The Discipline of Prayer

January 12, 2008 Philippians 4:6

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Introduction

Pray is hard work.

It has been said that you can cut any spiritual giant down at the knees by probing his prayer life. 

Bill Hybels says in “To Busy Not to Pray”

“From birth we have been learning the rules of self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values.”

Not only is prayer neglected because of self-reliance but also for lack of time, lack of attention, lack of priority and because of any number of excuses that keep us from the throne of God.

When it comes to the topic of prayer many questions come rushing to our minds. What should I pray about? Do I ever bother God with my thoughts? Do I need to pray on my knees in order for God to hear me? Why should I pray? What is prayer? The thoughts boggle our minds to the point of intimidation, which often times results in prayerlessness. 

Today we will help you on with your journey in prayer. We will answer some of the basic questions that many have regarding prayer. This is not a complete analysis of prayer but a practical primer.  

Lesson

I.            Basics on Prayer

1.            Prayer is simply talking with God:

The essence of prayer is simply talking to God as you would to a beloved friend—without pretense or flippancy. Yet it is in that very attitude toward prayer so many believers have trouble.

Commentator J. Oswald Sanders

No spiritual exercise is such a blending of complexity and simplicity. It is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try, yet the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high. It is as appropriate to the aged philosopher as to the little child. It is the ejaculation of a moment and the attitude of a lifetime. It is the expression of the rest of faith and of the fight of faith. It is an agony and an ecstasy. It is submissive and yet importunate. In the one moment it lays hold of God and binds the devil. It can be focused on a single objective and it can roam the world. It can be abject confession and rapt adoration. It invests puny man with a sort of omnipotence

2.            You can pray about anything you want to, any time, any place:

  • Call on God for ANYTHING

1John 5:14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

  • Call on God ANYTIME

Psalm 55:17  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.

  • Call to God from ANY PLACE

Kent Hughes:  You must find a place where you will not be disturbed. Early in my ministry, my office was in a twenty-five foot trailer. Am part-time secretary was on the other side of a tin plywood partition. I could hear everything!

My solution were many, and all off the premises – the beautiful, old and always open and empty sanctuary of a neighboring church, the park, the wonderful anonymity of my car parked at a busy shopping center. Even today, though I now have a quiet office, I often go to similar places for my devotions.

3.            God does hear our prayers

Praying is not merely some psychological exercise or discipline.  It is not like a form of meditation where we engage in it strictly for our own benefit and edification. It is a genuine conversation. You speak, and God listens. He will speak back to you through His Word (the Bible), or though circumstances.

Psalm 65:2 O You who hear prayer, To You all men come.

Psalm 145:18-19 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.

1 John 5:14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

 

4.            God answers our prayers in one of three ways:  YES, NO, or WAIT.

  • Example where God answers YES – Psalm 32:8

Psalm 32:6-8Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; . . . . . I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

  • Example where God answers NO – 2 Samuel 12:15-18

2 Samuel 12:15-18 So Nathan went to his house. Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!”

  • Example where God answers WAIT – Genesis 15:1-5

Genesis 15:1-5 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

II.            Four Types of prayer

Prayer does not consist entirely of asking God for things we want. Imagine having a relationship with someone in which all the other person ever did was ask you for things! This condition does not exist in real life. So it should not exist in our relationship with God, either.

  1. Adoration:

In its true sense, adoration is the act of paying honors to a divine being. This is to worship God and fulfill the commandment to love him with all of our heart, mind and soul. As we spend time in prayer we praise God for who he is, acknowledging his perfections, works and benefits.

Psalm 63:1-8  O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

  1. Confession:

Confession is saying the same thing about sin as God does. It is having the same perspective on that sin as God does. This must include more than simply rehearsing the sin, for God’s perspective would also include forsaking that sin. Therefore, to confess includes an attitude of forsaking that sin.

Psalm 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

  1. Thanksgiving:

Some consider praise (adoration) and thanksgiving to be synonymous, yet it probably best to distinguish them. Adoration admires God’s attributes. Thanksgiving is more restricted by duty, and introduces only a grateful sense and acknowledgement of past mercies. We thank God for the instances of his goodness and usually for those that we ourselves are in some way concerned in.

Colossians 3:17Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

  1. Supplication:

The Hebrew term has the meaning of favor and mercy thus as a prayer it is a cry out to God to demonstrate a cry for favor and mercy. We are asking God for our needs and the needs of others.

Philippians 4:6-7Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 16:23-24“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

Psalm 143:8-10Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You. Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

III.            Facts about prayer

  1. God will hear your prayers regardless of your physical posture

While the Scriptures mention numerous postures for prayer

Mark 11:25“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.

None are prescribed. Sometimes it is most appropriate to stand, others to be on your face. Heart attitude is the key factor.

  1. Faithis vital in prayer

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

James 1:6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

  1. We can’t expect God to grant our requests if we are unwillingto grant His

Proverbs 28:9He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

Matthew 6:14-15For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

  1. We must deal with any know sinin our lives before we can expect God to hearand act upon our prayers

Psalm 32:3-5 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  1. Prayer is hard work, and, as in all work, a very important factor is patient perseverance

Luke 1:1-8 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division,

IV.            Attitudes of prayer

1.            We must approach God in humility, remembering whom we are talking to.

James 4:10Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

2.            Yet we can feel bold and confident about approaching Him in prayer, because He fully accepts us as His children

Ephesians 3:12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

3.            When you're praying out loud, don’t try to impress other people who might be listening in; just concentrate on talking to God

Luke 20:46Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,

Luke 20:47who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.

4.            Pray expectantly, being specific in your requests

Philippians 4:6 &7Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

V.            Application:

1.            How long?

Who whenever you’re trying to establish a new habit – whether it be jogging , painting, piano lessons, brain surgery – it’s best to start out easy. A good first goal for most Christians is ten minutes. Most people can go along with the notion of setting aside 1/144th of their day to communicate with their Lord and Master.

2.            How often?

We do vital things every day. We breathe every day, we eat every day, we sleep every day, and we brush our teeth every day. Spending time with God regularly is just as important to our spiritual health and development, and consequently to our whole lives. Therefore, our quiet time with God should become another daily habit.

3.            When?

Early morning is best. It is a time where your quiet time has least opportunity to be squeezed out. It is a good time to get ready for your day, to get started out on the right foot. If you are not a morning person then fine, do you major quiet time at the end of the day. However, start out each day praying for a few moments so that you can let the Lord know that you want to hold Him as the top priority each day.

4.            Where?

Somewhere quiet and secluded, if possible. Freedom from distraction is important. Be creative and determined to get your day started off in the right direction today!

Charge

In Luke 18 we read the Parable of the Persistent Widow, It is here that we see a pattern for pattern.

Luke 18:1 – 8  Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Were commanded to prayer:

1 Chronicles 16:11Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always

Matthew  7:7Ask and it will be given to you; see and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 26:41Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Luke 18:1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

John 16:24Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. As and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Ephesians 6:18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

James 5:13Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray.

Charles Spurgeon,

Whether we like it or not asking is the rule of the Kingdom.” Ask, and you shall receive.” It is a rule that never will be altered in anybody’s case. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the elder brother of the family, but God has not relaxed the rule for him. Remember this text: Jehovah says to his own Son,  “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”  If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempted from the rule of asking that he may have, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor.  Why should it be?  What reason can be pleaded why we should be exempted from prayer? What argument can there be why we should be deprived of the privilege and delivered from the necessity of supplication? I can see none:  can you? God will bless Elijah and send rain on Israel, but Elijah must pray for it. If the chosen nation is to prosper, Samuel must plead for it. If the Jews are to be delivered, Daniel must intercede. God will bless Paul, and the nations shall be converted through him, but Paul must pray. Pray he did without ceasing; his epistles so that he expected nothing except by asking for it. If you may have everything, by asking, and nothing without asking I be you to see how vital prayer is and I beseech you to abound in it.

Reform,

Asking is the Rule of the Kingdom

Pray without ceasing.