Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Worship Wednesdays: How to Pray, Week 1

This Diva is a sold out, 100% follower of Christ.  Every Wednesday, I'll be posting bits and pieces of my life with Him, including spiritual insights, anecdotes, Bible Study tips, and the like.    This is a long(ish) post, but so worth the read!

I’ve read this little book several times, and it always brings me into an amazing prayer life with my Lord, Jesus Christ.  I pray you get as much out of this book as I have!

Chapter 1:  The Importance of Prayer
    In Ephesians 6:18, the tremendous importance of prayer is expressed with startling and overwhelming force:
    “Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and suplication   for all saints.”
    When the perceptive child of God stops to weigh the meaning of these words then notes the connection in which the are found, he or she must be driven to say, “I must pray, pray pray.  I must put all my energy and heart into prayer.  Whatever else I do, I must pray.”
    The Revised Standard Version is sometimes even more emphatic than the King James:
    “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.  
    Notice the alls:  “Pray at all times,” “with all prayer,” “in all perseverance,” “for all the saints.”  Note the piling up of strong words, “prayer,” “supplication,” “perseverance,”  Also notice the strong expression, “to that end keep alert,” more literally, “in this, be not lazy.”  Paul realized the natural apathy of man, and especially his natural neglect in prayer.  How seldom we pray things through!!  How often the Church and the individual get right up to the verge of a great blessing in prayer and then let go, become lazy, and quit.  I wish that these words, “in these, be not lazy,” might burn into our heart.  I wish the whole verse would burn into our heart
The Necessity of Persistent Prayer
    Why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming pray so necessary?  Because there is a devil.
    He is cunning; he is mighty; he never rests; he is continually plotting the downfall of the child of God.  If the child of God relaxes in prayer, the devil will succeed in ensnaring him.
    This is the meaning of the text.  Ephesians 6:12 reads:  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Then comes Ephesians 6:13:  “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Next follows a description of the different parts of the Christian’s armor which we are to put on if we are to stand against Satan and his mighty wiles.  Paul brings all to a climax in Ephesians 6:18, telling us that to all else we must add prayer, constant, persistent, untiring, sleepless prayer in the Holy Spirit - or all else will be in vain.
    Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things.  The reason we lack anything in life is due to neglect of prayer.
    Many Christians are asking, “Why is it that I progress so little in my Christian life?”
    “Neglect of prayer,” God answers.  “You have not because you ask not.” 
    Many ministers are asking, “Why is it I see so little fruit from my labors?”
    Again, God answers, “Neglect of prayer.  You have not because you ask not.”
    Many Sunday school teachers are asking, “Why is it that I see so few converted in my Sunday school class?”
    Still, God answers, “Neglect of prayer.  You have not, because you ask not.”
    Both ministers and churches are asking, “Why is it that the Church of Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and error and sin and worldliness?”
    Once more, we hear God answering, “Neglect of prayer.  You have not because you ask not.
    Those men whom God set forth as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be - the apostles - regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives.
    When the multiplying responsibilities of the early Church crowded in upon them, the “called the multitude of the disciples unto them and said, “It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God and serve the tables.  Wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word.”  (Acts 6:2-4).  It is evident from what Paul wrote to both churches and individuals that much of his time and strength and thought were devoted to prayer for them.  (See Romans 1:19, Ephesians 1:15, 16, Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 2 Timothy 1:30.
    All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men of prayer.  They have differed from one another in many things, but in this, they have been alike.
The Ministry of Intercession
    Prayer occupied a very prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord.  
    Turn for example to Mark 1:35.  “And in the morning, rising up a great while before the day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”  The preceding day had been very busy and exciting, but Jesus shortened the hours of needed sleep so that He could rise early and give Himself to more sorely needed prayer.
    Turn again to Luke 6:12, where we read, “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”  our Savior occasionally found it necessary to spend a whole night in prayer.
    The words pray and prayer are used at least twenty-five times in connection with our Lord in the brief record of his life in the four gospels, and His praying is mentioned in places where the words are not used.  Evidently prayer took much of Jesus’ time and strength.  A man or woman who does not spend much time in prayer cannot properly be called a follower of Jesus Christ. 
    Praying is the most important part of the ministry of our risen Lord.  This reason for constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer seems, if possible, even more forcible than others.  
    Christ’s ministry did not close with His death.  His atoning work was finished then.  But, when He rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He entered into other work for us, work just as important in its place as His atoning work.  It cannot be separated from his atoning work because it rests upon that as its basis and is necessary to our complete salvation. 
    We read what that great present work is by which he carries our salvation on to completion in Hebrews 7:25, “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.”  This verse tells us that Jesus is able to save us unto the uttermost, not merely from the uttermost, but unto the uttermost - unto entire completeness, absolute perfection.  He is able to do this not only because He died, but because He also “ever liveth.”
    The verse also tells us why He now lives, to make intercession for us,” to pray.  Praying is the principal thing He is doing in these days.  It is by His prayers that He is saving us.
    The same thought is found in Paul’s remarkable, triumphant challenge in Romans 8:34:  “Who is he that condemneth?  It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
    If we are to then have fellowship with Jesus Christ in His present work, we must spend much time in prayer.  We must give ourselves over to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.  I know of nothing that has so impressed me with a sense of the importance of praying at all seasons - being much and constantly in prayer - as the thought that this is the principal occupation of my risen Lord even now.  I want to have fellowship with Him.  For that reason, I have asked the Father, whatever else He may make me, to make me at all events an intercessor.  I pray He will make me a man who knows how to pray and who spends much time in prayer. 
    This ministry of intercession is glorious and mighty, and we can all have a part in it.  The man or woman who cannot attend the prayer meeting because of illness can have a part in it.  The busy mother and the woman who works outside the home can have a part.  They can mingle prayers for the saints, their pastor, the unsaved, and for foreign missionaries with their day’s work.  The hard-driven man of business can have a part in it, praying as he hurries from duty to duty.  But we must, if we want to maintain this spirit of constant prayer, take time - and plenty of it - when we shut ourselves up in the secret place alone with God for nothing but prayer.
Receiving Mercy, Grace, and Joy
    Prayer is the means that God has appointed for our receiving mercy and obtaining grace to help in time of need.
    Hebrews 4:16 is one of the simplest and sweetest verses in the Bible.  “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  These words make it very clear that God has appointed a way by which we can seek and obtain mercy and grace.  That way is prayer; bold, confident, outspoken approach to the throne of grace, the most holy place of God’s presence.  There our sympathizing High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered in our behalf. (See Hebrews 4:14-15.)  
    Mercy is what we need and grace is what we must have or else all our life and effort will end in complete failure.  Prayer is the way to obtain mercy and grace.  There is infinite grace at our disposal and we make it ours by prayer.  oh, if we only realized the fullness of God’s grace which is ours for the asking - it’s height and depth and length, and breadth - I’m sure we would spend more time in prayer.  The measure of our appropriation of grace is determined by the measure of our prayers. 
    Who does not feel that he needs more grace?  Then, ask for it.  Be constant and persistent in your asking.  Be diligent and untiring in your asking.  God delights to have us “shameless” beggars in prayer; for it shows our faith in Him, and He is mightily pleased with faith.  Because of our “shamelessness,” He will rise and give us as much as we need (see Luke 11:8)  What little streams of mercy and grace most of us know, when we might know rivers overflowing their banks!
    Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ is the way He Himself has appointed for His disciples to obtain fullness of joy.  He states this simply and beautifully in John 16:24:  “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  Who does not wish for full joy?  Well, the way to have full joy is by praying in the name of Jesus.  We all know people who are full of joy.  Indeed it is just running over, shining from their eyes, bubbling out of their very lips, and running off their fingertips when they shake your hand.  Coming in contact with them is like coming in contact with an electrical machine charged with gladness.  People of that sort are always people who spend much time in prayer.
    Why is it that prayer in the name of Christ brings such fullness of joy?  In part, because we get what we ask.  But, that is not the only reason, nor is it the greatest.  It makes God real.  When we ask something definite of God, and He gives it, how real God becomes!  He is right there!  It is blessed to have a God who is real and not merely an idea.  I remember once when I suddenly and seriously fell ill all alone in my study.  I dropped upon my knees and cried to God for help.  Instantly, all pain left me - I was perfectly well.  It seemed as if God stood right there and had put out His hand and touched me.  the joy of the healing was not as great as the joy of meeting God.
    There is no greater joy on earth or in heaven than communion with God.  Prayer in the name of Jesus brings us into communion with God.  The Psalmist was surely not speaking only of future blessedness, but also of present blessedness, when he said, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm  16:11)  Oh, the unutterable joy of those moments when, in our prayers, we really enter into the presence of God!
    Does someone say, “I have never known any such joy as that in prayer”?  Do you take enough leisure for prayer to actually get into God’s presence?  Do you really give yourself up to prayer in the time which you do take?

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