual terms, we established a relationship with Christ when we accepted Him as our Savior. Before this, we could never dream of approaching God’s throne, nor would we have been able to. Now His eyes are on us and his ears are attentive to us.
Developing an intimate two way communication does not come naturally for everyone. Like those in Jesus’ day we need to be taught how to pray. Jesus’ response was to give an example, which became known as the Lord’s Prayer. It was then and is now a model (not a formula) that can launch us into effective communication with God.
As we continue to grow, (desiring what God desires, developing a Christ-like attitude, allowing the Spirit to lead us, serving Christ as we serve others, being guided by the Word) we move from pure Spiritual milk to solid food. As we do, prayer becomes more and more natural and spontaneous for us. All of these disciplines are working together in perfect harmony to develop and deepen our relationship with the One we are praying to.
As we mentioned, the Lord’s Prayer is not a formula or a recipe. There are, however, some definite characteristics in this model prayer that we can use as an initial guide in how we ought to pray. These characteristics are:
Understand the relationship
Focus on His holiness
Submission, petition, confession
Forgiveness (of others)
Seek guidance and deliverance
Praise and belief
In the beginning prayer may be uncomfortable for us and our efforts at it may seem awkward. But as already noted we have the Holy Spirit to eloquently interpret what our heart is saying so passionately, but that our thoughts and words are saying so clumsily. In addition, we have the Son to intercede for us. He knows both our hearts and the Father’s and is able to bring the two together.
Understand The Relationship (Our Father in heaven) – He is the parent, we are the child. He loves and cares for us. We need to love and respect Him. “How great is the love of the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, NIV 1978).
Focus On His Holiness (Hallowed be Your name) – It is a privilege to be able to “boldly” approach the throne of Him who alone is absolute in His holiness. It is a privilege we should not take lightly or for granted. “Who can stand in the in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20, NIV 1978).
Be Heavenly Minded (Your Kingdom come) – Think about how much more pure, powerful and effective our prayers would be if we started every prayer from a heavenly perspective rather than from a worldly one. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15, NIV 1978).
Submit To God’s Will (Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven) – All too often we come to God in prayer with a pre-determined self-will of what we want, why we want it and when we want it. Is it any wonder that our prayers are sometimes not answered? “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NIV 1978).
Petition God (Give us this day our daily bread) – We often have the “formula” backwards. In our greed we ask for immeasurably more than we need and we get less than we expected or hoped for. Yet when we ask only out of our needs, not out of our wants, we are often surprised at how much more we receive than what we asked for. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Galatians 3:20, NIV 1978).
Confess To God (Forgive us our debts) – Unconfessed sin against God and others is a major hindrance to our prayers. We need to search our hearts as we seek God’s. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18, NIV 1978).
Forgive Others (As we also have forgiven our debtors) – We really do not have a legitimate right to ask God to grant us what we are so unwilling to grant others. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV 1978).
Seek God’s Guidance (And lead us not into temptation) – All too often we wait until we are tempted to seek God’s deliverance. Many times that is too late. We know what our weaknesses are and we should continually be asking God to help us. He is in a unique position to help, since when He was on earth in the person of His Son, He endured every temptation. “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrew 2:18, NIV 1978).
Seek God’s Deliverance (But deliver us from the evil one) – We think that our circumstances are unique, but they are not. We think that we cannot escape, but we can. God will provide the way and the strength for us to be delivered. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1978).
Give God Praise (For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever) – Prayer is not just about us. In fact, with the proper focus, it should be more about Him. We need to praise and thank Him. “Praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.” (Daniel 4:37, NIV 1978).
Believe (Amen) – If we truly ask in His name, we will not be asking for anything that is not in accordance with His will. If then it is His will, we can surely believe He will answer. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13, NIV 1978).
My Advice – When you ask are you being given? When you seek are you finding? When you knock is the door opened? If not, why not? Did Jesus misrepresent (lie about) God’s response to our prayers? Of course not! To find the answer to these questions, we must look within ourselves. Are we asking, seeking, or knocking with impure or selfish motives? Are we seeking or asking for things that may not be within God’s will? Are we knocking on the wrong door? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there should be no mystery as to why our prayers are unanswered. If our motives are pure and what we are asking for, seeking or wanting opened is within God’s will, then we can be assured that the timing is just not right. We need to be patient and wait on the Lord.
As we grow in Christ we will find that our motives become purer and less self-centered. We will find that that our faith has become more patient in waiting on God’s. We will find ourselves praying more in line with God’s will. We will find whether the answer to our prayer is, yes, no or not now, we can still boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence that God’s has our best interests in mind.
So how is your prayer life? When you pray are your motives pure? Are your prayers in line with God’s will? Are you patiently waiting on God to answer in His time?
Steve is an elder at First. He has his own blog, www.TheBrewIsAmusing.com