Is the Discipline of Prayer Working in You?
Principle Scriptures: Matthew 6:5-15; 7:7-12; Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 23:46; John 15:4-5; Romans 8:18-30; James 5:13-18.
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at the Discipline of Prayer from God's most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:
1.How do I exhibit a life of prayer in my daily life?
2.How can I better develop a willingness to be more disciplined as a person of prayer?
3.What blocks prayerfulness from working and being exhibited in me?
4.How can I make prayerfulness function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Luke 11:2-4; Acts 1:14; 4:24; Rom 5:1
· Here are negative examples from Scripture: Prov. 28:9; Isa. 59:1-2; Luke 18:9-14; 1 Pet. 3:12
The Discipline of Prayer is the intimate pursuit and practice of the personal communication we have available between God and us. It is the spoken and unspoken confession of our Christian faith by engaging and proclaiming our complete dependence upon Christ as Lord over our lives. Prayer is not just a selfish wish list to get God to cater to our needs and whims; rather, it's true purpose and the reason it is also a discipline is to shape us by what He has revealed, and to grow in faith, character, perseverance, and maturity. Prayer is meant to line us up in Christ and to conform us to Him, so it builds us up in Him. It makes us willing and able to express praise, worship, seek forgiveness from God, become more sensitive, confess sins, make petitions for one another, and help others to be shaped, too.
Refusing to pray and not praying are opposites of God's call! When we do not pray we are, in fact, ignoring God, thereby breaking our dependence and testimony of faith. Without the practice of prayer, we are unconcerned about God (Matt. 11:25; John 11:41; Acts 27:35), and we ignore what is most important in life and our spiritual growth. We are saying, I do not need God; thus, I depend on myself. It is necessary that Christ is our object and focus; if He is not, our misguided prayerfulness will be even more useless and dangerous than our prayerlessness.
1.How would you define The Discipline of Prayer? Are you a person who naturally prays in all situations you face¾from daily life to future activities for your own needs and those of others, too? If not, why not?
2.What part does prayer play in your relationships with church members, friends, coworkers, and family? If you see a need, do you first pray? If not, what do you do? What should you do?
3.How does prayerlessness counteract prayerfulness? What is the cost to the Kingdom of God when the church does not engage in prayer or teach and encourage its people to be people of prayer?
4.What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you when you refuse to pray, or feel you have to be self-reliant only?
5.When have you exercised prayerfulness the most?
6.In what situation did you fail to engage in prayer when you should have?
7. What issue is in your life that would improve with more prayerfulness?
8.Think through the steps you need to take to put prayerfulness into action in a specific instance. For example, what can you do to make sure that prayer is your first response to all thoughts and encounters in your life? What will you do and when will you do it so you can improve your prayer life and relationship with Christ and others?
Prayer acknowledges that we have a relationship with Jesus, and because of this, we are able to respondto Him. Further, we come to Him through the communication of discussion, learning, and our relationship building (as in His Word and Spirit). The Discipline of Prayer comes down to our willingness and desire. We must have a yearning and desire to commune with our Lord and Savior. The Spirit persuades us to be yielded, and inspires us to respond and seek Christ out so He can mold us, indwell us, motivate us, empower us, and shape us to His will-inside and out (Psalm 27:8). This requires us to see the importance of it, the duty we have to persevere in our faith, and the humility we are to put on (Psalm 65:2; Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-14; Heb. 11:6). To make this discipline work, we must use our passion to pursue Christ more and ourselves less (John 3:30). The question is, are we willing to respond to His calling to seek Him further as He first sought us out?
The Discipline of Prayer is committing to a two-way communication between God, our Creator, and us! This does not happen overnight. It may take years to develop this discipline to become second nature, automatic, and continual. Normally, for most Christians, prayer is intermittently used for occasions when we want something, when we have the time, when we schedule it, and so forth. The Discipline of Prayer is normally scheduled, but it is so much more; it is an attitude that we put into practice. We still should do our scheduled prayer times but not let that be the only time! We do this not to just maintain our relationship with Christ, but to empower it further, to build it, and pursue Him totally and continually in a reverent attitude of prayer!
So, how do I pray? This is answered in Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:1-4, called the Lord's Prayer, which gives us the template as an instructional guide. We do this as communicationwith purpose and effectiveness, as we would talk with anyone, and with the emphasis on our sincerity. Prayer is not about what we want; it is about growing close to God, for God looks first at our motivations. True prayer is not about the quantity of our words, but by the quality of our hearts, offered with a merciful spirit. Our prayers must be sincere, heartfelt, and real! The more time we spend in prayer, the more we will grow in our Christian formation. The point is to be sure we are not praying in circles with vain repetitions but with what is called brevity (brief and sincere), as we can cover more ground by focusing on praise for God and requests for others (Matt. 18:21-23; Col. 1:15-23; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; James 2:13).
The ACTS of Prayer
The Discipline of Prayer can be best broken down in sub-categories called "A.C.T.S" which is an acronym or axiom that points us to the precepts of prayer-the categories of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This is derived from the Lord's Prayer and other Scriptures, and gives us guidelines so we can divide our time with the purpose of being a good steward of our time with Him, and to engage in prayer with a correct devotion and attitude.
·Adoration, means to worship and acknowledge the majesty of God-Praise be to God!Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. This is about the greatness of God, His incredible omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, His sovereign nature and rule, and His complete holiness. It also indicates the incredible, wonderful privilege of His care and His hearing us. This means our prayer life is to recognize His Sovereignty so we can honor Him as LORD over all, over our lives and all that is around us. This helps us trust Him and place Him first in our lives. This is to be our duty and desire, coming from our gratitude for what He has done for us. We can see the awesome privilege we have to know Him and to commune with Him. We come to understand His love and grace for us; then, we can have a greater delight in Him, not just as a necessity, a law, or a ritual, but living our life because of whom He is. When we truly love the Lord, we will reverence Him and grow in our relationship to Him. This transfers to us as a prayer for further dedication. We are to be dedicated to God not just through our words, deeds, and promises, but also through our will, heart, and mindsets with our whole being. Knowing that God is in charge helps us realize we belong to God; weare not our own; we are in Him for a much greater purpose. This means when we pray, we should begin our time adoring and praising God. Praise Him for who He is! Then, look over all that is in your life (even if you think you do not have much) and all He has done for you. God delights in your praises!
·Confession. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. This means we are to see our sins and agree with God about the things that we have done wrong. During our prayer times, things will come to our minds that will not be pleasant to recall. We will be convicted of our sins and failures, where we have not been truthful, or have exaggerated or missed His precious opportunities for doing good. We will have genuine sorrow for what we have done and left undone. Then, we will be called to deal with it and make restitution where we can, seeking His forgiveness and asking others for forgiveness where we have wronged them. Keep track of these items that God brings to mind, our sins, and know that God will forgive me all my sins.Confession also means we are called to be accountable to one another, to state what we are going through and are struggling with to someone in confidence who will listen and help guide us by His Word. It is not about going to a pastor or priest, but to God directly, in and with accountability, with another trusted person, small group, or mentor. We cannot grow closer to God when we have unconfessed sin in our lives; these sins act as a barrier, cutting off our communion with Him. We cannot do the Christian life by ourselves; it is not a spectator or individual sport! Christianity is not for lone rangers; it is for community (1 John 1:9)!
·Thanksgiving-for Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. This means in our prayer life, we are to be grateful for what He has done for us and we are to recall all His mercies to us. All this will be more than we realize! He truly and deeply loves us beyond our ability to fathom it. He provides, nurtures, and protects us and gives us hope and a purpose for life. Consider your family, friends, health, home, love, work, fun, a night of rest. In times of prayer, we are to conform our attitude to His will. We are to remove our pride and seek Him first and foremost on all occasions so we will live our lives in gratitude to God for all things. Have the inward awareness that God has indeed been with you "all through the day."
·Supplication, Give us today this daily bread . . . Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one is a fervent, personal petition, letting God know of our needs. This is called petition, which brings our earnest, humble requests before God. It is the seeking of not only personal needs, but for the needs of others as well. It is sharing our requests before God with the attitude that He does provide although it may not be what we want or think we need. We need to learn how to depend upon Him and to express and develop real, impacting faith. This is only one small component of our prayer life; yet, most will spend the majority of their time and energies here while others, seeking to be humble, never venture here. It probably accounts for over 95% of all prayer requests. This is not to be our only aspect of prayer. We are to intercede for others, seek forgiveness of our sins, seek His will, and most importantly, we are to praise and adore Him! Petition is a vital component, but not the only one. Make sure you have a well-balanced prayer life that is not selfish, but that also does not ignore your needs. Within this component, we are also to make intercession for others-Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." To pray for others is intercession, the understanding of the needs of others and bringing those before God. This is exercising love and kindness, and showing our unity in the Body of Christ (John 17). Start to make a prayer list. Pray for others as their needs come to you; pray for your city, state, and country, your leaders, missionaries, government officials, and persecuted Christians in the world, as well as God's for guidance, wisdom, and opportunities for you and your church and all that can come to you, and for you and them to grow and to serve. Be specific and be real!
The Lord's Prayer and "ACTS" are meant to guide, help, and center us, keeping us on His track. This is not meant to be a rigid blueprint or for us to have canned prayers; rather, it is a method and guide to help us build our prayer time. This ACTS has been around for many decades and has served many countless Christians well. It should serve you well too! Use this method to ask God for guidance all through the day. Use this as a discipline to praise Him, to be thankful, and to seek needs. Every breath you take, every step you make, and every task you do is to be spent in Him. You are already His child, so live that way as people of prayer. Think about and foresee your day with Him.
Prayer can meet all things and needs. In everything we will ever face in life, from the trivial to the utmost of importance, prayer can and must be a significant part! We can be confident that our prayers are heard and are answered. No matter what we need or face, we have Christ. Thus, we must preface, surround, and empower everything we do by our obedience and our desire that leads us to the discipline of prayer. It is never to be an afterthought; rather, it is to be our first thought, our principle action, and our primary plan.
Stuck? Here are some practical helps on our Prayer Channel:
·Break up your prayer times. Spend time with God when you first get up. Look over your day and all that you need to do, seek His help, and be open to His presence and His opportunities for growth, learning, and more! Then, spend some more time with Him when you are about to go to bed. Use this time to go over your day, what you have learned, and what you can do better in the future. And then, commit yourself to God again.
·Do not be overwhelmed; start to take baby steps-that is, start with five minutes a day in the morning and again in the evening before bed. Then, slowly add to it. Keep in mind our Lord's Prayer; give praise to God, seek His will, seek His instructions, and seek His Kingdom. Do not forget to listen! Ask for forgiveness of your sins!
· Concentrate, that is, focus on God. The priority is your sanctification, your learning, and your growth in Him. This is best done in a quiet place, free from distractions. Thus, praying in front of the TV with your favorite show on is not a good idea. This disrupts God and keeps you unfocused!
·Seek to free your mind of stress, worry, and distractions, so Jesus is the only One, the only item in your mind. This is hard and takes practice, but the more you do it, the better you will become at it.
· If you still feel stuck in prayer, read the newspaper and pray for items regarding your nation, the county in which you live, and your neighbors. Also, read though the Bible and pray. Seek first the kingdom of God! Ask God for the mission that He has for you.
·Use a Bible passage and/or a hymn as prayer templates.
·Find a quite place where there are no distractions.
·Try to pray out loud; this will help you concentrate! Using the Lord's Prayer is great, and is the best template. However, remember that it is a model for prayer and not an actual prayer! Go through each petition/stanza and spend time in it. You can also use the Ten Commandments or Colossians 1.
Try to start with baby steps-10 minutes a day for a month. Then, in the second month, increase it to 15 minutes, the third month, 20 minutes, and so on. Your goal is to have at least one hour of a day in prayer-free from distractions and a wandering mind. If this is too much and your mind wanders, just remember to break the time up throughout the day-one-third in the morning, one-third during the midday, and one-third before bed.
Ask yourselves, what am I to do first in all situations? Is it to complain, or argue, or be stressed out? How about The Discipline of Prayer? Consequently, as your prayer life grows, so does your worship and learning of Christ. As your relationship grows, your gifts and skills grow, your meaning and purpose in life grows, and so forth (2 Peter 1:5-9). Therefore, more prayer will cause you to be more passionate, have deeper worship experiences, become a better leader, develop more knowledge, maturity, and character, and become a better servant and friend. You will also become better equipped to handle all that comes your way.
Remember, we have access to God; we have permission to come to Him! Wow! What a privilege we have!
This begins a new Into Thy Word Bible Study series on "The Disciplines of the Christian Faith." We will engage this subject intermittently for the next couple of years. This will be about exploring the classic disciplines of the Christian faith from what the Bible has to say, and how these can be effective and effectual tools for our Christian formation as well as our spiritual and relational growth.