A Lesson on Prayer

I can hardly wait for July to be over because that is usually when everyone comes back home. I feel a sense of disconnection around the church right now and I don’t like it. I love that the disconnection is mostly because we have eight catalyzing team mission trips happening this month along with many families out and about on camping trips, vacations, and staycations, bonding and breathing deeply. But I am already longing for the fall when we are all back home and plugging back into the heartbeat of what Jesus is up to in our church family. We have some great things in store for the back half of this year.

In our church services last Sunday, I promised to send out some thoughts and tools to help our vital prayer life become more vigorous and impactful. Here they are….

Simply put, prayer is communication with God. What makes it wondrous and mysterious is that it contains both natural and supernatural aspects. It requires speaking and listening on behalf of God and me. What a marvel it is that Almighty God would invite any kind of interaction with me. What an even greater marvel it must be to God that I am often so flippant and unfaithful about taking Him up on His most gracious invitation to prayer.

Up first, we have Jesus. Luke 11 is a chapter in the Bible where Jesus is teaching His disciples about prayer. In that passage I see first, that God is supposed to be preeminent and revered in our prayers and second, that we cannot be too persistent in making our request to God when we pray. 

Next, we have the great Apostle Paul. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul is teaching the young man, Timothy, about being a man of God and caretaker of God’s people, which we all are to some degree. He urges Timothy to pray for people. When he does this, he writes that Timothy should offer petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people. This indicates to me that our communication with God can be categorized in different ways. I see the prayer categories like this…

                Petitions - Personal requests we make to God for ourselves.                                Intercessions - Persistent requests we make to God for others                            Thanksgivings - Praises we offer to God for ourselves and others.

There can be other divisions, but this sums prayer up in a general sense. There is a time and place for each, and Paul wanted Timothy to be doing all of them regularly. It is a helpful focusing practice to spend a few minutes on each type of prayer when you set yourself apart to pray.

Another interesting study is to look into the different types of Psalms in the book of Psalms. Psalms is basically a book of prayers and each prayer/psalm can be categorized as…

                Lament Psalms - Prayers for God's deliverance in moments of despair
               Thanksgiving Psalms - Praise to God for His gracious acts

                Enthronement Psalms - These describe God's sovereign rule

                Pilgrimage Psalms (Songs of Ascent/Celebration) - These were sung by worshipers as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festivals

                Royal Psalms - These are prayers for the reign of the earthly king, as well as the heavenly King of Israel

                Wisdom Psalms - These instruct the worshiper in the way of wisdom and righteousness

                Imprecatory Psalms - These invoke God's wrath and judgment against enemies.

Everyone one of these is legitimate prayer and teaches us to be free in our communication with God. God loves it when we share with Him our emotions and thoughts. He is not intimidated by them, He can handle them. He may need to correct them, but the Scriptures teach us that He welcomes them. He does not want us to come to Him pretending. 

Now, at the risk of giving the lazy and busy people out there a way to cheat the full work of a deeper study on prayer, I will give a few highlights of a great blog/essay about prayer entitled, “Prayer For Beginners.”  Please use these highlights to whet your appetite and not consider it a full meal. :)

God means for your life — married or unmarried, student or employee, young or old — to run on the power of prayer.

Prayer might be, at the same time, the most pivotal and most puzzling activity in the Christian life.

Prayer is objectively real — a real God, real communication, real work, real answers. But it also comes in a million shapes and forms. Prayer happens in seconds — short moments in the cracks of our day — and it can happen for hours at a time, even throughout a whole night.

“Prayer is the most important thing you can do for the most important people in your life.”

Read the full article here…  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/prayer-for-beginners 

Lastly, we have Spurgeon. I found an essay on the prayer life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was a highly influential preacher in England during of the last half of the 1800’s. Each of the following guiding points comes from that essay and has an example of one of Spurgeon’s prayers. I hope you enjoy and are inspired to pray in your own words.

1)  Pray the Bible

Spurgeon’s prayers are saturated with phrases from the Bible. The man not only read and studied the Bible; he lived and breathed it. Here is an example, a short passage of prayer that draws from Psalm 145, Luke, Exodus, and Ephesians: 

O Lord, Thy works praise Thee, but Thy saints bless Thee and this shall be our heaven. Yea, our heaven of heavens eternally to praise and magnify the great and ever blessed God. May many a maiden this day, may many a man break forth and say, with the virgin of old, "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior." May there be going up this day sweet incense, of praise laid by holy hands, privately upon the altar of God. May the place be filled with the smoke thereof, not perhaps to the consciousness of everyone, but to the acceptance of God who shall smell a sweet savor of rest in Christ and then in the praises of His people in Him.

2)  Pray Humbly

Spurgeon always seemed to approach God on his knees, so to speak, with a consciousness of and sorrow for sin, both his own and that of others, such as that displayed in the following: 

Glorious Benefactor, we can meet Thee on good terms, for we are full of poverty, we are just as empty as we can be. We could not be more abjectly dependent than we are. Since Thou wouldest display Thy mercy, here is our sin. Since Thou wouldest show Thy strength, here is our weakness. Since Thou wouldest manifest Thy lovingkindness, here are our needs. Since Thou wouldest glorify Thy grace, here are we, such persons as can never have a shadow of a hope except through Thy grace, for we are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, and if Thou do not magnify Thy grace in us, we must perish forever.

3)  Pray Compassionately

Preaching and praying, as he did, in Victorian England, Spurgeon’s language is rather antiquated, but it is nonetheless always laced with deep compassion for souls, as the following shows: 

May we love God. May we love Thee, O Savior. May we love the people of God as being members of one body in connection with Thee. May we love the guilty world with that love which desires its salvation and conversion and may we love not in word only, but in deed and in truth. May we help the helpless, comfort the mourner, sympathize with the widow and fatherless, and may we be always ready to put up with wrong, to be long-suffering, to be very patient, full of forgiveness, counting it a small thing that we should forgive our fellow-men since we have been forgiven of God. Lord, tune our hearts to love and then give us an inward peace, a restfulness about everything. 

4)  Pray Fervently

Anyone who reads Spurgeon’s prayers is likely to be struck by the passion with which he prayed. He prayed like one who was calling down fire—and often he did! Here is a sample:   

O Savior, reveal Thyself anew, teach us a little more, help us to go a little deeper into the divine mystery. May we grip Thee and grasp Thee. May we suck out of Thee the nutriment of our spirit. May we be in Thee as a branch is in the stem and may we bear fruit from Thee. Without Thee we can do nothing.

5)  Pray Boldly

When construction began on the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which could accommodate crowds of 6,000, Spurgeon prayed boldly and publicly for the safety of the construction workers, that none would be injured, let alone killed. His prayer was answered, prompting London businessmen to plead for his prayers during their own construction projects.

You and I may not possess Spurgeon’s communication skills, but we can pray in the same way. What is more important than any tool or precision we may have or use to aid our prayer times is to be faithful to pray. So pray when you wake up before your feet hit the floor. Pray when you go to bed as the last thing your mind does before sleep. And pray each an every time someone shares with you a burden or challenge they may be having. The prayers can be short or long, deep or simple depending on the circumstance. But more than anything just remember to pray because God loves it when we pray. He even silences heaven when the prayers of the saints are offered (See Revelation 8:1-3.)

This Sunday we will be in Acts 15 trying to gain some clarity on when it is right to punch someone in the face.

Peace to you and yours,

David