I was recently in a small study group discussing what God’s word the Bible teaches us about prayer. It was very interesting and spiritually revitalising to explore this subject that can perhaps seem mundane, even boring to some, who think of prayer as a chore that one has to do… like the carpet needs a vacuum, so people of faith are supposed to pray.
Prayer… is… not… boring.
Here are some words that describe prayer…
Exchange – yes, we can have a real exchange of communication with our Maker, the great and awesome God!
If we do a study of some of the actual prayers we find in the Bible, we see some interesting dynamics that we can learn from and enrich our own perspectives as people of faith in Christ. For example, when Moses interceded in prayer for the people when they got impatient and wanted a divine substitute to pray to. It was the ultimate insult to their Redeemer who brought them out of slavery in Egypt… to have a golden calf idol made to pray to. The LORD had every right to want to pour out His holy anger in judgement. Yet we see this:-
But Moses interceded with the LORD his God: “LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He brought them out with an evil intent to kill them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from Your great anger and relent concerning this disaster planned for Your people. Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel – You swore to them by Your very self and declared, ‘I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever.’ ” So the LORD relented concerning the disaster He said He would bring on His people.Exodus 32:11-14, the Bible
What a result! The Maker of the heavens and the earth, the all-powerful glorious God, who could have snuffed out an entire nation, was willing to listen to one man, and relent… Not that God was wrong and Moses was right – never! But this shows us something important about the character of God and how He wants His people to be. God is willing to be merciful. God wants people who will come to Him in faith-filled prayers. Yet not just to ask Him for things, but a key is this word – intimacy. Moses was able to draw near to God’s presence and he did, he worshipped His Maker.
Are we growing in spiritual intimacy with our Maker? Or do we treat our Saviour like a cosmic slot-machine – put in a prayer request, and try to pull something out of God that we want. Make no mistake, I am not suggesting that our God doesn’t want us to come and ask for things. Of course He does, as a loving Father. Yet, He calls us as sons and daughters – relationship. Moses didn’t treat God like a slot-machine – put in a coin, see what prize you can win. No. He loved God, and God allowed Him to make bold prayers.
“If Your Presence does not go with us,” Moses replied, “do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight, unless You go with us? How else will we be distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth?”Exodus 33:15-16, the Bible
This is the sort of prayer that should be part of our lives… “God, I don’t want to go somewhere that your Presence will not be with me. I need You to show yourself through my life to others!”
Praying for power.
How about this scenario. A group of faithful followers of the resurrected Christ, now ascended to heaven, seemingly leaving them as spiritual orphans… but not really. The Lord Jesus promised that He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit to be with them and the Spirit would be IN them too.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.Acts 1:14, the Bible
They did not give up meeting together to pray although the Lord Jesus had ascended back to heaven. They were united in faith. They continued praying. They pressed on and in. Then God moved…
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. And when this sound rang out, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking his own language.Acts 2:1-6, the Bible
This together-prayer time, this continual gathering together in Christ, reaped a reward – power for witness to others. But there was nothing arbitrary about it from God’s perspective. He chose to pour out His Spirit at a particular time of year – the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, also called Pentecost. It was on God’s schedule in Jerusalem exactly fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits. God was bringing to pass the birthing of His Church with power, when there were many Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. We note that they heard Christ’s people speaking in their various languages. What a witness!
These are just two of many examples of prayer that gets results, from the Bible. But perhaps some of you reading this are ‘seasoned’ praying people, who have battled through in prayer against the odds and know God’s faithfulness. For the experienced person of faith, there is always more to discover about God’s goodness and ways – we can never know it all in our finite minds. For the inexperienced, feed that youthful desire to know Him more! Even those who actually physically walked and talked with the Lord Jesus did not have full understanding. That’s why we need the help of the Spirit of God in us. We must remember that the Holy Spirit – described by Jesus as the Helper/Counsellor – is God. The third Person of the triune God. We need the Spirit to empower and guide us, like a car needs petrol (gas if you’re American). We are taught in the Bible that we don’t actually know how to pray the way we ought to… so we need more than a little help from the Holy Spirit!
Prayer as warfare
The spiritual realm is no less real than what we can see and touch. As surely as the living God is real and upon His throne, and His angels are doing His bidding, the is also the ‘accuser of the brethren’, the devil, satan. He opposes God’s redeemed sons and daughters, not wanting us to be effective in our witness of Christ. Yet we are told this:-
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7, the Bible
The order of this instruction is vital for us to grasp. If we submit ourselves to the one true God, seeking His authority over our lives, we can rightly and successfully resist the devil. If we try resisting the devil but are in rebellion against our Maker, we can’t be assured of the results because we are building our lives on sand instead of the rock of who Christ is. A devoted prayer life unto God ensures that we are daily submitted to Him.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.2Corinthians 10:3-4, the Bible
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
Yet sometimes we can go through times of feeling ‘dry’, in need of rejuvenation. So what helps us in our prayer lives?
Meditating on God’s promises. Being in a prayer group/receiving prayer. Listening to Holy Spirit-filled worship music. There are times when the Spirit just brings a song to my mind. Another thing that prompts me to pray is when I face opposition, e.g a spiritual attack in my dreams, or through a person against me. Where else can we turn for strength to deal with battles if we don’t call on that holy name of Christ Jesus??? What else helps your prayer life?
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.