This post is part of “The Basics” series, a series all about the basics of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
We talked about the word of God (at length) in the last post. Today I want to talk about the other half of the conversation. In “Trusting God” I introduced the idea of an ongoing conversation with God, the goal being a more intimate relationship with our Creator. Now that we know that God speaks through His word, we also need to consider how we can talk to Him.
Before I get started, I know this is Prayer 101, so I will not go into prayer too much as a spiritual weapon (that will be for another post), but I do want to say that prayer is the #1 most underrated weapon in our arsenal against ungodly influences. Now back to prayer basics.
When People in the Bible Prayed
“Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.” –2 Kings 20:5
This is an interesting read in the bible. Hezekiah is sick, really sick. He is dying. Isaiah the prophet comes to him and tells him that God says to put his house in order, because he is going to die. Hezekiah is heartbroken. We don’t know all the details, but for some compelling reason, Hezekiah wants to live longer. So he prays and begs for God to remember how he has served God in truth with a loyal heart. God’s response is that he will add fifteen years to his life and deliver the city from the king of Assyria. All good news, right? But what I want to point out in this scripture (one that is not often quoted in a lesson about prayer 101), is the intimacy that prayer displays and creates. There is no way you can read this verse without recognizing the relationship between God and Hezekiah. It was a relationship that went both ways. You can see that they care about each other. That is the same relationship God desires with you and I. He wants to have this same closeness with us.
“But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.”
We also see throughout the book of Psalms how close David is to God through his repeatedly mentioned prayer life. David was serious about prayer, and through these prayers and psalms, we can see how this one aspect of David’s life created a friendship with and dependency on his Lord.
“For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit in Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” –Philippians 1:19-20
The Apostle Paul knew how vital prayer is, and he literally looked at the prayers of others for him as a life line, spiritually speaking.
Prayer Modeled by Jesus
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
In this manner, therefore 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 this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Why do people always quote this prayer? Why do people pray this prayer over and over? Well, it says right in this chunk of scripture that you shouldn’t pray vain repetitions. So that means if you don’t mean this prayer, don’t pray it. If it has lost all meaning and has just become something you do, stop. Stop it. God doesn’t want to hear something said with that heart or those intentions. But this prayer is very popular because Jesus gave this prayer as a model of what prayer ought to be. It is full of good examples to use when we pray. It is also meaningful in and of itself. So let’s break it down a little and mention the things we can glean from this awesome prayer to implement in our own prayer lives.
Starting out, give God glory for Who He is. This is a great thing to do because God deserves to be recognized, as He is an awesome God, and it also helps us to remember how big and powerful God is. When we start praying in this way, we automatically put the focus on God, the God that is so much bigger than the worst situation we could possibly find ourselves in.
Then we want to pray in supplication (just like Jesus did when asking if he really had to die on the cross), asking God’s will to be done. Whatever else we pray, ultimately we want God’s will to be done. If His will trumps our request, then by all means, ignore that request.
Then we pray for God’s provision. The bread here can represent food, nourishment to our bodies, which is a practical need. But it also symbolizes Jesus’ body, representing our spiritual need for nourishment as well. Our spirits crave Jesus, and we can get a daily dose of Him through prayer and reading His word.
Forgive us, but not just that, help us to forgive the way that You, Jesus, forgive us. See how clever King Jesus is? He is telling us to ask for forgiveness, but also to remember that in our freedom to ask God to forgive our sin and foolishness, we also need to offer that same forgiveness to those that have wronged us. Jesus knows our hearts, and He built this loving reminder into this amazing example of prayer. Forgive! Don’t let bitterness enter into your heart.
Do not lead us into temptation. This is a reminder, because we know from the bible that God will not give us any temptation that we cannot resist (1 Corinthians 10:13) that is not common to man. This part of the prayer says, “God will not lead you into temptation, remember that, but you need to pray against temptation, fight, fight!” We need to continually pray to be delivered from the evil one. “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” -Luke 22:40 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” -Matthew 26:41
But His is the kingdom, power, and glory. Ending our prayer in another God glorifying statement shifts our focus back to Who God is. He is over everything. He is doing a work. He hears us and sees our tears. He is in control.
Amen means I agree. I agree with You, Lord.
Pray Without Ceasing, But How?
“Pray without ceasing,” –1 Thessalonians 5:17
In speaking with many people about this verse, I have found that it seems to haunt people. I’m not going to get too much into the scripture to explain the meaning of this verse. I just want to be very practical and tell you what this verse means, in plain language. This verse does not mean that you are to be shut up in your prayer closet all day, doing nothing but focusing on prayer. God knows that you have things to do, because He is the one that gave you those things to do. This verse is especially troublesome for moms of small children because they do not have a lot of time to have focused prayer. Praying without ceasing simply means that you live your life, talking to God as if He was there, doing things with you.
When I wash the dishes, I pray. When I walk the kids to school in the morning, we pray together. Before we eat, we say a quick prayer. We spend time praying every night as a family. My husband and I pray before we go to sleep every night. When I’m sewing, I pray. When I’m reading, I pray. I’m praying on and off right now as I’m putting this post together. If I’m talking to you, odds are I’m praying for you and about what God wants me to say to encourage you. Maybe this sounds exhausting to you, but I promise it isn’t. In fact, now I shoot up these prayers as a part of my every day life. It is normal to me. It happens without me even thinking about it.
But when I don’t pray, I feel it. I don’t have as much patience or love. I don’t see things as clearly as when I’m praying throughout the day. Listen, I don’t carve out extra time during the day for prayer, I just pray as I go along. It is something I am starting to notice my children do as well. To them it is just what one does. You’ve gotten an ouchie? Pray for God to make it feel better. Mommy has a headache? Let’s lay hands on her and pray for it go away.
Invite God into the mundane aspects of your life. They are not mundane to Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a
Praying without ceasing also means you keep praying, even when it seems like God is taking a long time to answer. Persist. Keep going and don’t give up. God is hearing you! He is going to answer in His timing, and in the meantime He is building good habits in your prayer life with Him. Remember though, dear sister, that sometimes God says, “No.” And He means it when He says it (I have learned this lesson the hard way).
In Matthew 6:6 we see that God wants private, concentrated time with us at some point. I find that it is best to practice this every day (sometimes more than once if I really need wisdom). I wake up an hour earlier than my kids every day, so I have time to read my bible and pray. Sometimes I am definitely tempted to turn off the alarm and get more rest, but I have learned that the extra rest isn’t worth my spiritual unrest. This is where I put on my spiritual armor, and go to battle. I battle for saints all over the world from my small bedroom every morning. I battle for the nation I serve in, the nation I’m from, and for the purity of my heart and mind. I battle for my children and my husband. I cry out for the sick, the poor, and the weary (sometimes that includes myself). What I spend time doing in my room every morning before the sun has poked his head over the horizon is very important. I am spending time with my Creator, listening to Him through is word, and speaking to Him intimately through prayer. If you haven’t begun this practice, please determine in your heart to start it, and have someone encouraging keep you accountable.
A Note To Mothers of Infants: I know you are probably feeling discouraged right now. In between diaper changes, several middle of the night feedings, cleaning, working, and taking care of everything else you just don’t have time or energy to spend an hour reading the bible. That’s ok, give yourself some grace! But try to spend at least 5 minutes a day reading your bible. I promise, you can find five minutes somewhere. I’ve been there and I understand. The five minute bible reading was my life line! Try to pray when you are feeding your baby. You will, with God’s strength, get through this phase, and then you can start to add more time to your bible study each day. God will meet you where you are, and He knows how to find time in your busy day to minister to you. He loves you!
“How I Know God Answers Prayer” by Rosalind Goforth
If you want to read a book that will encourage you to dive further into prayer, here is a free resource that anyone can access. It is an amazing testimony of the power of prayer, and the power of our Almighty God. I try to read it every few years just as a reminder that God does indeed answer prayer. There is a plain text version, but there are also e-reader versions available for various devices.
And since it is particularly relevant to this post, let’s pray!
Dear Lord in Heaven,
Thank you, God. You are so amazing. Please help us to enter into a closer, more intimate relationship with You. Give us the time and determination to spend more time in prayer. Draw us near, Lord. We praise Your holy name.
To You be the power and the glory forever and ever,
Next time we will be talking about hearing God’s small, still voice.