Welcome back. I hope you had a chance to look up verses about prayer. If you did, I am sure that it made you ponder the wonder of prayer. Last time we talked about the need for seeking to be in God's will when we pray. I specifically wanted you to be thinking about the question, "Does prayer change what happens in this world?" I know that we didn't answer that question yet, but we need to look at some other principles of prayer first. Yes, I am trying to string you along so you will keep waiting for the answer. Kind of like watching 24, right?
Let's start with a definition for what prayer is. The simplest, but most accurate definition of prayer in the life of a Christian, is conversing with God. Now, conversing assumes a two way connection. Speaking and listening. Most of us have no trouble with the speaking part. It usually involves asking for things. Even people that have no relationship with God do this, often quite regularly. The problem for most people, even believers is the listening part. Right now you might be saying, "What do you mean, listening? Do we hear God audibly?" It does happen, but I am usually a little wary of people who hear an audible voice. When you hear Christians say, "The Lord spoke to me," they usually don't mean audibly. It is often just an impression that is very strong. But it can often be a leading of the Lord to certain scriptures pertaining to your situation. That is probably the best way of hearing God speak to you. It has a built in safety net. Unless you take the verses out of context to get an answer you want, it is helpful to get guidance directly from God's divinely inspired Word. But there have been many times in my life that I sensed a direct leading from the Lord and had it confirmed by circumstances or other Christians.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. A little over a year ago, I had been asking the Lord to give me direction on how I could serve Him in a greater way. I didn't want to waste any of my time doing things that had no eternal value. During that time, the football coach at Garden Grove HS, who had taken over after my five year tenure, resigned. I sought the Lord to see if He wanted me to coach football again. For over thirty years, that had been my passion and ministry. I asked the Lord to be very clear in His direction because I had become very involved in ministry at my church. I really desired to do even more, but I had not ever been able to let go completely of coaching football. I wanted to know once and for all if my coaching career was over or not. If it was, I wanted the Lord make it abundantly clear whether or not He had more ministry for me. Well, to make a long story short, I interviewed but did not get the coaching job. I felt a great peace about it and soon after, I was asked to get more involved in teaching and counseling at church. Could God have made it any clearer than that? I don't think so! It has been such a great blessing to me, to know that the things that I do are what God has called me to. I have such a joy in serving Him in these ministries. One of them is writing this blog!
So you can see that there are different ways that you hear from the Lord. The real question is do you want to hear Him? Often times we only want Him to listen to us and do what we want. Even though the Lord delights in hearing from us, He also desires greatly for us to do more than just ask Him for things. Imagine if the only time our kids spoke to us was to ask for things. I know, I know, that is what they do most of the time! But think of the joy you have when they say thanks for something, or just share their heart with you. For you parents with young children, be patient, it actually does happen! It is important to know that God desires that from you as well. Have you ever spent time in prayer just telling God how much you love Him, acknowledging His greatness and majesty? Jesus said that we should begin our prayer time that way.
In Matthew 6: 9-13, He instructs us on how we should pray. He says that we begin by acknowledging that our heavenly Father is Holy. The word hallowed in Greek is from the word "hagios" which means sacred, pure, and morally blameless. Starting with that acknowledgement is to remind us who we are speaking to. Then Jesus brings us to the place we spoke of last time. Matt 6:10-11 says "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We always want to be seeking for His will to be done. Why would we want anything other than His will to be done in our lives? I think it's much safer to be in the will of the One who knows the beginning from the end and has our best interests at heart, rather than our own plan, which is based on very limited knowledge, don't you? We are to ask for our daily bread (the needs of our lives) after seeking His will. I believe that the order is God ordained.
The Lord then reminds us to ask for forgiveness for our debts, sometimes translated trespasses. The Greek word implies that we are debtors to God, which is true. Jesus paid the ransom price for our debt. In the same way we forgive others who have committed wrongs against us. When we really comprehend what Jesus did for us, could we possibly do less? We conclude our prayer by asking the Lord for protection against the enemy of our souls, Satan, "the evil one." He would love to lead us into temptation just as He attempted to do with the Lord Jesus Himself. If Jesus told us to ask for this, I would think it's pretty important! Isn't it beautiful how the Lord gave us this model for prayer?
Well, we still haven't answered the question completely, have we? Maybe next time! One thing you can know for sure is that the biggest change that comes from prayer is the change that takes place in us. When we follow His model for prayer, seeking His will first and foremost, God changes our hearts. I will leave you with this beautiful verse from Ezek 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." AMEN!
GAME PLAN: Begin each day this next week following Jesus' model for prayer and watch what the Lord does.
May God bless your time conversing with Him!