"How often have we prayed something like, 'O Lord, be with cousin Billy now in a special way'? Have we stopped to consider what it is we're requesting? Imagine that you are a parent who is preparing to leave your children with a babysitter. Would you dream of saying, "O Betsy, I ask you now that you would be with my children in a special way"? No way. You would say, "Betsy, the kids need to be in bed by 9 pm. They can have one snack before their baths, and please make sure they finish their homework. You can reach us at this number if there's any problem. Any questions before we go?" We are very specific with our requests and instructions for our babysitters. We want them to know specifics. It should be no different with prayer. "-David Jeremiah
Isn't it odd that such simple principles can often seem so hard to grasp?
"A centipede was happy till one day, a toad in fun said, ‘Pray, which leg goes after which?’ Which strained his mind to such a pitch he lay distracted in a ditch, considering how to run. I think there are a good many toads in the world, and sometimes, not in fun at all but very seriously, they manage “to strain our minds to such a pitch”, that instead of going on in simplicity we may easily find ourselves distracted in a ditch, not running, but only considering how to run.
So often I am my own toad. (Oh, that sounds wierd.) I spend so much time asking God to "help me with this" or "show me this" when He has already given me answers in His word! I remember a particular period when I spent so much time wondering (and dispairing) "in a ditch on the side of the road" because I felt I could recieving no answer.
The Lord opened my eyes to what I had so pridefully ignored and I saw when I asked for strength He answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) I asked for joy and He said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (Jn 15:10-12) I could find joy in obedience, do all things through His strength, find His will for my life (1 Thes 5:16-18) -even my prayer life.
You see, so many principles of prayer that are laid out plainly in the Scriptures have been very difficult to grasp. There was a point in my life when I knew the foundation of my life in Christ was supposed to be fellowship and communion with Him, but I had so much trouble in proceeding. I could easily spend time praising Him, but I was confused and concered about how to bring my petitions before Him. Was I supposed to ask God for something only once, and the wait with a spirit of longsuffering for the answer? If I asked two or three times (or more) was I whinning and begging or not being grateful enough.
I thought, what about the parable of that persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), and the story of Elijah's prayer (1 Kings 18:41-45. Seven times he bowed down, praying for rain, and when he finally saw a cloud as small as a man’s hand, he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’”)? I read Luke 11 and saw that right after Jesus was asked to teach about prayer, Jesus gives a pararble of a man who came at midnight asking his friend to get up and give him bread, and Jesus said "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs." And for the next five verses Jesus tells us to keep asking, seeking, knocking.
Leslie Ludy said, "Instead of assuming that Christ doesn't desire to answer our prayers when we don't recieve an immediate response, we are to press in with even more persistance not letting go until our requests are granted. Just as Jacob wrestled all night with God saying, 'I will not let you go until you bless me,' we are to wrestle in prayer until the breaking of day. (See Gen 32:26)"
There are times when repeated prayers are inapropriate. (see Matthew 6:7, and in 2 Corinthians 12:7,8 three times was enough.) Though as we see in Elijah's case, it was God's will for the rain to come, and yet the Lord required Elijah to show faith and persistance until He answered Him. Jesus repeated prayers, Matthew 26:44, "So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words."
Prayers that are in accordance with God's will, and prayed in faith (we must be certain of the nature of God) with persistance, (do not falter), and prayed with purity (prayers can be hindered by sin, 1 Peter 3:7, Matthew 5:23-24) are prayers that God takes pleasure in answering. Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4
Perserverance is an indespensible factor. Spiritual victories are rarely won in single battles.
Faithful prayer can be established by persistantly resisting hinderance. But every rich approach to God is bound to meet resistance. The enemy will never entirely quit. He returns time after time after time using many different means. Do not grow weary, keep praying again, and again.
I was pondering today the parable Jesus told about a bunch of wise and foolish virgins waiting for their bridegroom.
"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. -Matthew 25:1-13
There is no such thing as secondhand salvation. We might go to church every Sunday, and read our Bible every morning, but until we really have our own fellowship with our Saviour we aren't living a fruitful Christian life. I'm not saying hearing a sermon every Sunday and reading our Bible isn't profitable, but with out a life a prayer our intentions often end with un-intended results!
“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” -Corrie ten Boom
Many times I have times I have made the primary focus of my growth Bible reading. I think many Believers, just like me, spend much of their energy on Bible reading and Bible studies and church attendance with the intent of spiritual growth. But when I made Bible study my principal focus, I became much more of a hearer than a doer. (James 1:22) The Word of God is the surest source of truth, but I began to realize that that cannot be my rock. Jesus, Himself, is my Rock! And the best root for spiritual growth is crying out to God as you seek Him. Even Christian acts of service and Bible study can be unknowingly fruitless, self-led, and for me, destructive without my calling out Jesus. (2 Tim 3:7)
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. -Is 55:6
The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. -Psalm 6:9
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men -1 Tim 2:1
God just permeates His word with invitations to lift up your voice to Him. Ps 55:1-2, Is 24:14, Eph 6:18, 1 Kings 8:28, Ps 71:16, Ps 28:6, Psalm 55:17, Ps 5:2, Ps 142:1, Ps 130:2, Rom 1:9, Lam 3:56, Ps 143:1, 2 Sam 22:7, Ps 119:13, Ps 28:2 just to pick a few. There are so many more!
As I mentioned, I would spend time reading God's word but then I continued living a life of defeat. I was getting the Word but not living the Word. The Bible has so many phrases about having "eyes to see" and "ears to hear", but I realized that I was trying to open my own eyes and ears and the result was a spiritually blind and deaf me, thinking I was seeing and hearing all that God was saying to me. But the Spirit began to show me how futile it was to try to "see" and "hear" on my own. I came to the realization that only the Lord makes deaf hear, opens eyes, and softens hearts. And if we desire to soften our hard hearts we must each have our own private search for this.
"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" -Matt 6:6
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." -James 4:8
This is key if we desire an close relationship with our Heavenly Father. The depths of knowing God is beyond knowing about Him, it is knowing intimately Who He Is!
I've heard many people's advice on prayer be, "You're busy just like anyone else, so the best tips I can give would be to pray while you brush your teeth, while you're driving, when you take a shower." I don't think it is wrong to pray when you go on a walk or make breakfast or anything like that, but we must also make time for fellowship with God. He is the High King above all, He is the Creator of the universe.
If you were to get to talk with Queen Elizabeth II, would you even think about saying, "Well you know, Elizabeth, I need to get my exercise so let's walk and talk, okay?" Or would you ask her to talk while you brushed your teeth? The Lord wants to hear our individual voices lifted up to Him, just as any bridegroom wants to spend one-on-one time with His bride. He is the Master of our time. It is an honor and a privilege and a joy to be able to give Him whole-hearted one-on-one attention, and know that He is actually as pleased with us and that He takes as much joy in our communing with Him as we do. (And infinitely more.)
I encourage you to not just pray when you feel like it. But to "have an appointment with the Lord and keep it." Find a place where you won't be heard, and actually spend time praising, petitioning and praying out loud. It won't be easy at first, but God promises to hear those who call out to Him, and to draw near to those who draw near to Him, and He cannot go back on His word! Soon you may learn to love your time with Him more and more so that you will wish it never had to end! I have experienced the joy in coming to Him, even when I don't feel like it. It is a beautiful thing to know that the God of the universe is mindful of me, I cannot fathom a love so deep!