Living Breathing Prayer
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
The power of prayer
is not in the words we pray,
the place we pray, the way we pray,
how loud we pray or how long we pray,
The One to Whom we pray.
I have read many books on prayer, studied prayer and attended seminars on prayer. I have prayed tens of thousands of hours privately, and met weekly with beloved friends over years and years to pray. I have attended church prayer meetings, prayed at church railings, at community prayer meetings and while watching or listening to tragedies on the nightly news. I have prayed with thousands of people in large groups and hundreds of individual friends and strangers in intimate settings and casual conversations; face-to-face, over the telephone, in restaurants, in malls, in parking lots, in prisons, in foreign countries, on planes and through letters and e-mail. I have prayed walking, standing, sitting, rocking babies, kneeling and lying on my face. I have journaled prayer, spoken prayer, conversed in prayer, sung prayer, shouted prayer, whispered prayer, groaned prayer and wept prayer. In all of this prayer over so many years I have learned one thing. One single thing . . . and this is that the power of prayer is not in the words we pray, the place we pray, the way we pray, how loud we pray or how long we pray, but in the One to Whom we pray.
In all my years of serving the Lord through prayer, Bible study, Bible teaching, and loving and ministering to people, it still feels presumptuous of me to think I have anything to say to anyone on prayer. There are so many people I know personally and vicariously who are greater prayer warriors than I, yet this chapter must be written, because prayer is an essential for Christian living. Not just prayer but a lifestyle of prayer, because it is as essential as breathing. My prayer is that this lesson will be an encouragement to those who struggle with prayer.
I have great searchings of heart and wrestlings with God over prayer, often wondering if I'm missing something. Am I over-simplifying it, or am I just flat mistaken? Prayer is just not as arduous a task as my flesh tries to tell me it should be. Prayer should be like breathing. It should course through every fiber of our being like the blood that flows through our veins. Its melody should fill our hearts to overflowing like the babbling of a mountain brook in Spring. We only need the ears to hear the Spirit's call. After all, we are not alone in this incredible journey called prayer. We have supernatural help. May I introduce you to the Holy Spirit, our Helper, Comforter and Intercessor?
The words,"praying at all times"
are rather intimidating
for the young and inexperienced
as well as those who are
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27).
Charles Spurgeon has written in his book Prayer & Spiritual Warfare that "Long before an infant can speak, he can ask; he does not need to use words in order to ask for what he wants. No one among us is incapacitated from asking. Prayers need not be fancy. When we pray, the simpler our prayers are, the better. The plainest, humblest language that expresses our meaning is the best."
The words, "praying at all times" as used in Ephesians 6:18, are rather intimidating for the young and inexperienced as well as those who are performance-oriented. It seems to me that praying at all times in the Holy Spirit is praying at all levels of consciousness: sub-consciousness, semi-consciousness and intentional consciousness. Most of my days are filled with a running semi- conscious, casual conversation with God, sometimes spoken aloud, often spoken in my mind. I frequently find myself simply marvelling at the wonder of Him, spontaneously showering Him with thanks, blessings and praise for His loving faithfulness. Often this conversation turns to questions and ponderings about His Word and about life.
Sometimes my musings actually seem
like little complaints in my silent conversations with God.
Sometimes my musings actually seem like little complaints in my silent conversations with Him. I only become aware that the Lord has taken these "complaints" as serious prayer when He answers me through a phone call from someone, or a letter in the mail, often even interrupting me with His answer as I am mulling these things over in my mind. At other times during my day, I am deliberate and focused about my prayers, lifting up the people in the pictures on my prayer board or on my list beside my bed. There are also those urgent petitions and promises to pray that arise from phone calls, e-mails and conversations with friends. These are kept at eye level near my computer to remind me to pray throughout the day. Sometimes I pray with great faith and at other times I feel despair, but prayer is going on with me and in me most of the time. I feel sure that the same is true for most of us. Many of us just haven't recognized it. Brother Lawrence called this practicing the presence of God. I call it living a God-conscious life and intimate friendship with God. It is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed [on You]" (Psalm 57:7).
And now let us meet our Intercessor, Jesus Christ.
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
The Holy Spirit is interceding for us and with us and so is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we can say with Jeremiah, "0 Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul." (Lamentations 3:58 ). The Living Bible says, "O Lord, you are my lawyer. Plead my case". Have you ever thought about this? The Lord Jesus always lives to intercede in our behalf! I love this word "always". How can we lose with a team like this? And the answer is? We cannot. We have heavenly help 24 hours a day, for He who keeps us never slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). We only need to lift our eyes and hearts to Him. We are not alone in our journey for one millisecond. I very much depend upon these promises. When I cannot find the words for prayer, I thank Him that He is praying as I grope for words.
The Holy Spirit is interceding
for us and with us
and so is the
Lord Jesus Christ.
And may I also introduce you to our Father Who sits in heaven delighting in our prayers, rejoicing with us when we rejoice and weeping with us when we weep? But far more than this, He is longing just to commune with us.
Our Father longs for our love, our fellowship, our devotion and our partnership with Him in His plans. We need no other assurances than these to heighten our desire for the pursuit of God and His will for ourselves, our cares, His people and His world. Our confidence need never be in ourselves and our prayers but in " . . . Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Ephesians 3:20 NAS).
Martin Smith said it best. "What if God does not demand prayer as much as gives prayer? What if God wants prayer in order to satisfy us? What if prayer is a means of God nourishing, restoring, healing, converting us? Suppose prayer is primarily allowing ourselves to be loved, addressed and claimed by God. What if praying means opening ourselves to the gift of God's own self and presence? What if our part in prayer is primarily letting God be giver? Suppose prayer is not a duty but the opportunity to experience healing and transforming love?"
God desires to partner with us
in accomplishingHis purposes
upon the earth.
Hear the heart of God calling to you and me.
He says, "come unto me" (Matthew 11:28), "call upon me" (Jeremiah 33:3), "ask me, seek me, knock" (Matthew 7:7). And mighty are the promises He makes to those who do.
"Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
"Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah. 33:3 NIV).
"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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV).
"I call to the Lord, who is worthy of my praise, and I am saved from my enemies" (Psalm 18:3).
Do you hear the cry of the Lord who longs to demonstrate His love and faithfulness to His own—who desires to partner with us in accomplishing His purposes upon the earth?
Demonstrating His Love and Faithfulness
Jesus did not just open His arms upon the cross. We need only read the parable of the prodigal son to realize that His arms have always been, are now and always will be spread wide, saying, "Come unto Me". How often I find myself there. No words are adequate for times like these, just a need for His nearness. This place of nurture, encouragement and protection is often described as being beneath the wings of God.
"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust
. . ." (Psalm 91:4).
"Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Psalm 57:1).
You are beneath the wings of God, whether you know it or not.
You are beneath the wings of God, whether you know it or not.
It is precisely because Jesus became a man and walked in our shoes that we can now sequester ourselves beneath the wings of God—that we can express any and every need, problem or feeling we have to Him. His shoulders are broad and His heart is open.
Read Hebrews 2:17-18 in the New American Standard Bible and fill in the blanks:
"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18 NIV).
John Bunyan wrote a sermon while in prison entitled, "Living Upon God Who Is Invisible". Jesus shed His life's blood for us to have this privilege—to live upon God Who Is invisible. And the life blood of this privilege is His Word and prayer.
With such great invitations and promises from The God Who Is invisible, why then do so many of us struggle with prayer? The answer to this question is four-fold. First, we may be Christians but do not yet know this God Who Is invisible very well. Second, we do not understand prayer. We make it too difficult. Third, the devil would like to convince us that prayer is repetitious and boring. He would love to make it a burden by turning it into a legalistic exercise or a competitive sport instead of a time of communion with a gracious and loving heavenly Father. And fourth, most of us do not realize how much we actually are praying. We need to become more aware of our praying. We need to learn to identify prayer.
" . . . Countless people pray far more than they know.
Often they have such a stained-glass image of prayer
that they fail to recognize what they are experiencing as prayer
and so condemn themselves
for not praying."
Differing Kinds of Prayer
After studying the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer, I was highly encouraged that we all pray more than we realize. Just look at some of the meanings for prayer: seek, ask, desire, question, follow after, grieve, travail, complain, intercede, supplicate, entreat, bow, beg, demand, wish, think, commune, meditate, ponder, reflect, contemplate, talk, devote, petition, search, seek, implore, exhort, beseech, draw near, worship, visit, pursue.
As I look at these words that also mean prayer, I understand how I am praying outside of my own consciousness much of the time. Asking, questioning, grieving, complaining, meditating, pondering, reflecting, contemplating and talking can be both conscious and unconscious forms of prayer when our hearts are devoted to Him.
Not too long ago, I visited a friend. She and I were discussing some pretty urgent needs she and her husband had. We were in the middle of a project and promised each other we would pray about those needs after we finished. Later that same day, my friend's husband told us that one of those urgent needs had been resolved after months with no answer.
We can get so religious and legalistic about prayer, like we have to be sitting quietly and bowing our heads and praying in a certain way. This was a clear illustration for me that just talking with my friend about her concerns with the conscious intention to pray later was heard by God as prayer and He answered.
Almost all of us think we do not pray enough, right enough or well enough. As I've already said, I believe most of us are praying more than we think we are. This is not to say many of us do not neglect a set aside time of prayer each day.
We get so religious and legalistic
It is pretty easy to get under condemnation as we read the admonition in Ephesians 6:18 to pray without ceasing. In fact, Paul mentioned that he prayed without ceasing a total of six times (Romans 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 2 Timothy 1:3). Paul managed to travel, minister, write, endure persecutions and still pray without ceasing. I have pondered this for years, but the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize I am praying almost all of the time too.
A Delegated Time to Pray
Praying without ceasing includes a daily set-aside time of focused prayer. A marriage cannot do better than survive without deliberate and intentional times of communica-tion, and neither can our relationship with the Lord.
Some of us follow a set plan of prayer. Others of us are more spontaneous in our praying. I tend to be of the latter type, but there are facets of prayer, like praise, thanksgiving, surrender, honesty, repentance, confession, forgiveness and worship that are essential for a living, breathing prayer life.
Praise and Thanksgiving
"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:4).
Praise is offered to God for Who He Is. Thanksgiving is offered for things He has done, is doing and will do. They are the natural outflowing in the life of every believer. There is much for which we can be grateful, even in the midst of great disappointments.
Right in the middle of Lamentations, a book of great tragedy and sorrow, we have one of the sweetest offerings of praise and gratitude in the Bible.
Some of us follow a set plan of prayer. Others of us
are more spontaneous in our praying.
Read Lamentations 3:19-23 (NIV) and fill in the blanks:
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Below are two passages of praise that frequently flow from my heart.
"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever" (Psalm 73:25-26).
Psalm 84:2 says, " . . . My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God".
Surrender demands not that we have nothing, but that we have nothing we are not willing to give up. Jesus prayed the ultimate prayer of surrender in Gethsemane and gave up everything for you and for me. "Not my will, but thine be done" (Luke 22:42). If we want God's highest purposes for our lives, even the surrender of every prayer we pray is essential. He is the potter and we are the clay. We cannot demand the outcome, even though we may want to and even try. Though often prayed in weeping and tears, the ultimate prayer of surrender for me is "whatever it takes, Lord, whatever it takes to make me and those I hold dear what you want us to be".
not that we have nothing,
but that we have nothing
we are not willing to give up.
We see this kind of surrender in the later years of David's life. As he and his men were evacuating Jerusalem after his son Absalom moved to take over his throne, a man named Shimei threw stones and hurled curses David's way. David's men requested his permission to decapitate Shimei right on the spot. Hear David's words:
"And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine afflic- tion, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day" (2 Samuel 16:10-12).
This is surrender. David trusted the sovereignty of God. He willingly surrendered his throne to Absalom without a struggle. He also humbly submitted to the brutal words of Shimei.
Later in this tragic story, Absalom was killed and David returned to reign as king in Jerusalem. And who do you think showed up repenting and seeking mercy from David? It was Shimei. And David granted his request.
Even the great and many promises of God must be surrendered back to Him. We see the ultimate example of this when Abraham placed Isaac upon the altar in obedience to God. Isaac was the precious promise God had given him years earlier. Though God gave Isaac back to Abraham, we cannot hold Him captive to fulfill His promises according to our expectations. Every promise of God will certainly be fulfilled, but not necessarily in the way or ways we expect. For instance, Israel totally misread the promises of God regarding their Messiah. They were expecting a political ruler. Instead they were given a suffering servant-king and failed to recognize Him as the Promised One. All promises must be yielded back to the sovereignty of God for His highest purposes for our individual lives and for the lives of others as well.
Even the great and many
promises of God
must be surrendered
back to Him.
Certainly this does not mean we cannot stand on the promises in the Bible, but they must at the same time be surrendered back to God. "Not my will, but thine be done, O Lord" (Luke 22:42).
I have noticed a change in my prayer life over the years. Early on I remember praying the way I thought God wanted me to pray. I bravely and nobly (or so I thought) tried to cover up my pain, disappointment, anger and bitterness. This was foolishness, but it is so common to man. We want to please the Lord by demonstrating our good intentions rather than pouring out our hearts to Him. In doing this we miss the forgiveness and healing of God.
There was no one more honest with God than David. He told it just like it was.
"Thou dost know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before Thee. Reproach has broken my heart, and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. May their table before them become a snare; and when they are in peace, may it become a trap. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, and make their loins shake continually. Pour out Thine indignation on them, and may Thy burning anger overtake them. May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents. For they have persecuted him whom Thou thyself hast smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom Thou hast wounded" (Psalm 69:19-28 NAS).
David vented every hurt and vengeful thought and feeling without condemnation in the presence of God.
David vented every hurt and vengeful thought and feeling without condem- nation in the presence of God. As we know, he also knew how to get things right with God. We should never fear bringing the darkest parts of ourselves to God. It is only as we do this that His grace can bring us to repentance and fill us with His light and healing.
Sin is a barrier between us and God. Repentance is the place of cleansing and forgiveness of our sins. There is no greater prayer of repentance in the Bible than Psalm 51. Read this psalm in its entirety and fill in the blanks for verses 1-4 (NIV).
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge."
In verses 6-13, David goes on to write:
"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee."
Let us all heed the admonition of James 5:16 (NAS)
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."
The natural outcome of repentance
is the forgiveness of God
and our forgiveness of those
who have wounded us.
The natural outcome of repentance is the forgiveness of God and our forgiveness of those who have wounded us. Because we have already studied forgiveness in a previous lesson, we will touch on this subject only briefly in this lesson.
In the Lord's prayer, Jesus taught His disciples that even as we ask for forgiveness we must also forgive those who have harmed us.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).
Two verses later, Jesus added a caveat to His prayer.
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).
The answers to our prayers for ourselves and those for whom we are praying are related to our forgiveness of them.
"I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judg- ment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!'will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:22-24 NIV).
Bitterness and unforgiveness
are great hindrances
to answers to our prayers.
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions" (Mark 11:25-26 NAS).
Bitterness and unforgiveness are great hindrances to answers to our prayers. As the Lord changes us through forgiveness and prayer, He either changes the circumstance or He changes the way we view the situation.
Some days, my delegated times are filled with praise and worship. At other times the list of my own needs, my family's need and the needs of my friends is specific, long and desperate. On occasion, the only prayer I can gasp is "Help!" Sometimes the best prayers are those in which I cry out, "Lord, I don't know how to pray. Please pray for me. Please pray with me". He hears and loves all of my feeble prayers as He looks upon my desperately needy heart.
Prayer and Tears
As I read through the Scriptures, it is stunning how much they have to say about weeping, wailing, tears, mourning, grieving, etc.
I will never forget a woman who came to me for prayer at church one Sunday morning. "I can not pray," she said desperately. When I asked her why she could not pray, she said, "It hurts too much, so I quit".
It is stunning how much
the scriptures have to say about weeping, wailing, tears, mourning and grieving.
"Why do you quit," I asked her. "Because if I don't quit, I will cry or die," she replied. Being a person well-acquainted with pain and tears, I quickly said to her, "But you need to cry". She quickly fired back, "Oh, no, I could never do that!" Puzzled, I asked, "Why, not?" Backing away from me, she said in fearful tones, "When I was little, my father beat me when I cried".
I quickly put my arms around this woman and said, "God is not like your earthly Father. He cherishes your every tear. He longs to comfort you. He will cleanse and heal your pain through your tears in prayer. He is only waiting for you to turn it all over to Him. Pour out your pain and tears in His presence."
At that moment, this woman placed her head on my shoulders and bawled like a baby for ten minutes. My dress was wet from the shoulder to the waist with her tears.
David was a real man. He slew the giant Goliath when all Israel had failed to do so. David was also a real man of God. He understood the necessity of taking his pain, anger and tears to the Lord in prayer and repentance. The Psalms are filled with his tearful prayers as a reminder to all of us that the sacrifices of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Read Psalm 6:2-7 (NAS) and fill in the blanks:
"Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed and my soul is greatly dismayed; but Thou, O Lord—how long? Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; save me because of Thy loving- kindness. For there is no mention of Thee in death; in Sheol who will give Thee thanks? I am weary with my groaning; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; it has become old because of all my adversaries."
There are many taboos
in our culture about crying.
There are many taboos in our culture about crying. Most of us were told when we cried as children, "I'm going to give you something to cry about if you don't stop crying". This message leaves us with a lot to cry about.
I cannot say this enough. We cannot find healing for the fear, anger, stress and pain of our souls without taking them to the Lord in tears and prayer.
When Israel was attacked by the Amalekites in the wilderness, Moses sent Joshua out to battle, while he remained on the mountain top with the staff of God in His hand. As long as Moses held his hand up toward heaven, Joshua prevailed against the Amalekites. When he let his hand down, the Amalekites prevailed. Moses, however, was not alone on that mountain top. Aaron and Hur were there with him, one on each side. When Moses's arm grew weary, Aaron and Hur lifted his hand until the enemy was finally defeated.
This is a picture of intercession. Moses was an intercessor for Joshua and the Israelites. I believe that Aaron and Hur were "types" of Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding for and with Moses, Joshua and all of Israel.
As we intercede for others,
we are lifting their hand
As we intercede for others, we are lifting their hand toward heaven.
Intercession frequently differs from the petitions on my daily prayer list. Intercession is often spontaneously ignited in the heart of the believer by the Lord and has an urgency about it. It may be on behalf of believing and unbelieving friends and relatives. It may be for nations and it may be for someone or something altogether unknown to us. We only know we need to pray—sometimes as the Holy Spirit prays—with groanings too deep for words.
Not too long ago, a great grief overcame me for my granddaughter. I went into several long days of deep sorrow and prayer for her. I could not help myself. All I could do was pray and weep. At the time there was nothing overtly wrong, but several days later she sank into a life-threatening crisis.
I believe the Lord led me to intercede on behalf of my granddaughter in preparation for that crisis. There was a turning point in her life as a result of it. She is doing well today, thanks to the urgings of the Lord in my spirit to intercede for her.
When I find myself thinking about someone out of the blue, especially someone out of the ordinary, and especially when I find myself dwelling on hurtful things about that person or those persons, I've learned to stop mulling over the painful thoughts and memories associated with that person or those people. I consider this a privilege and an opportunity to intercede in their behalf. As soon as I move from stewing to interceding, any oppression I feel associated with that person or those people lifts immediately. It never fails! In fact, Isaiah promised exactly this.
"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19).
We should never ignore
God's promptings to pray
or give in to stewing instead of praying.
The Lord often raises up His standard against the enemy through our intercessions. We must never underestimate the power of the Lord in any situation. Neither should we ignore His promptings to pray or give in to stewing instead of praying.
Praying the Scriptures
The holy Scriptures are not only profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness; they are also exceedingly powerful for praying over ourselves and others. Below are just a few I love to pray regularly over all those on my prayer list.
"Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope" (Psalm 119:49 NIV).
" . . . we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV).
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength" (Ephesians 1:17-19 NIV).
. . . I kneel before the Father,
from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV).
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-11 NIV).
The Psalms and Old Testament are rich with great passages to pray back to God.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new son in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV).
"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God" (Ezekiel 11:19-20 NIV).
I am sure the Lord loves few things more than hearing
His Word prayed back to Him.
So many Scriptures make wonderful prayers. Where the words "you" and "your" are used, just substitute "I", "my" and "mine" or "we" and "our" in the passages. I am sure the Lord loves few things more than hearing His Word prayed back to Him. It must be music to His ears.
Pray and Faint Not
The Holy Spirit spoke through the writer of the book of Hebrews that it is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God.
"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:11-12 NIV).
Perseverance, or patience, translates from the Greek to mean "the ability to stay under suffering with hope". As we await God's intervention in the circumstances concerning our prayers, we must persevere with hope.
Jesus described this perseverance in prayer as praying and not fainting.
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1 NIV).
Jesus was saying, "Never give up. Never quit asking, never quit seeking, never quit knocking."
Yes, we are to
pray and faint not.
Yes, No and Not Now
Yes, we are to pray and faint not. And we need to know that there are three possible answers to our prayers. They are "yes," "no" or "not now".
There was the Syrophenician woman in Mark 7:25-30 who persevered with Jesus to cast the unclean spirit out of her daughter. Initially He seemed to deny her request. He even seemed to reject her as a person. She was undaunted. She continued to ask until He answered her prayer. The answer was "yes."
Paul sought the Lord three times to remove what He called a thorn in his flesh.
The Lord graciously said "no".
When Lazarus became desperately ill, Mary and Martha's family immediately sent for Jesus. He gave what must have seemed to them to be a rather indifferent response.
" . . . ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:25-26 NAS).
Jesus's answer to Martha and Mary's request was "not now."
Jesus stayed where he was for two more days before returning to Bethany.
When He arrived, Lazarus was dead. His sisters were understandably quite
upset, and Jesus went to the tomb where he raised Lazarus from the dead.
We must pray and faint not. We must pray the promises of God with faith and perseverance. A trusting surrender to God for His answers, whether they are "yes," "no" or "not now" is a sweet aroma to Him.
We began this list of the different facets of prayer with a delegated time to pray, and we will end it with worship. Earlier we looked at Abraham's surrender as he lay his son, Isaac, upon the altar of sacrifice. As he and Isaac began their ascent up the mount, Abraham turned to his servants and said, " . . . we will worship and return to you" (Genesis 22:5).
Abraham's obedience and surrender
were worship in the deepest sense
of the word.
Abraham's obedience and surrender were worship in the deepest sense of the word.
The word "worship" also means to prostrate oneself. To bow low. It is a humbling of our hearts and often our bodies in faith, in submission to and adoration of the One to Whom we pray.
God Looks Upon the Heart
It says in 1 Samuel 16:7 (NAS) that " . . . God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
We find an excellent illustration of this principle in regard to prayer in Luke 18:9-14 (NAS).
"And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, "God, I thank Thee that I amnot like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.'"
It is in our humility and surrender
that we touch the heart of God.
When I read this parable, it reminds me of the widow's mite.
"And [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on'" (Luke 21:1-4 NAS).
It is not in the large offerings we give, and it is not in the loftiness of our prayers that we find favor with God. It is in our humility and surrender that we touch the heart of God. We need never be embarrassed before Him or anyone else by our simple prayers. God looks upon the contents and intents of our hearts.
"But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3 NAS).
The list of facets of prayer is by no means limited to what I have written in this study. God is very creative and each of us is an expression of His limitless creativity. The Maker of the universe longs to involve us in His purposes and plans. We only need a responsive heart to His promptings. We are all busy and must see that we make time. It is our great loss when we do not, and that loss is intimacy with the Lord.
Jesus, thank you that we are not alone in our prayer life. You and Your Holy Spirit are always initiating our prayers, inspiring our prayers, empowering our prayers and blessing our prayers, for we cannot pray as we ought. Give us a sensitive and responsive heart to Your promptings and invitations to join you in prayer. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the awesome privilege you have given us and the trust you have in us. Enlighten us with your truth about prayer. Remove the fleshly burden of prayer and give us Your burden for prayer. Convict us of our sin of prayerlessness. Bring us to repentance and draw us into your throne room. Cause us to soar upon the wings of prayer. Fill us with faith for Your perfect will, trust in your answers and hope for the fulfillment of your purposes for our lives and for those for whom we pray. In Your Name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Living Breathing Prayer (c) 2002 by Anne Murchison
Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for for personal use.
Please credit the author.
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