Step 6: Pray On All Occasions
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)
A: Discovering the Truth
B. Exploring the Truth
The truth is, we would never dream of imposing upon someone with stature, such as the President of the United States, with urgent personal requests or patronizing platitudes that do little more than burn up oxygen and squander his or her valuable time, even if we did have a personal relationship with them. Yet much too often this is all that our prayer life consists of. We are passionate when the communication is important to us (urgent requests) and passionless when it is not (dry recitations). What kind of relationship is it when it is one-way?
But, how does it become an intimate two-way communication between a loving Father and devoted child? What is it about our relationship with God that can make our prayer life more (or should make it more) than selfish urgent requests (demands) fired off in frantic desperation or lifeless dry recitations rattled off as if they were an obligatory inconvenience (annoyance)? Like most parents, what He really wants from us is our time. He wants to know that we are listening to Him just as much as we want Him to listen to us when we make those urgent requests. Although He does not speak to us audibly, He impresses things on our heart, pricks our conscience, gives us insight into His Word just when we need it and brings other believers alongside us to affirm what He has “said” to us by these other means.
In its most basic form, prayer is an address by God’s people, in a spirit of humility and repentance (when needed), in an effort to seek God’s will. Sometimes it is difficult for us to express in words what is on our hearts. So the Holy Spirit, knowing what we mean, expresses to the Father what we cannot. What allows our prayers access to God’s “ear’ is our relationship with His Son Jesus. Because of His relationship with the Father, He is able to intercede on our behalf. In this world, we typically need someone to make an introduction for us if we want or need to approach a person with stature beyond ours. The person making the introduction for us can do so because we have a relationship with them and they have a relationship with the person of stature. In spiritual terms, we established a relationship with Christ when we accepted Him as our Savior. Before this, we could never dream of approaching God’s throne, nor would we have been able to. Now His eyes are on us and his ears are attentive to us.
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth
Developing an intimate two way communication does not come naturally for everyone. Like those in Jesus’ day we need to be taught how to pray. Jesus’ response was to give an example, which became known as the Lord’s Prayer. It was then and is now a model (not a formula) that can launch us into effective communication with God.
As we continue to grow, (desiring what God desires, developing a Christ-like attitude, allowing the Spirit to lead us, serving Christ as we serve others, being guided by the Word) we move from pure Spiritual milk to solid food. As we do, prayer becomes more and more natural and spontaneous for us. All of these disciplines are working together in perfect harmony to develop and deepen our relationship with the One we are praying to.
As we mentioned, the Lord’s Prayer is not a formula or a recipe. There are, however, some definite characteristics in this model prayer that we can use as an initial guide in how we ought to pray. These characteristics are: understand the relationship, focus on His holiness, heavenly mindedness, submission, petition, confession, forgiveness (of others), seek guidance, seek deliverance, praise and belief.
In the beginning prayer may be uncomfortable for us and our efforts at it may seem awkward. But as already noted we have the Holy Spirit to eloquently interpret what our heart is saying so passionately, but that our thoughts and words are saying so clumsily. In addition, we have the Son to intercede for us. He knows both our hearts and the Father’s and is able to bring the two together.
D: Weighing the Truth
When you ask is what you ask for being given? When you seek are you finding what you seek? When you knock is the door being opened? If not, why not? Is it because Jesus misrepresented (lied about) what God’s response to our prayers would be? Of course not! Rather, to find the answer to these questions, we must look within ourselves. Are we asking, seeking, or knocking with impure or selfish motives? Are we impatiently getting ahead of God’s timing? Are we seeking or asking for things that may not be within God’s will? Are we knocking on the wrong door? If the answer to all of these questions is no, then there should be no mystery as to why what we ask for is not being given, why what we seek is not being found, and why when we knock the doors are not being opened. We need to purify our motives with the assurance that God’s will is best. If our motives are pure and what we are asking for, seeking or wanting opened is within God’s will, our assurance is that the timing is just not right. We need to be patient and wait on the Lord. If our motives are pure, it is God’s will, and the timing is right we have the assurance of answered prayer.
As we grow in our relationship with God we will find that our motives become more pure and less self-centered. We will find that that our faith has become more patient as we wait for God’s timing. We will find that the things we are praying for are more and more aligned with what we know God’s will is. We will find that whatever the answer to our prayer is, yes, no or not now, we can still boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence that God’s mercy and grace only has our best interests in mind.
So how is your prayer life? When you pray are your motives pure? Are your prayers in line with God’s will? Are you patiently waiting on God to answer in His time? What direction are the scales tipping in your prayer life?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing On Your Own
1. How would you define prayer?
2. How would you characterize your prayer life? What changes would you like to see in it?
3. What are your impressions of a friend or family member who only calls you or comes to see you when they need something? How does that make you feel? How can we relate this to our prayer life?
4. Does answered prayer mean that we always get what we want? Why or why not.
5. Is there such a thing as unanswered prayer? Why or why not.
6. Why are there four participants in an effective and intimate two-way prayer life? Who are the four participants? What is each participant’s role? Which participant is most indispensable? Why?
7. What comfort do you have in knowing that God’s response to prayer does not depend upon our eloquence?
8. Why should we be glad that God’s answers to our prayers are not always an immediate yes?
9. Which element of the “model” Lord’s Prayer do you believe is the most important? Why.
10. In addition to impure motives, what are some other reasons that God’s answer to our prayer might be no?
11. What are some things that will never be a reason that God’s answer to our prayer is no?
12. What are some reasons that God might want us to wait for His answer to our prayer?
13. What are some examples of prayers where the answer is almost always yes?