Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Purposeful Prayer

According to 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the purpose of spiritual discipline is Godliness. The intake of God’s Word is the essential spiritual discipline, and next to it is the discipline of prayer.

We live shabbily because we pray meanly. - E.M. Bounds

Edward McKendree Bounds did not mean “cruel” by the word “meanly.” The word describes a miserable, poor, and inferior manner. God has clearly and powerfully spoken to us through the Bible; not through dreams, visions, the horoscope, etc. God has revealed Himself through Creation and through His Word. This is why the intake of God’s Word is the foundational spiritual discipline. Second only to Biblical intake is the spiritual discipline of prayer. In fact, prayer and Bible intake are connected. Together they form a two-way communication between God and man. They are frequently linked in the Scriptures:

  • Acts 6:4—”But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
  • John 15:7—”If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
  • Proverbs 28:9—”He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [shall be] abomination.”
  • Ephesians 6:17-18—”take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”

Prayer is Expected

If Jesus personally appeared to you and said that He expected you to pray, would you become more faithful in prayer? The following Scripture passages are as much His will for you as if He spoke to you face to face.

  • Matthew 6:5-9
  • Luke 11:9 – “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
  • Luke 18:1 – “And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint”
  • Colossians 4:2—”continue in prayer”
  • 1 Thessalonians—”Pray without ceasing”

Jesus expects His followers to pray!

Prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences. - John Piper

To abandon prayer is to fight the battle with our own resources at best, and to lose interest in the battle at worst. - Don Whitney

Prayer is Learned!

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), and that should be a shared desire. We must learn to pray.

  • Matthew 21:21-22
  • Luke 18:1-8
  • John 14:13-14
  • 1 John 5:14-15

The best way to learn how to pray is by praying. Meditating on Scripture, praying with others, and reading about prayer will also teach you how to pray.

No matter how difficult prayer is for you now, if you will persevere in learning how to pray you will always have the hope of an even stronger and more fruitful prayer life ahead of you. - Don Whitney

Prayer is Answered!

David said in Psalm 65:2, “O thou that hearest prayer…” Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and you shall receive.” Prayer is answered. Consider Jesus’ promise along with the words of James 4:2-3. God does not always say yes, but He does always answer (1 John 5:14-15).

  • Sometimes God will instantly answer (Isaiah 65:24; Daniel 9:21-23)
  • Sometimes God’s answer is different than ours
  • Sometimes the answers are different from what we want (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
  • Sometimes they are greater than we expect (Jeremiah 33:3; Ephesians 3:20)

Where God leads you to pray, He means you to receive. - C.H. Spurgeon

Prayer is answered, but your prayers may also be hindered. These passages provide some explanations for how our prayers may be hindered.

  • Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]“
  • Proverbs 21:13 – “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
  • Mark 11:25 – “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
  • James 1:5-8; 4:3
  • 1 Peter 3:7 – “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy. - John Piper

Admit to God – if necessary – that the spiritual discipline of prayer has been missing and ask the Lord to teach you to pray. Since prayer is expected, will you pray? Since prayer is learned, will you learn to pray? Are your prayers presently hindered? What are some ways in which God has recently answered your prayers?

Godliness is the goal of spiritual discipline. Remember this, and the disciplines will become a delight instead of a drudgery!

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