Week 3: Prayer

Most people view prayer as the last resort when all our human efforts fail. But...
Prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. 
 
We are to pray about our problems but that is NOT the primary purpose of prayer. Would you say a husband had a good relationship with his wife if he only talked to her when he need something from her? The primary purpose of prayer is to cultivate your personal relationship with God.

When we don’t pray, we are basically communicating to God, I don’t need your help, I’ve got this. Ultimately, Prayerlessness is pride.

Even Jesus constantly came to the father in prayer. Often when he was the most busy he would sacrifice sleep to get away and pray.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

The disciples noticed the richness of his prayer life and asked him “Teach us to pray” Today we are going to get a crash course on how to pray like Jesus.
What are some common misunderstandings about prayer?
1. Pray Sincerely
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matt 6:5-6
 
A “hypocrite” was an actor in the greek theater who pretended to be someone they were not. The religious leaders loved giving fancy prayers that made them look super spiritual. Jesus warned that since the applause of people is what they were after than that’s the only reward they were going to get!

Ask yourself, "when it really comes down to it, why do I pray?" To please God or to impress people?

Jesus recommended finding a private place to pray. This helps eliminate distractions and assures that you are doing it for God not for others.

2. Pray Simply
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6:7-8
 
Keep it simple and sincere! There are no bonus points for fancy words.

Prayer is not about saying the exact right words to twist God’s arm. Martin Luther said “Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.” Repeating the same things over and over doesn’t make your prayer more powerful.

Talk to God like you would to a loving earthly father. You speak to your father with respect, but you talk to him informally. God cares about your heart, not your words.
3. Pray Shamelessly
Jesus tells a story of a man who had a traveler come to visit but he realized he didn’t have anything to feed him so he went over to his neighbor’s house at midnight to ask for some bread. He knocked on the door and the annoyed neighbor opened the door in his pajamas and said I’ve been asleep for awhile and so are my kids, do you know how hard it is to get them to bed, sorry, and slams the door.

But this man wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he keeps knocking, until finally his neighbor gave in. Here’s the point...

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:1–13

God is not your grumpy neighbor. If shameless asking will work for your grumpy neighbor how much more will it work for your father who loves you. God is not annoyed about your request he’s actually waiting for you to knock on his door! Our Father love giving us good gifts!

I wonder what gifts God is waiting to give to those who have the shameless audacity to ask him?

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16
 
Because of the cross we can come shamelessly into God’s presence and ask him for whatever we need!How shameless are your prayers? Is there anything that you have been praying for that your a little embarrassed to tell people about? Do any of your requests make you feel a little uncomfortable?

God is not offended by our big prayers! God loves it when we come to him sincerely, simply & shamelessly.
Which of these three ways of praying do you want to grow in?
4. Pray Systematically
You may have heard the Lord’s prayer quoted, but the Lord’s prayer is not just a prayer to be recited but a templet to follow. Right before the prayer Jesus says, Pray like this...   Matthew 6:9  So the Lord’s prayer is a sample prayer. The acrostic PRAY uses the elements found in the Lord’s prayer to guide your prayer time.
Praise- Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name... Matt 6:9
By praying OUR father, Jesus is including us in his relationship with the Father. But in addition to being a loving father he’s also completely holy. “Hallowed be your name” literally means “may your name be kept holy.” To be Holy is to be set apart from all others. We are to praise God for the greatness of his name above all others.

Praise brings perspective. Skipping praise can lead us to see God more like a genie to grant wishes, or a buddy to hang out with instead of the only one who is completely holy, mighty, kind, merciful, just, and loving.

During your time of praise fell free to thank him for all the blessings in your life, remembering what God has done for you gives you faith in what he can do for you.Praise put us in our proper place under God’s authority, and reminds us of His power.

Repent- Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matt 6:12-13
 
It’s easy to see your flaws in the light of God’s holiness.

“Debts” here refers to all sins. Whenever we sin we are accumulating a debt with God and our debt is far too great for us to pay ourselves.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Christ’s death paid our debt.  If you have surrendered to Christ he has forgiven all your sins. But in order to stay close to God we must confess our sin to God as we realize it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9
 
Repentance restores our relationship with God. If a son stole his father’s car the relationship would be strained but he would still be his son. If you have surrendered to Christ you are a son or daughter of God, there is nothing you can do to change that. But your fellowship with him can be strained by unconfessed sin.

Like a kink in a water hose, sin stops the flow of God’s power in your life. Giving yourself a daily reminder to repent keeps unconfessed sin from blocking your relationship with God.
How does praise and repentance set the stage for healthy prayer?
Ask- In the New Testament we are given 4 ways to ask:
  • Ask According To Our NeedsGive us today our daily bread. Matt 6:11
 
Jesus tells us ask for God to take care of our daily needs.

The phrase daily bread would have reminded the Jewish audience of how in the wilderness God sent bread from heaven each day. Each family was allowed to take only what they needed for that day. If they took more than they needed the leftovers would rot. They were totally dependent on God to meet their needs everyday. We should be too.

We are supposed to work to provide for ourselves, but ultimately God is the one who give us the opportunity and health to work, so he is the one who ultimately meets our needs. Whatever need you have, don’t hesitate to ask God to meet it.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

If it’s big enough to worry about it’s big enough to pray about. Let your anxiety push you to pray. Use the energy you’ve been using to worry to pray then a peace that passes understanding will come. Prayer is the pathway to peace. What have you been worrying about that you need to start praying about?

  • Ask According to God’s WordIf you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:17
 
The better you know the Word, the more your prayers will reflect God’s heart. Biblical prayer leads to answered prayer. This is why it’s wise to start your time alone with God by reading the Bible, because what you read can give you inspiration for what to pray for.

  • Ask According to God’s WillYour kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matt 6:10
 
We must have humility to realize that his will is often different than ours, but it’s always better. Praying for God’s kingdom to come means that our prayers should be in line with the priorities of his kingdom.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matt 6:33 

If God answered all your prayers right now how many of them would lead to an expanding of God’s kingdom? It’s not wrong to pray for God’s provision but we must realize that our provision is ultimately to serve God’s mission.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

God is working to spread the gospel, expand his kingdom in the world, and help you grow. We should pray in line with what he’s doing.

You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive; because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:2-3

Sometimes the reason we don’t have is because we simply haven’t asked God for it. There are things God will do if we pray that he won’t if we don’t!  I’m not sure exactly how prayer works, but it works.

Sometimes God says no because we are asking according to our selfish desires instead of his will.
 
  • Ask According to God’s SpiritAnd the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:26–27
 
As we pray in the Spirit, he helps us pray according to God’s Will. Sometimes we don’t even know the words to say but God knows our hearts and he translates what’s going on in our hearts and brings it before the father. We need God’s help to pray as we should.

Yield- Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matt 6:10
 
We should pray that what he wants done to be done, and his kingdom values to be implemented here and now. Those of us who follow him, should be the first in line to yield to his will, and live for his kingdom.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the weight of what Jesus was about to experience on the cross was placed in front of Him and even though he so stressed he was sweating drops of blood he prayed...

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.  Luke 22:42 

To pray like Jesus requires that we can say with him, “not my will but yours be done.” End your prayer time by yielding yourself to God.

Sit in silence and listen for what God might want to say to you. Prayer includes talking to God and listening to God, so listen for anything the Spirit might want to say. Have your journal handy to write down what God might be impressing on your heart.

This attitude of submission is the one you should carry with you throughout your day as you seek to “Pray continually.” 1 Thess 5:17  
Continue your conversation with God throughout your day, and pray for things as they come up.

Starting a habit of having designated time to do the PRAY acrostic on a regular basis can help you develop a lifestyle of prayer. The best time to pray for most people is right after their daily time in God’s Word. You’ve already set that time aside and can use Scripture as inspiration for your prayers.

If you only have 10 mins to spare, start by reading for 5 mins and praying for 5 mins right after. Try setting a timer for how long you’d like to pray so you’re not tempted to be distracted by your phone. Use the same journal you used for your time in the Word to write out your prayers. For most people 5 mins a day is a good place to start.
What’s your plan to grow in your personal prayer life?

End your time with 5mins of private prayer practicing the Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield method.