Last night, I joined the Senior High Youth for their Wednesday youth meeting after Pam and I visited with wonderful new family in Berean. Pastor Steve Rahn gave an excellent short message on prayer and I really appreciated it; therefore, I have asked him to articulate his thoughts in writing for my blog. Thanks Steve for your love for our Lord Jesus and youth.
Matthew 6: 5-13 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Sometimes I think that prayer is one of the most frustrating parts about being a Christ follower.
Can someone please explain to me how prayer works? Can you give me a legitimate explanation for why God answers the prayers he answers? And then explain to me why he shuts other people down?
Just this week, I have seen relatively trivial prayers answered, and I have also seen earnest prayers of daunting importance seemingly ignored.
What is up with that?
Is it because some people have more faith than others? Not according to Jesus. He says if you can gather up faith the size of a mustard seed, God will move mountains for you. So it's not about the size of our faith.
Is it because some people have a more religious vocabulary than others? Nope. Jesus basically tells us to cut out the fancy words and the vain repetitions. He says the heathen think that they will be heard because of "their much speaking." They're wrong. And the directive from our Lord is "don't be like them."
So it's not about the length or breadth of our vocabulary, nor is about the length or breadth of our faith. So what is it about? How does it work? How can we get the results from prayer that we desire?
Well for starters, shut your door.
Jesus said, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;"
So you go into your room and you close your door behind you. And to get the full 21st century effect of this 1st century command, you'll also have to turn off your cell phone, your pc, your ipod, your TV, and any other noise that floats in and out of your day. Jesus is asking that you commune with God, and God alone.
And Jesus promises that "thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Ch-ching! So that's the key to getting the results I desire from my prayer time! Excellent!
Jesus says our Father will reward us openly. He doesn't say that our Father will grant our every wish. God is not our vending machine. And many times His rewards are not the ones for which we have asked. We get so caught up in our own personal requests that we squander what could be incredible prayer time with God. In verse 8, Jesus reminds us that our "Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask him." God knows what we need, and he is taking care of us.
So when we are spending the majority of our prayer time asking for needs to be met, we are missing the point of prayer!
I wonder how many of us struggle just like I do with the idea that prayer is not about me. I have, so often, prayed prayers to God that were almost totally focused around me and what I wanted from God. I throw in a few "God bless my family" prayers, and a few "God help John Whoever to get feeling better" prayers. But essentially my prayer life is centered on me.
And I have it backwards.
God tells us that He already knows what we need. So let's get past that.
Have you ever been to a huge house? Like a celebrity style mansion? Where you think you've seen every room, and then you discover another whole wing that you haven't even stepped foot in yet. Imagine rooms and rooms and rooms, beautiful pools, libraries and studies, recreation and workout rooms, magnificent dining rooms with tables full of perfect looking food.
Imagine you visit an estate like that, and you ring the doorbell, and the butler lets you in. He takes your coat and announces your arrival to your host. The butler takes you into a small, comfortable lobby with a large screen plasma TV on the wall and a stack of magazines in a rack at your feet. He invites you to relax on a plush leather couch until your host arrives.
Now imagine that you never leave that room.
Your host comes in and asks if you'd like to join him in the rec room, perhaps play some pool or some video games.
Nah, you say.
How about a meal? You can have any kind of food your heart, or should I say, stomach desires?
No, you respond. I'm fine. I'll stay here.
And you never leave. It's the smallest room in the house. They are so many wonderful experiences that you are forgoing. And your host is more than willing to take you to any room you want. And you decline.
That's kind of where we are with prayer. The only room we've visited is the vending machine room.
"God, I need this. God, I want that. In Jesus' name, amen." And we never leave that room.
Listen to Jesus' model prayer:
God, you are holy. You are perfect.
Have your will in my life.
Please meet my needs today.
Please forgive me of my sins.
Please deliver me from temptation.
Only twenty percent of this prayer was devoted to asking for needs to be met.
The first essential part of this prayer was acknowledging that God is perfect and holy, and worshiping him as such. Begin there in your intimate time with God. Spend quality time telling God what you love about Him.
The second part is begging for His will to be done in our lives. Honestly ask God that He do His will, then see how that changes your "grocery list" of needs to be met.
Then Jesus says to ask God to meet our daily needs. After we worship Him, after we beg for His will to be done. And not before.
The fourth part is a sincere plea for forgiveness. And if you are like me, spending honest time with God always reveals sins in my heart, mind and life.
The final part of this model prayer is a plea for deliverance from temptation and future sin. Just uttering a dependence upon God will alter how you deal with evil thoughts and actions for the rest of the day.
So, perhaps you're like me, and you are occasionally or perpetually frustrated with your prayer life. Or perhaps you struggle with boredom or apathy. Why don't you try Jesus' suggestions on the matter?
Get in your room, shut your door, and shut out any other noises.
Spend much less time on your own personal needs.
Spend much more time on worshiping your Creator, begging for His will to be done in your life, asking Him to forgive you of your sins, and praying for strength to glorify Him.
And see if God opens up rooms to His house that you never knew existed.