Developing a Life of Prayer
by Pastor Brad Bailey
"The power of prayer is not that of pulling God's strings, but of allowing ourselves to come into movement with God. We can move in the authority of Christ as we operate out of the intimate strength of joining with God as he did."
"Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried."...G.K. Chesterton
"If we were perfected, prayer would not be a duty, it would be delight. Some day, please God, it will be. The same is true of many other behaviors which now appear as duties. If I loved my neighbor as myself, most of the actions which are now my moral duty would flow out of me as spontaneously as song from lark or fragrance from a flower. Why is this not so yet? Well, we know don't we? The very activities for which we were created are, while we live on earth, variously impeded: by evil in ourselves and others. Not to practice them is to abandon our humanity. To practice them spontaneously and delightfully is not yet possible. This situation creates the category of duty, the whole specifically moral realm, it exists to be transcended. I am therefore not really deeply worried by the fact prayer is at present a duty"...C.S. Lewis
I. GETTING STARTED
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt. 6:5-8
- Pray Secretly
Power of Privacy
- "God needs time with us to exercise the full influence of His presence on us." ...Andrew Murry
Priority of Privacy
- Jesus had no intention of discouraging prayer with others. He prayed publicly and called for His Father's house to be a "house of prayer." His point in "shutting the door" was to make it clear that prayer must begin out of a personal desire for God rather than to impress people.
Practicality of Privacy
- Jesus knew the value of finding a quiet place. If we want to develop a regular life of prayer we will need to look at our daily patterns and consider the time and place most natural for us to consistently meet with God.
- Pray Simply & Sincerely
"Take not, Oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord in thy great unbroken speech, our limping metaphor translate"...C.S.Lewis
"It's our wills, not our words that are ultimately before God."
- Pray Securely
Matt. 7:7-11; John 16:26-27
"Prayer moves the hand of God by giving Him the freedom to do in our lives what He has been wanting to do" ...Myron Augsburger
II. A PATTERN FOR PRAYER
"This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' Matthew 6:9-13
Intimacy begins with the recognition of the other, and so it is with our ultimate Creator and Father. "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 Our recognition of Him, and who He is in relationship to our lives allows the flow of our relationship, putting into perspective all that may follow in our prayer. It's turning knowledge of God into acknowledgment.
- It may be helpful to begin our special times with God by:
- Giving thanks and praise for what He has provided and done.
- Reading a Psalm
- Reflecting on particular attributes or descriptions of God (Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, etc.)
- Singing a familiar worship song
To develop this further, one may:
- Rewrite a Psalm in a personal form
- Include extended devotional reading or study
Having recognized God and who He is to be in our lives, it is natural to admit where our relationship is out of alignment. Confession is an opportunity to come out from the "hiddeness" where shame alienates us from God.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all righteousness." 1 John 1:9
The Father knows our struggles, His desire is for our agreement, placing ourselves "on the same side" of the struggle. Only in such open agreement can His relationship empower us. Therefore our prayer may take up the heart of the Psalmist,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24
Having established our relationship, we can begin to bring our desires to God.
"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3
We need to be confident in expressing our needs and the needs of others to our heavenly Father, bearing in mind that first and foremost we are to be seeking the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 6:31-34) Our Creator and Father desires to provide strength and guidance as well as earthly provisions. Accordingly he longs for us to ask Him about and for:
- our inner personal lives and daily needs
- our friends, family, co-workers
- our personal and shared ministry (i.e. church, missionaries, etc.)
- the battles in the social system around us
While a yielded posture underlies all parts of our prayer, it is the more specific element of listening that is to be included here. In the same way that a yellow "yield" sign on the road indicates that we are to give the right of way, so we are to stop and give the right of way to that which God may desire to impart.
"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26
The Spirit of God may speak to us as a voice to our inner being (spirit) or direct us to Scripture or Scriptural truth that a friend or pastor has taught. As God is unchanging and the truths of His fatherly counsel are unchanging it is natural that the Holy Spirit as Counselor may direct us to such principles of guidance that speak to our present situations. Take time to listen for His consolation, counsel and direction. (Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 2:1-6; Jeremiah 33:3)
Expectation is the closing step of having truly come into movement with God. Anticipate His sovereignty and love at work.
As prayer has brought us to the true God, we can depart free from the weight of "god-like" burden we often carry. Having done what is wise with that which is beyond our power, let us be released to that which has been given for us to do.
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