Lucia's Blog: PRAYING AT ALL TIMES
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, September 9, 2016

PRAYING AT ALL TIMES

"Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints."  
Ephesians 6:18


We live out our lives in the presence of an infinitely powerful God who offers to help us in our frailties and failures, and we don’t even pause briefly to ask His help. I needed this fresh consideration of prayer. I hope I can encourage us all to pray at all times and not faint. 

Prayer is very dear to my heart because, through it, God has brought me to safety, preserved me, delivered me and protected me.  Through prayer, He has given me strength, endurance and long-suffering during the darkest, emptiest, most desperate moments of my life.  I must also add the faithless and hopeless moments in my life countless times.  It is then that prayer has rescued me and brought me back to my Father, His Son, and His kingdom from the clouds of doubt, despair and sorrow.  

Through prayer, God began to rescue me even before I knew the Lord's church.  God heard my prayers and came to my rescue.  He delivered me.  I began praying in my own way to find the Truth, the only Truth that would set me free from the confusion of religious error.   I prayed and prayed and prayed to find that Truth.  The Lord was merciful to me and sent someone to teach me the good news. I received it with a merry heart and was baptized the same day for the remission of my sins.  What a joy to be white as snow and be welcomed into the Kingdom of my Lord Jesus Christ! 

At the beginning of my walk with the Lord, prayer rescued me and brought me back to my faith even when Satan tried to discourage me. He tried to force me to abandon my faith.  My faith grew stronger each time because of prayer.   Prayer has been my weapon for survival.  God protects us from the evil one through the power of prayer.  Every battle we face as Christians is waged in prayer.  Prayer is part of the actual battle.

My prayer is that I may be able to encourage each one of us to become people, who although small in many ways, yet offering big prayers.  Praying with excellence.  Praying with persistence.  Praying with faith.  We need to follow Jesus' example which is wrapped in constant prayer, (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21-22).


I.   THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER IN OUR DAILY WALK:  

  • Responsibility to Pray:
    • Commandments:
There is no subject more important in the Bible than prayer.  Yet, too many ignore it, neglect it and become indifferent to prayer.  Prayer is both a privilege and command from God.  We seem to ignore the Lord's commandment and our responsibility to pray:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  (Phil. 4:6).
“Brethren, pray for us.”  (1 Thess. 5:25).
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (Eph. 6:18).
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”  (Col. 4:2)
“Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thess. 5:17-18).
“Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.”  (Romans 12:12).
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”  (1 Tim. 2:1-3).

You see, our Lord has given us responsibilities, and prayer is one of them.  In James 5:13, he highlights those duties both in good and bad times.  The problem is that many of us are not dependable, lacking in faith.  Why do I say that?  Because we allow God out of our box only when we need Him.  Sadly, He becomes our “emergency button” when adversity strikes.  We have no problem of falling to our knees, but only in times of distress or need.  We neglect to praise our God and give Him thanks for all the great, awesome things He has given us and done in our lives.  This ought not to be! We must change our perspective.  Often, we cease to pray when things overtake us. And in doing this, we miss out on the Lord's blessings; blessings of comfort as He stands and aids us even while we endure hardship.

  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow:
"Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ 6 And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night,and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'" (Luke 18:1-8)

In this parable, we are first introduced to “a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” The Law of Moses demanded that there be judges to administer impartial justice in every city, (Exo. 18:21; Deut. 16:18).  Obviously, this man was not qualified to be a judge at all!  He had no reverence for God and no respect for mankind.  He was very unrighteous, (Luke 18:4).  He was an enemy of God!

Next, we are introduced to the widow who is begging saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.”  This widow knew well this was the proper thing to do since she had no other options (Deut. 27:19).  And since this wicked judge did not seek justice for the poor woman at first, and she was unable to offer a bribe, she was without any influence.  Thus, she had little hope from this wicked judge.

And since the widow kept coming for justice, the judge agreed to avenge her lest she wear him out. This judge did not in any way care about justice.  All he wanted was to stop her from bothering him. He wanted to get rid of this bothersome widow.  

So what is the purpose of the parable?  The judge symbolizes God and the widow represents us. Widowhood is symbolic to defenselessness.  Without God, mankind is defenseless and without hope. Those who have obeyed the Gospel of Christ are God's “elect” who need to rely on God for justice, (Rom. 12:19).  It is hard to understand why God would want to be symbolized as a wicked judge. This parable is an argument to contrast a wicked judge (who eventually rendered justice because one is persistently coming); and a righteous and loving God who avenges His children who cry out to Him for help!!  This is too beautiful for words!!!

This parable encourages us to pray always without losing heart.  It implies that some may get tired of praying.  Perhaps, this is so because of circumstances and the failure to receive desired answers.  It should not stop us from praying without ceasing during both good and bad times, (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:2).  Our prayers are an indicator of our faith.  

And though our God is always there for us, that does not necessarily mean that He is going to answer us even when we kick His door with persistence.  Thus, we shall call upon Him for deliverance with confidence, (1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 3:22).  We must understand that God does not always answer us the way we want, expect or in the time frame we desire.  But we have the assurance that He will do what is best to aid us.

“and will He delay long over them?”  Indeed, this is a crucial point in this parable.  Why?  Because from our earthly perspective, it often seems that God does not hear our cries for justice.  It seems as if they are falling on deaf ears.  We must understand that just as God is patient with all of our flaws, shortcomings, and failures, He also is bearing with our adversaries.  He may delay executing justice, vengeance upon our adversaries because He is all longsuffering, not wanting anyone to perish, (2 Peter 3:9).  What a merciful and loving God we serve!!  You see, our God gives the wicked a second chance; enough time to repent so that he may be saved.  In doing this, the righteous often lose heart when tried.  We start thinking that God does not care or has just forgotten us, (Gal. 6:9; Matt. 24:12-13).

And though we serve a God who is longsuffering, He will not delay avenging us, the righteous, forever, (Rev. 6:10).  Remember always that when He decides to deliver justice, He will do it “speedily;”  in a quick manner.  We must learn to trust our righteous Judge.  He will bring swift destruction on those who practice lawlessness and refuse to obey the Gospel of His Son at His second coming.  That same God who destroyed the whole world with a flood.  The same God who destroyed the city of Sodom.  May we learn to be patient in prayer until He returns.

  • We Communicate With God Through Prayer:  
    • To Offer Praises of Thanksgiving:  
If we are indeed grateful to God, we must tell it to God through prayer.
“15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  (Heb. 13:15-16).
    • For Our Anxious and Troubled Heart:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  (Phil. 4:6).
Prayer is the remedy for anxiety since we can talk to the only One who cares, our God.
    • During our Seasons of Distress and Grief:

The song "Sweet Hour of Prayer" is a call to take time to pray.  Taking time to pray is not something that we can take for granted.  We cannot afford to give it up.  Why?  Because this world is filled with the cares that constantly besiege us. Prayer helps us to cast all of our cares on God, for He cares for us, (I Peter 5:7).  God cares about all of our heavy burdens.  He will sustain us through His Word and prayer.  

What a privilege we have to approach God's throne in prayer, making known all of our wants and wishes to Him!  (Matt. 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17).  We can freely go to Him in prayer for anything! (of course, it must be according to His will),  (James 4:2-3; 1 John 5:14-15).  
  1. Prayer helps our souls find relief from our seasons of distress and grief. 
  2. It calms our troubled hearts and helps us face whatever adversity may come our way, (James 5:13). 
  3. It rescues us when we are tempted to sin.  I can assure you that when you are facing temptation and spiritual danger, praying fervently will make it easier to resist.  

Our prayers ascend to heaven through our Lord and Savior, (John 14:13-14).  He is our mediator, (Ephesians 2:18; Heb. 4:25; Heb. 7:25).  But our prayers must be asked in faith, (James 1:5-8).  So why not cast all of our cares, letting our God know about each one?  Why not rely on Him without giving up on prayer?  Remember God's timing is not like ours, (Luke 18:7-8).  Prayer gives us so much comfort!  (Phil 4:7; Heb. 13:5-6).  So pray, pray as long as you are alive on this earth.  "Pray without ceasing."  (1 Thess. 5:17).  We must pray as long as there is breath in us.  There will be a day soon when we no longer cherish the sweetness of our prayers.  In place of prayer, we will meet with our Creator face to face.  What a day that will be!!  This ought to comfort us and give us hope.
    • Christians Have Access to God's Throne:  
What a privilege it is to have access to God's throne in heaven! Through His beloved Son, we receive mercy and find grace in time of need, (Heb. 4:16).

In James 5:13-18, we find great confidence in the power there is in prayer:
“13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”

James highlights an excellent point. Prayer must be vital in our walk with God, (James 5:14-15).  
  1. We must pray for ourselves and others (our brethren, the lost); 
  2. pray for those who are sick physically and spiritually; 
  3. pray for forgiveness of sins committed; 
  4. pray for spiritual strength; 
  5. pray for encouragement to lift up those who need it.  
There are so many things for what we need to pray.  Prayer is the only (and most effective) way of communication with our Father.  Indeed, Satan will stop at nothing to keep us off our knees, to keep us from lifting our petitions toward our Father in heaven.

Another point that James draws our attention to is found in James 5:16.  
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  

Do we do this as Christians?  We should!  We all need faithful Christians to whom we may confess our sins in confidence, and thus to have them pray for us.  

Why do we need to confess our sins to each other?  
  1. To be forgiven and be healed spiritually.  
  2. To be better equipped to pray properly for each other's weaknesses.  
Of course, when we sin against someone, we must repent and confess that sin to the one that we have wronged and to God, (1 John 1:7-9).  In failing to do so, we are running the risk of not being forgiven by our Father in heaven.  Does confessing our sins to one another require that we do it publicly in the church? I don't think it is wise.  If someone has sinned against a brother in Christ and is seeking repentance, he should confess his sin to the one offended and to the Lord to be restored. There is no need to confess such sin publicly.  The matter has been resolved among three parties:  God, the one who sinned, and the offended one.  But if the one who sinned refuses to repent, then according to Matt. 18:15-18, other Christians must be involved in the effort to save his soul.  When one sins, and it is known publicly, then the right thing to do is to confess such sin publicly to save and restore the one who sinned.

James 5:16 ends by saying, 
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  
Do you believe in the power of a righteous man's prayer?  You should!  To pray fervently means to petition God repeatedly, pleading before Him.  Begging Him for help!  Do we all do this in our prayers?  We must!

This passage highlights the importance and power of prayer.  Prayer must be active, and fervent.  

James goes on to say in verses 17-18,
 “17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”

So what do you think was the source of Elijah's power?  Prayer!  Elijah prayed fervently, and it did not rain.  His prayers involved daily living.  He looked upward toward God's throne and nothing or no one else.  God listened to Elijah.  God will listen to us if we are walking with Him in righteousness.  God also listened to Hannah when she prayed for a son (1 Samuel 1:11).  And God blessed her with a son, Samuel and other children.  Hezekiah also prayed to God to live.  God answered and added another 15 years to his life (Isaiah 38:2-5).  Yes!  God answers the prayers of every faithful Christian.  We must trust God's answer whether we like it or not.  Therefore, cease not to pray.  If the answer delays, wait.  God will come in His perfect timing.  And He can never come too late!! 

Thus, we can be assured that God will hear us also if we are righteous and pray without ceasing, according to His will, and without doubting.

As Christians, we find so much comfort for our trials through prayer.  So we ought to pray for one another, confessing our faults to one another.  The fervent prayers of the one who keeps God's commandments are powerful!

  • Prayer Helps us in Our Relationship With Our Brethren:  
    • Prayer Builds Closeness and Unity:
“42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  (Acts 2:42)

Imagine what would happen if we all prayed together as a church for a whole hour or more? Imagine what would happen if each one of us was continually devoted to prayer?  Imagine if each one of us prayed daily to restore the one who is spiritually weak or has fallen into sin?  That means you and me, WE, every member of the congregation praying.  

Paul kept close to Philemon by continued prayer even though he was far away.
“because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; 6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. 7 For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” (Philemon 5-7).

Likewise, Paul's love for the Corinthian brethren was able to remain stronger and steady because of his prayers.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”  (1 Cor. 16:23-24).
    • We Share Each Other's Burdens Through Prayer:
We need to pray for our brethren when they are distressed with many heavy burdens and dangers.

Take for example:  
  1. When Paul and Barnabas were in jail, they prayed and sang together, Acts 16:24-25.  And so should we when in distress. 
  2. When facing dangers, traveling back to Jerusalem with the returning exiles, Ezra proclaimed a time of prayer and fasting, Ezra 8:21-23.
  3. When Judah prayed as a nation for deliverance, 2 Chron. 20:14.
  4. When Esther risked her life to save her people, she called on everyone to join her in prayers, Esther 4:14-17.
  5. When the Sanhedrin Council was threatening Peter and John, their first response was to join the other apostles in prayer, Acts 4:23-31.
  6. When Peter was in prison, many saints gathered to pray for him, Acts 12:2.
    • Prayer Must Be a Group Activity:
We must involve everyone in the praying. Each and everyone participating in the prayers in the church, "Now I appeal to you, brothers, through our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit, to join with me in fervent prayers to God on my behalf." (Romans 15:30-32; 2 Cor. 1:8-11).  Likewise, we must trust in our God to hear us even if we are praying alone, (1 Kings 8:38-39).


II.   ASK, SEEK, KNOCK:

Jesus in His famous Sermon on the Mount stated, 
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  (Matt. 7:7-11).

Our Lord is teaching us something on the subject of prayer.  To ask is to make a request with our own voice.  To seek is to pursue someone or something.  To knock is to make an effort to open and get through an obstacle.  All these three verbs are unending in the Greek (present tense continuous action).  That is, one must continue to ask, seek and knock.  They all communicate the same idea effectively.  

When one prays to the Father in heaven, he must do it sincerely and not vainly.  Prayer is not to be an empty ritual.  We must faithfully “knock” and “seek” to pray correctly rather than to “ask” for blessings.  Prayer is not just an open door to ask whatever requests we want to make.  These are not requests for things one is unwilling to undertake or that he is too lazy to pray for sincerely.

God is pleased with prayers that are offered from a sincere and zealous heart.  When there is little heart or devotion in our prayers, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers with much heart either. We must continue to ask, seek, and knock according to God's will.  It is only then that He can bless us.  It is His promise to us.  And He will faithfully keep His Word!  The Bible is full of instructions on the mechanics of how, when, and for what we ought to pray, (Matt. 6:1-13; 6:14-15; Mark 1:35-37; Ps. 5:3; Mark 14:22-24; Acts 27:35; Acts 16:25; Acts 12:5,12; 1 Thess. 5:17; Luke 18:1-8; Mark 14:35-36; Matt. 26:39;  Matt. 26:53-56; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; Col. 3:17; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 5:14-16; James 1:6-7; 4:3; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:22; 5:14).

In Matthew 7:9-10, Jesus speaks of “bread” and “fish.”  He is comparing earthly parents (who are “evil”) with God Almighty who is perfectly good and righteous in every way.  God's love for us is greater than even the love of our earthly parents.  We must never forget that when we offer petitions before His throne and such are not answered as we want them to be.  We must remember that God knows what's best for us and that He has our best interests in mind regardless of how He answers us. Our God gives us good and perfect gifts! James 1:17.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”  (Eph. 3:20-21).

So, our prayers must be addressed to God, acknowledging Who He is.  They must be offered in reverence and not in vain.  God knows our requests, so ask simply.  They must be offered with praise and thanksgiving and in the name of Jesus, our mediator with the Father.


III.   HOW TO PRAY AND HOW NOT TO PRAY:

In the New Testament, many passages stress the importance and the need of prayer in the life of all Christians.  However, in Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus addresses prayer in more depth; giving us practical counsel on how we ought to pray and how not to pray.  Consider those basic principles Jesus set for us.
“5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  

Jesus, our Lord, expects His disciples to pray.  We see this clearly emphasized when He used the word “when ” not “if.”  He said, 

“when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” (Verse 5).  Jesus stresses the need to be sincere in prayer.  Those who pray and want their charitable deeds to be seen of men, have no reward from our heavenly Father.  They are hypocrites or pretenders who merely want to exercise their “religiousness” in the most evident way to receive the praise of others.  Such persons are full of pride and vanity and are lovers of themselves.  They do not please the Lord, (Luke 18:10-14; Matt. 23); James 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:2ff).

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”  (Verse 6).  

Here Jesus is stressing the benefit of solitude in prayer.  When one prays privately, he develops sincerity in prayer.  There are fewer distractions and disturbances in the closet.  One can easily control what surrounds him when he is isolated from others and all distractions.  The focus of our prayer must be that of seeking after God.  One can seek Him out effectively when he is in solitude since there is no temptation to pray to be seen of men.  God is a rewarder of those who seek after Him in prayer with the proper attitude of heart and spirit.  He will grant their requests if they're according to His will, (1 John 5:14-15).

With this in mind, let us not conclude that Jesus prohibits public prayer.  In the New Testament Christians are authorized to engage in public prayer, (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 2:8; James 5:16).  Even though Christ seemed to pray more often when He was alone,  (Matt. 14:23; 26;36ff; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18).

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases.”  (Verse 7).

Our Lord emphasizes the need for simplicity in prayer.  “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”  (Ecc. 5:2).  He desires that we avoid using empty, careless, lifeless phrases. The pagans were guilty of this, (1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34).  Jesus doesn't condemn repetition in prayer but vain repetitions.  A prayer can be repetitive and still be meaningful or substantial.  “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matt. 26:44).

The same principle is applied to offering thanks for food in that it can turn into vain repetitions.  But when one offers thanksgiving with a grateful heart to God, the One who gives all things, then it is not vain repetition.  

The beauty of our Lord’s model prayer is its simplicity.  It is composed of only 60 words in Greek. When one follows Christ’s example of prayer, public prayer becomes shorter, and our private prayers become longer.  

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  (Verse 8).

When one has God as his Father, he has the security (anchor) of knowing that his prayers will be heard.  Thus, vain repetition is useless.  As a matter of fact,  one’s petitions are known even before he utters the first petition.  Isn’t it amazing!  And some wonder why is it so necessary to pray?!  Our God is not ignorant of our needs nor is He reluctant in any way to be persuaded.  Our Father imparts His gifts as a response to our eagerness (desire) to receive them, (Luke 11:5-13; James 4:2).  And even if this were not true, we are to pray simply because He commands us to do so.  

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”  That is, God expects us, His children, to have a disposition (frame of mind) to always seek Him, to have a harmonizing relationship with Him.  “Praying without ceasing” is what we must always do (in every day’s decisions, and in every compartment of our life) with a mindset so that we may do His will and respect His Lordship.  It also is our way of communicating with Him privately and closely (informally) throughout our daily walk (praises, thanksgivings, confessing one’s sins, shortcomings and to express our petitions).  These prayers should be brief and offered tirelessly or frequently in our daily life.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending that our prayers be brief and with hidden thoughts.  On the contrary, I think it is wise to offer in-depth prayers at various times of the day. Notice the wonderful example of Daniel, (Dan. 6:10).

So when one approaches God’s throne through prayer, he must do it with confidence, not doubting, (Heb. 4:6).  Even if one feels incapable of expressing himself completely before God, he has the assurance that God knows his heart, (Rom. 8:26-27).

Our prayers must be offered with patience and persistence, (Luke 18:1-8).  Remember that our Father is “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”  (Eph. 3:20).

Furthermore, Jesus presented for the disciples, and for us as well, an example (model) of prayer to consider and learn.  Consider that example:
9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.  11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.  12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”  (Matt. 6:9-13).

Notice that every time Jesus our Lord prayed, He always addressed our heavenly Father.  He did it in a reverent manner:  “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (cf, Psalm 145:1). The word “hallow” means sacred.  God’s name is holy and sacred. Thus it must be regarded as “holy.”  It is an honor or privilege to address Him.  His name must not be treated commonly and lightly.  When one is addressing the Father in prayer, he must do it with reverence, in a respectful manner.  One must remember that he is not just speaking to anybody but to the Almighty One, the only true and living God!!  If one honors his earthly father, how much more must he give honor and reverence to our Heavenly Father?!  He is the only one worthy of all praise and honor!!

“10 Your kingdom come.”  (Verse 10).  This verse refers to past, present and future petitions.  We don’t pray any longer for the kingdom to come since this prayer was answered in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost.  Indeed, the kingdom of God has already come.  Christ is now reigning as Lord of lords and King of kings in His kingdom, (Col. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:24-25).  He rules in heaven and earth.  He is in control!  In place of praying for the kingdom to come, one should pray for the furthering of the kingdom.  Are we kingdom minded when we pray?  Or are we our own little kingdom who wants what we want and right now?!  Do our prayers carry this kind of tone sometimes?  Think about it!!

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  This is a petition of the present.  It is a prayer for the furthering of the gospel as well as obedience to Jesus’ rule.  We must pray that God’s will be done everywhere, at all times and by everyone.  To offer such a prayer, one must submit to the will of God and all His counsel.  This is true also when we are teaching God’s will to others, that they might be encouraged to submit to Him only.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  (Verse 11).  This petition or prayer is not for just milk and honey (symbols of luxury).  Rather, we must ask for enough bread as our daily provision or needs. We want to ask God for just enough to get us through this day.  He wants us to deal with today first. And as long as it is today, one has no need of tomorrow's bread, (Ex. 16:12-31).  God in His loving-kindness will provide us with all that is necessary for our daily needs.  That is if one is diligently seeking Him and His kingdom of righteousness first, (Matt. 6:25-33; cf. Phil. 4:19).  One must acknowledge that there is a big difference between his wants and needs.  Therefore, let us be careful not to let our prosperity hinder our thanksgiving for daily needs, (Proverbs 30:8-9).

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  (Verse 12).

In this passage, Jesus is using the word “debts” in a spiritual sense.  Our debts are spiritual debts to God, (Matt. 18:21-35).  Literally, this is saying:  “God forgive me as I have forgiven other people.”  That must concern us greatly since we are not always the most forgiving people.  Often we carry grudges that impede us from forgiving.  And it must never be the case if we truly want to submit to God's will.  Remember, God will forgive our trespasses if we also forgive men's trespasses, (Matt. 6:14-15).  How about you?!

"And do not lead us into temptation."  (Verse 13).

Considering James 1:13, this request may seem a little bit troublesome for some.  Why would one pray that the Father not lead him/her into temptation; since God does not tempt anyone, to begin with?  Well, that phrase can easily be translated as:  “Do not lead us into trials?  Christians face plenty of trials in life from the evil one.  Don't you think we have enough reasons to pray that we might be able to escape severe temptations that Satan might present to us?   We need to pray that God would keep temptation far from us!!  Remember that Jesus Himself made this request of keeping temptation away from Him.

The second half of verse 13 says, “ but deliver us from evil”  or keep us from evil, (Luke 22:31-32).
This is a prayer that is seldom heard publicly. Often we pray for forgiveness of sins but neglect to pray to be delivered from the evil one; the hindrance of sin; to escape from Satan's stern and severe temptations he puts in our way to make us stumble.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.” (Verse 13).  

This is the prayer and life that praises God.  

There are parallel accounts of Jesus' model prayer, Matt. 6:1-13, and Luke 11:1-4.  Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  Jesus then uttered a prayer.  The fact that Jesus replied to His disciples’ request implies that we can learn how to pray correctly.  It is not a gift but rather a talent that one can develop and improve.  It is one of those areas where we desperately need to grow.  We must learn to pray with excellence.  In doing this, we will learn greater dependence on God.  By the same token, it will cause us to be more thoughtful and reflective.  So how is your prayer life?  Do you know that our God wants us to be prayerful, sincere, secure people in the prayers we offer to Him?  May we always be mindful of beauty and simplicity when we approach God’s throne and talk to Him.  May we always appreciate the benefits of seclusion.  


IV.   THE ONE WHO PRAYS:
  • Must Believe in Prayer:
Without a doubt, faith is the foundation of Christians.  We must have a faith that is pleasing to God. We must believe that God rewards His seekers, (Heb. 11:6).  Our faith helps us to press on and not fall back, (Heb. 10:38-39).  God is attentive to the prayers of His faithful children, (Psa. 35:15). He has given us the promise that He will hear the supplications of His righteous ones.  Do you sincerely believe God's promise of listening to us in prayer?

We have been given every assurance, so there is no need to doubt.  The prayer of God's righteous children avails much, (James 5:16-18).  God is able to do exceedingly more than we think or ask, (Eph. 3:20-21; Matt. 21:20).

  • God is Attentive to The Prayers of The Righteous:
The Christian (one who is walking righteously), not the sinner (the willfully disobedient), has the confidence that God hears his prayers.  The ungodly and rebellious should not expect from God an affirmative answer or have the audacity to ask for His blessings.  Sin hinders our prayers, (1 Peter 3:7).  Our prayers are affected by sin in our life!  “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”  (Psalm 34:16).  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12).  God is not inclined to grant our supplications if we are defiant children and continue in rebellion against His will.  Though God blesses sinners sometimes as well, (Matt. 5:43-45; Acts 14:15-16).  God causes the rain to fall on all, regardless of their faithfulness.  God also hears those who are seeking after Him with a sincere heart.  I was one of them when I was searching for the Truth!  He heard my pleas that I might find Him and His Truth!! (Acts 10:1-4).

It is so tragic when Christians doubt that God will fulfill His promise to hear their prayers.  I hear them say, “I prayed for such and such to happen, but God did not hear my prayer.”  What he actually is saying is that God did not jump immediately to give him what he wanted.  However, to conclude that God does not hear our prayers because He did not answer quickly and in a positive manner, shows a critical lack of understanding.  Take heed!

The truth is that God hears all prayers, but He does not necessarily answer them all in a way that is noticeable to us immediately.  We must distinguish between God's way of hearing and answering our prayers.  He is aware of each one of our prayers (including those prayers that unbelievers and believers utter).  However, it is not reasonable to think that God must answer according to each petition one makes simply because He hears all prayers.  The Bible does not teach such absurdity!

Mankind is in no position to demand anything from God.  All we can do is to approach Him in a humble way as beggars with our pleas, requests, and petitions (supplications).  (Phil. 4:6).  To believe that God is obliged or indebted to us to respond as we wish reflects ignorance and foolishness of heart. Those who think and behave this way are imposing their limitations, inabilities and all such factors on God.  Why not be aware that God responds to our prayers in many different ways according to His unfathomable wisdom and omniscience? Why not be thankful to God that He is willing to answer our prayers His way?

  • God's Responses to Our Prayer:  Problems in Prayers:
Sometimes God answers our prayers with an instantaneous “YES.”  Consider some examples:
    • Hannah, who was not able to conceive but prayed earnestly to bear a son.  God answered with a quick “yes” when He gave her Samuel and other children, (1 Sam. 1-2).
    • Elijah was a righteous man who prayed earnestly that it would not rain on the land for three years and six months.  He prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, (James 5:17-18).  His prayers were answered in a positive and powerful way.
    • We have numerous accounts where God demonstrated His grace and wisdom when responding rapidly and affirmatively to the supplications of His righteous ones, (2 Kings 20:1-7; Daniel 2:23; Ezra 8:21-23; Luke 1:13, etc.).

In the past, God used miracles as signs to confirm the words of the prophets.  Today the Word of God is already confirmed, and God has no further use for such signs, (1 Cor. 13:8ff; Eph. 4:7ff). Nevertheless, God still urges us to pray making petitions and asking for His help for a wide variety purposes. There is power in prayer!  To deny the power of prayer is to deny God’s willingness to intervene in human affairs.  In Acts 17:27-29, Paul answered that question, “for in Him we live and move and exist.” There is nothing wrong with praying to God when someone is sick, or a loved one is dying, that God may be with the doctors who are caring for them, and that God may heal and strengthen during recovery.  Who I am to say what God will or will not do?  Of course, He will not do that which is against His will.  He certainly can work in His own providential way.  He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, (Eph. 3:20).  He is mindful of His righteous ones and answers prayers according to His will.  Therefore, we must pray with full confidence (assurance) that He will hear our pleas if it is in our best interest.

Sometimes He answers our prayers with an absolute “NO.”  

Such is perhaps the case of the unrighteous or unfaithful ones, (Proverbs 28:9).  Such is also the case of His righteous ones whose pleas are not made according to His will.  If our requests are not in agreement with His will, His answer will be a “no.”  Likewise, if our prayers are filled with selfish and impure motives, the answer might be a negative one.  (James 4:3).

Paul was a righteous man who prayed to have his “thorn in the flesh” removed, (2 Cor. 12:8). However, the Lord did not answer in a positive way.  He did not remove the thorn.  Perhaps, the Lord wanted to remind Paul of his weaknesses lest he be exalted above measure.  God answered Paul according to his spiritual welfare with a “my grace is sufficient for you.”  Today we may encounter the same answer.

Jesus also offered prayers and supplications with loud crying and many tears in Gethsemane.  Indeed, His Father heard Him, (Heb. 5:7).  However, the Father did not find it necessary to answer with a “yes” but rather a “no” to our Lord's prayers on this occasion.  Mankind's redemption would have been impossible if He had answered with a “yes.”  Therefore, we must always follow our Lord's selfless example in His time of agonizing prayers.  “39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”   (Matt. 26:39).  Our God knew very well that there was no other way but the cross.

God alone knows what is best for us.  He knows all the factors that will affect us today and years down the road in giving us what we ask in prayer.  So if God answers our prayers with a “no,” trust Him with a humble, submissive and thankful heart.  Don't be discouraged if it seems that the Lord is giving you a “no” as His answer.  Even His “no” responses are blessings!

Sometimes God answers our prayers with a “wait awhile.”

Sometimes we deceive ourselves thinking that God is answering with a “no.”  When He is actually delaying with a positive response, “yes,” to our prayers.  I have learned this well!!  Many times I have to sit still and wait for His answer for a long time.

Take, for instance, the Israelites who cried out to God for deliverance from Egyptian bondage for several generations.  I am sure that many of them thought that God's answer was simply a “no.” However, His reply was “wait awhile.”  It is not time yet.  It is crucial that we understand God's delay.  It is all in His frame of time.  

Another example of God's delay is seen in Revelation 6:9-11.  John saw the souls of those who have been martyred for their faithfulness to God's Word.  He described their prayers:  
 “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

Notice what verse 11 says, “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer.” You see, God was not refusing to hear their plea.  He simply said that it was not time yet and that they had to wait patiently.

If God does not give us what we ask Him immediately, there is no reason to doubt, even though we might not be able to see it.  God is teaching us patience.  We should not grow weary and lose heart, (Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17). 

Sometimes God answers our prayers by saying “maybe” or “it all depends.”

God sometimes responds with a “maybe,” when the righteous prays and even when he prays according to the will of God.  Let me explain.  God made us with a free will.  It means that He will not force us to do His will in His realm.  Thus, when we pray for things that pertain to the choices of others, God's response will be a “maybe.”  He will not supersede someone else's free will to grant your request.

We have a good example of God's unconditional response in Abraham's six intercessory prayers for Sodom, (Gen. 18:23ff).  The fate of Sodom was dependent on the morality and choices of their men. Notice that God replied to Abraham repeatedly:  “Yes, but it all depends.”

When we pray for our rulers “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence,”  (1 Timothy 2:2), the effect of such prayers rests not only with God but with the choices that the rulers make.  Likewise, when we pray for sinners to come to know the Lord and be saved, it involves more than God's love for them, (1 Tim. 2:4), my earnest and frequent prayers or my devotion to God.  Why?  Because if the sinner does not want to repent and obey the Truth, there is nothing that God can do to grant my request.  God does not and will not force anyone to be saved.  He cannot save the disobedient, Heb. 5:9.  Again, God's response to such a prayer is “it all depends.”

The same applies to any prayer that involves the behavior of others (parents' prayers that their children will remain faithful; prayer for abortion to be abolished, prayer for national and world leaders to rule wisely and so on).

The same is true of those who have forsaken the Lord's Way; those who have shipwrecked their faith; those who are bent on destroying the church.  God can only answer:  “It all depends.”  It is as if God is asking:  Will they repent? Will they submit to my Son's Lordship through His Word?  Will they begin teaching my Truth and refute all error?  If so, then God's answer is “yes.”  Otherwise, it is a “no.”  It is impossible for God to answer any prayer with an affirmative “yes” that requires Him to override man's free will.


V.   CONCLUSION:

The study of prayer has always fascinated me.  Prayer is one of the most powerful tools any Christian can possess.  Sadly, it is one of the most overlooked and underused tools God has given us.  All Christians ought to pray and never lose heart.  Prayer has the power to comfort us in our times of trials and distress.

Our prayer life is the barometer of our relationship with our God.  We either pray without ceasing or we perish.  We have no other choice.  The early church was a praying church, (Acts 2:42; Acts 4:23-31).  For a church to grow spiritually, she must be a praying church without fear.  Prayer is vital in our walk with God.  Jesus who was God in the flesh is our excellent example of prayer.  We read numerous times in the gospel accounts of Jesus praying to His Father.  One of those occasions was at His baptism, (Luke 3:21); the night before he chose the twelve apostles, (Luke 6:12-16); before and after feeding the 5,000, (Mark 6:41, 46); on the mount of transfiguration, (Luke 9:28); as He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-42); for Peter before his denial, (Luke 24:30); before His betrayal and arrest at Gethsemane, (Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22, John 17); on the cross, (Mark 15:34); and after His resurrection, (Luke 24:30).  So if Jesus, the Son of God, needed to take time to pray alone with His Father, how much more do we need to pray today?! If we indeed want to imitate Christ, we must not overlook the importance and the need of regular prayer in our life.

Jesus prayed at least for two great reasons:  for strength not to give into the temptation of vanity and for the preaching ministry He was to embark upon, (Mark 1:39).  Jesus taught us that we must keep on praying even when it seems there is no result because prayer does work, (Luke 18:1-7).  If we pray in faith and according to His will, we have the assurance that He will hear us.  He is our perfect example of praying in times of trouble and despair.  

The apostle Paul is another great example of prayer.  He often prayed with the elders and with the churches in Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, (Acts 20:36-38; Acts 21:3-5; Eph. 1:15-23; Col. 1:9-18; Phil 1:3-11).  Paul always prayed for the brethren for knowledge, wisdom, understanding, strength and thanksgiving.  He prayed regularly for them to be faithful, to share the gospel and that they might increase in love.  And just as Paul prayed for them, he likewise asked the brethren to pray for him.  He also asked the Roman brethren to pray for his safety, the success of the gospel and for his safe travels, (Romans 15:30-32).  Moreover, Paul told the Corinthian brethren to pray for his deliverance from persecution, to accomplish much for the furthering of the gospel, and to give thanks (2 Cor. 1:8-11).  To the Colossians he asked them to be devoted to prayer, alert and thankful, for the success of the gospel and that he be bold in spite of the many difficulties.  So the question is:  Can we not or should we not pray for the same things with the same earnestness?  What hinders us?

Prayer is also the foundation on which the church needs to be built on.  We need to be Christians who love to pray to their Creator.  We need to become warriors of prayer.  We need to pray for strengthening.

It grieves me to see so many souls, some sincere, who are naive and are struggling because they don't know the Lord and His Truth to guide them to righteousness and holiness.  God gives us power in prayer to do something about it.  And we must pray for them that they may come to the knowledge of the Truth.  The world around us is in desperate need of a Savior.  We Christians are to pray without ceasing as long as we are here.  Prayer is God's weapon to work here on earth.  Just think of how many things do not happen or will not take place because we are not praying for them.  Likewise, we must take the burdens of others to our Lord so that He can intercede on their behalf.  Every day we face very strong storms that come our way; storms that shake us to our core.  But through prayer and God's Word, I can assure you we can be built upon the Rock, standing firm to survive the storms that threaten our faith and hope.

Let's always remember that one of the keys to heaven is prayer and supplication.  I don't see any other way.  Let's always, with sincere hearts, approach the throne of our Heavenly Father in prayer and supplication, asking Him for peace toward those who despise us, asking Him for understanding, wisdom, and real knowledge.  Let us ask Him for sanctification and godliness, to walk in a manner worthy of Him.  Let us ask for mercy so that the Word may be spread and deliver men from the kingdom of darkness and find many sincere and lost souls that are hungry and thirsty to find the TRUTH.  Let us pray for those who minister in the gospel.  Let us ask with faith and not doubt, for a good conscience; to be watchful and alert against the adversary; for humility; for the saints; to remove bitterness and wrath replacing it with kindness and mercy; for correction, reproof, righteousness, hardship, unity, suffering, sickness; for those who have gone astray from the Truth to bring them back to Him; for one another, for our families, our homes, and yes, yes for those who are in authority, our President, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable before God.  Instead of ridiculing, putting down and many times crossing the line God has placed there, we need to pray for them.  Our Father wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth. Let's give thanks to our Lord Jesus who died for us so that through Him we all can taste of redemption.

Let's follow the examples of those mighty men and women who prayed without ceasing to glorify God:  Abraham, Gen. 20:17; Moses, Numbers 11:2; Hannah, I Samuel 1:10; Elisha, 2 Kings 4:33; Hezekiah, 2Kings 19:15; Job 42:10;  Jeremiah 32:16; Daniel 6:10, 9:4, (my favorite one is Daniel); Jonah 2:1.  Let's follow the prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17:1-26.  

What about your prayer life?  Is it what the Lord expects it to be?  Our Father wants us to be prayerful and sincere children.  He wants us to find security and assurance when we offer our prayers to Him.  For our prayers to be effective, we must have faith, (1 John 5:14-15; Mark 11:24).

So, when you feel desperate, clueless, in doubt, in suffering and persecution without hope, get on your knees and pray to the Almighty for safety, protection, wisdom, understanding and deliverance.

Become acquainted with the Psalms. They take us deeper not only into the revealed Word of God but also into a profound relationship with our Creator, which is vital for every Christian.  They help us to improve our prayers.  They help us to reach out to God in prayer for guidance and deeper growth in our walk with Him.  The Psalms become friends and companions when we need to find refuge and strength through prayer.   We must learn to love the Psalms.  They strengthen the prayers that we desperately need for the battlefield.  Prayers help us greatly in our spiritual war.  Prayer strengthens us in our weaknesses and in the fears that freeze us sometimes.  They quiet our murmuring and complaining and build up our faith.   

I also want to encourage us to make a prayer list or journal as our tool to help us become more disciplined and reflective in our prayer journey.  Begin by writing all of your blessings (both physical and spiritual) and for which you are thankful.  Include another section for the people in your life (those whom you are trying to bring to Christ).  Pray for the Lord's blessings for specific needs you and others have.  Make a list of personal petitions and for God's will to be done in your life.  Write another list of God's attributes that you might praise Him for.  Finally create a list of the weaknesses, flaws, and failures you are trying to overcome and the sins you need to confess and repent of.  These lists are just a good starting place.  Pray in secret through the entire list and update the list as you go. This will help you see how our Lord is working in your life.  I hope you benefit from my humble suggestions.

May we pray fervently, persistently and frequently as those who love their God.  May we never abandon prayer because we have grown weary and have lost heart.  May we always approach our God in prayer for the giving of thanks, to confess our sins, to make supplication for our needs and to intercede on behalf of others.  May we always strive to recognize God's awesome nature in our prayers and His will for our lives.  May we always treasure His providence in our lives which sustains us in our daily walk.  Finally, may we always be mindful of the beauty of simplicity when we talk to Him in prayer.

I want to leave you with the words of this beautiful song that encourage us to pray:  


Did You Think to Pray?

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today? 

Refrain:
Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray. 

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit,
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay? [Refrain]

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way? [Refrain]

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day? [Refrain]

Luci