Encouragement to Pray
This isn’t the easiest topic, for several reasons. One is that so much is already written on it. And the other is a simple maxim that I will reiterate over and over: it is something that you learn by doing. The most important factor in prayer is that you pray. And it is amazing how we will do just about anything concerning prayer except just to do it!
There is a reason for that of course. The reason is that prayer is an exercise of the spirit and our flesh has other things in mind. ‘The Flesh’, as a Biblical concept, is more than the skin and its sensations. As a concept it encompasses all of the souls desires for itself, the minds will, all that makes up the “we” that we would call ourselves. The spirit for some is dead, and for others is dormant, but for Christians it is like a struggling chrysalis -the chrysalis of our earthly lives, seeking to change from one form of life to another. And prayer is the mode of communication. Prayer is the conduit.
Jesus spent much time in prayer. There had to be good reason for that.
There are many types of prayer, and as with all things spiritual, they aren’t easily molded into forms and methods, although those things are sometimes helpful. Yet, nothing substitutes for a living relationship with the Living God. You can have all sorts of modes and methods within it, but all are empty husks without it.
So much of basic prayer is just talking with God. It is often tentative and formal for many of us, especially if we are adult age, when we begin… but the lovely thing with God is that He will move closer to us as we seek to communicate. No matter how awkward or unworthy our feelings, He approaches us as we approach Him.
I have found that God is not limited by how well we relate to him, if we reach out. Simply the faith that reaches into an unknown for God’ to answer us, will often elicit an answer. It was like that for me oftentimes when young. This is because God is gracious. It pleases Him to answer faith, even when we have little idea of what we have faith in.
But if you are serious about drawing near to God and hearing Him, -and most importantly for an answer- having Him hear you, knowing the things He has said as promises and policies are immeasurably valuable. You are always more confident in making your petition for something if you have an assurance written down. It is the same thing spiritually.
1. Let your faith reach out
2. Just do it. Just go ahead and pray
3. Let your heart speak, be transparent
4. Find out what God has to say
5. Don’t give up or get discouraged
6. Remember the Spirit of God will help you
7. Understand the Covenant in Jesus Name
I could tell you helpful things like praying through the ‘Our Father’ prayer, whole teachings have been done on that…. but for me there are two seminal matters. One is the assurance of how God views His covenant. The power of that imputed righteousness, which allows me to approach the throne of a Holy God and insures that I will be welcomed, not on any of my own merit (my conscience would quickly fall and be dismayed with that), but with the confidence that He has instituted this very thing for me to do. That the Rock, Christ, hides me in the cleft, so I can both ask and receive for myself and for others need. And see God’s glory.
Covenant, this alone, has been the secret to steadfast prayer for me.
The fact is, we get condemnation from ourselves and from others, we droop at the thought of even trying “It’s no use!” “Why would God have anything to do with someone like me?”…. but then we realize, if we understand how sacred God’s covenant is to Himself to uphold, that we are given all…”for Jesus sake”, we become bold and energized with faith. Because there is no end or finding out of the goodness of God. We walk through that door to find that God is love and gives freely to His creation.
But never will we find this out without stepping forward, and sometimes with persistence until we understand Who He Is. Maybe that is why there can be so much prayer that falls to the ground, and is abandoned. We simply have not understood who it is we are speaking to, and give up too easily.
Two, we must abandon pride, if we want God to draw near. We know this from things written throughout the Bible, and if we have any understanding that our fig leaves do little to hide us, we will come with understanding of how transparent we are in that Presence. Or at least attempt to.
As in the Hymn:
I’ve heard people compare prayer to magic. but you know? where does the power reside? That makes all the difference. If all resides in God, and we are coming to Him in faith, it isn’t magical at all. If you think you have anything to do with it through repetitions or incantations, through bargaining or buying off, then you are hoping in your own magical illusory system. You are thinking that you pull God’s will by your marionette strings. Christians try to do this, they will deny it, but they fall into it as easy as anyone else.
And you know… it just doesn’t work that way. Not the real prayer life.
The saving grace here is the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given and He actually guides one out of the mistakes and defaults we like to have on autopilot when we pray. He’s a friend who really knows you. Got any of those? Who sees through the games and the pretense of all those coping mechanisms used to tell ourselves we are all right and we-will-do-better-if-we-just-get-what-we-want. The Holy Spirit is a friend who sees through that, and brings us into the real business of knowing God, God’s will, and what is best.
Usually we have no idea, and the more you pray the more you know what I am talking about here. It is no secret, ritualistic, contortionist, stretch of the soul. It really isn’t.
Look at King David, he sits down with God and simply talks.
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said:
Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O LORD God. What more can David say to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant. O LORD, for Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
Now go, examine your heart so that it is clear of obstructions, sit before God, allow Jesus to come and break some bread with you. It might surprise you how pleasant it is, how refreshing and how very very much your soul was longing for just such a relationship.
Next, intercessory prayer
Read on if you want some personal experience elaboration.
In my own personal journey so far I found some things to share with others.
It is really normal to have many distractions when you first begin to pray. Your mind is so used to running that it takes a few times to discipline it to quiet down and to focus towards God, not giving in to worries and and myriad thoughts. You never realize how worried you were about whether an iron was plugged in or what you are going to eat for lunch until you sit down to actually pray. Then, also, you find yourself going through your petition list in ten minutes and wonder how you could possibly fill up an hour.
All that is pretty common…besides the phone calls, the door bell, the dog barking and who knows what else that suddenly seems to start up when you set aside time to pray. But keep at it, God will meet with you, you will see Him answer, and the spiritual exercise will increase your ability to connect with the Lord.
When I was a very young Christian I felt impressed to start on a method that I believe helped me all my life even though it lasted for only a matter of weeks. I started the first week with an hour a day, second week two, and third week three. I found that I could not keep up with three hours a day with a family. That was to be expected…. it was not meant to be my life style, but a foundation that solidified some very important and lasting things in me.
Every once in awhile it is of great benefit to set aside special times to be alone with God, to pursue knowing Him and allowing Him access to our lives. The kind where He is first on the list….
Many times I would begin in worship with a song or reading a psalm aloud, there are so many ways to open oneself to God in prayer, there were times to pray through the Lord’s prayer, taking time on each part and placing praise and thanks or petitions and confession along the pattern of it.
I believe God is calling us to pray, to get filled with wisdom, peace, and to be further grafted into His strength. All we have to do is take a part of our day and attempt to pray. We have so much to gain…. what is that old hymn?
“What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”