Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Gift of Prayer

Today I want to talk about prayer.  I am not going to talk about how to pray or why we should pray, but I want to talk about our attitude regarding prayer.  So many of us have some weird aversion to praying, especially when asked to.  I have been guilty of this as well, as my wife would attest to.  It is not that I do not like to pray, though, it is honestly because I love to hear her pray.  Beyond that, I have seen people constantly trying to pass off prayer onto someone else, especially at meal times.  We either politely refuse or "jokingly' pass it off to someone else.  I have been at meals where there was a silly game where everyone picks up a spoon and the loser (the last one to pick up a spoon) was the one who would pray.  Looking back, I find it rather tragic that praying was equating with losing.  The entire attitude of avoiding being the one to pray is completely wrong.  Prayer is not a burden or something to be ashamed of or shy about.  Prayer is our communication to and from God.  Prayer is not something we have to do, it is something we get to do.  Today, I want to talk about prayer as a gift from God. 

First of all, prayer is our right as children of God.  Almost everyone prays in some form or another, but only us in Christ have the right to come before God.  Not only can we come, but we can come boldly. 
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
How amazing is that?  If you work for a large company, what right do you have to walk boldly into the office of the President?  If you live in a city of any size, can you waltz right into the mayor's office and speak your mind?  Can you get into the governor's office at any time and make your requests known?  Can you boldly enter the Oval Office and speak your mind to the president?  Of course not you can not.  But the Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign Almighty God invites you to come boldly before His throne at any time. 

Not only can we come to God and lay our petitions before Him, but He promises to answer those petitions. 
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.  1 John 5:14-15 NKJV
Even if you get into the aforementioned offices, chances are your petition would fall on deaf ears before you are hauled off by security or the police.  With God it is not so.  With God, He will hear our petitions and He promises that He will answer them.  So now prayer is something we not only have a right to do, but it is something that will get a response from God.  God will listen, consider, and answer your petition. 

It gets even better.  God will answer your petition in the best way for you according to His glory. 
"Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! " Matthew 7:9-11 NKJV
Have you ever petitioned your congressman or senator for anything?  I have written letters before and usually get some form letter back that does not even really address the issue I even wrote about.  Again, this is not so with God.  God answers our prayers and answers specific to our needs and requests.  How can we not take advantage of such a wonderful gift? 

Petitioning the Lord with our requests is only one small part of prayer.  God, while answering our prayers, is not some mystical genie in the sky just existing for our requests.   While this is an amazing promise, prayer is even so much more than this.

We live in hard times.  The economy is rough and most of us our hurting in some way. We worry about our children, our jobs, our finances, sickness, war, terrorism, and so much more.  These care weigh us down and affect our lives.  This should not be so.  Prayer is how we give our cares to the Lord and let Him take care of them.  We are not to bear the burdens of those concerns, but give them to the Lord.  Prayer is how we do that.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 NKJV
Prayer is our source of wisdom.  We do not know the beginning from the end as God does and so when faced with any decision, we do not have the understanding to really know the best choice to make.  What is amazing about God we do not have to.  In fact, God tells us not to.  God tells us that we are to rely on His wisdom.  That is only possible if we come to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for direction.  This is a confusing world , why would we not take advantages of the Creator's promise to guide us through it? 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
Prayer is also our help in time of trouble.  Prayer is how we learn how to rejoice even in the worst of times. 
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  James 1:1-2 NKJV
Let's face it.  It is impossible to follow the command to rejoice in many of the trials we face in life.  That is why God in the midst of telling us to rejoice in trials tells us to ask Him for wisdom.  We can not rejoice in our own strength, but when we come to God in prayer and ask Him how to obey, that is when we ask Him how to rejoice, He will give us that joy!   If you are going through anything in life, the worst thing to do is take out your violin and start your own pity party.  We need to come to God in prayer and have faith that God will give us the joy and patience to get through our trial. 

Prayer is also how we draw nearer to God.  Prayer is our conversation with God.  It is not just speaking but it is also listening.  Prayer is a conversation and we too often forget that God does speak back to us.  God is our Father and we supposed to have those close intimate relationship with God.  God desires that relationship and we were created for it. 
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 NKJV
If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  We draw near to him by prayer.  Prayer is essentially a conversation with our Father and we get closer to anyone (including God) by talking to them.  Can you say you are getting closer to your husband or wife or children or anyone else if you never actually have a conversation?  Talking to God draws us nearer to Him and in turn He draws nearer to us. 

James 4:8 also brings up another point.  If we are to draw near to God in prayer, we must come with a clean heart.  Sin acts as a boundary to our prayers and before seeking God in other things, we much first seek God for forgiveness of our sins.  We must first confess our sins to God, who is faithful to forgive our sins.  That is another gift of prayer, it is how we confess our sins to God and restore that relationship to where it should be.  It puts us in the right heart to draw nearer to God. 
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 NKJV
Note that we merely have to confess our sins. Now true confession bears the fruit of repentance, but it starts with confession.  We confess, God leads us to repentance through His work in our lives.  We do not come to confess as we would an earthly judge and expect punishment for what we may have done.  We confess expecting forgiveness and a restored relationship.  God is not going to mete out punishment or tell us some great work of penance that we must do.  We just have to confess, which requires speaking to God, which is prayer.  A gift of prayer is forgiveness of our sins. 

And finally, I will end with one of the greatest gifts of prayer.  That gift is that of the Holy Spirit.
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"  Luke 11:13 NKJV
We receive the Holy Spirit at salvation and as I wrote yesterday He is ever-present with you.  But being God, the Holy Spirit's work in your life is achieved through prayer.  We are to address our prayers to the Father as Jesus commanded and through those prayers, the Holy Spirit will work in your life. We saw yesterday all the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives, but those roles are realized through prayer.  Not that our prayers have authority over the Holy Spirit, but because God desires that relationship with us.  He wants us to acknowledge that we rely upon Him.  He wants us in communication with Him as He works in our lives.  How can we expect God to work in our lives if we do not talk to Him.  How would that work have any effect if we do not take the time to hear from Him.   Think of all you are missing out on if you are not in communion with God.

Prayer is an amazing gift and it is time we stop trying to associate it as something we "have" to do and cherish it as something we get to do.  Instead of hoping we don't get picked to pray, we should volunteer.  Instead of rushing to pick up a spoon, we should sit still and realize that the last person to pick up the spoon is actually the winner. God, the Almighty Creator, is more accessible than anyone even hear on Earth.  Remember even our salvation was an act of prayer when we came to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord of our lives.    If you want the Holy Spirit to be more in your life, pray.  If you want God to provide your needs, pray.  If you want God to forgive your sins, pray.  If you want joy in your life in the midst of trouble, pray.  If you want to be closer to God, pray.  If you want guidance, pray.  If you want God to take your cares, pray.  If you lack any of these things and can not understand why, pray.  We lack because we do not ask.  We lack because we are not spending time in prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, anything less and we are cheating ourselves.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  1 John 3:22 NKJV

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