Today we are getting the very basic of prayer, that’s why the title of this post is Prayer 101. All Christians know, in order to grow strong in the Lord and in order to build a solid relationship with Him, there are two exercises that we must practice on a daily basis.
1. The study and application of God’s word.
Many people run around to hear God’s word, but the question is, how many are practising God’s word, making application on a constant basis?
2. Pray and obey.
I am sure we do pray. But do we obey God’s word as we seeking Him in prayer, waiting for things to happen according to our prayer, do we do the right things? And, do we really pray every day? We know there’s a lack of both, applying the word of God, and praying and obeying. So, today we will look into the fundamental about prayer, and hopefully over a period of time, we all will be engaged in constant believing prayer that brings results.
There are 15 fundamental points about prayer and that will form a kind of framework or a foundation for us to build on. It is important to get an understanding about prayer. Let’s begin with the first point.
1. The definition of prayer.
When we mention the word “prayer”, immediately comes to our mind would be the concept of pleading with God, the higher power to help us. Seeking a favour from God. That comes foremost to our mind. Therefore, most people pray when they are in a crisis. So, when the crisis is over, they see no point in praying because praying means when you are in need, and you need help. So, that’s not a helpful definition. The simplest definition is simply talking to God or prayer is communing with God. And that’s a good definition. But for our purpose today, we will see a complete definition of prayer i.e. : Prayer is communicating and fellowshipping with God in order to know Him deeper, to seek His will and guidance, to seek Him for help, to experience His abiding presence and to build an intimate relationship with Him.
2. The purpose of prayer.
There are two, 1st is to be more and more like Christ.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to resurrection from the dead. (Phillippians 3:10).
Here Paul is saying: I want to know my Lord Jesus in both life and death. In life I want to know the power of His resurrection. I want to pray dynamically. And in death, after live a full life, I’m going to glorify Him because I know that I’m going to rise again just like Him, my Lord, because He lives, I shall live also. Because He rose again, I will also rise again and I’m going to know Him more and more of course through prayer.
And the 2nd is to bring the Lord’s presence and power to bear in every circumstance or in every situation.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16).
The first part is talking about unity and forgiving each other. The second part is where we are going to get to, the fervent prayer of a righteous person is not only effective but it prevails over the adverse circumstances. So, you are bringing God’s presence to bear in any circumstances. That’s the purpose of prayer.
3. The benefits of prayer.
Of course we know there are too many benefits to outline, but we are talking about the main one. And the main one is joy, to have joy. How important that is?
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24).
Jesus was talking to his disciples. Now, joy is important. When you really trust God, even in an adversity, you still have the abiding joy of the Lord because you know that everything in the end will come out well. And all burdens at the moment become light, not so heavy as it should be. And you’ll find the inner strength because of the joy, strength to overcome all the adverse circumstances of life. Therefore, the Bible says, the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
It is terrible to be so down and hopeless and not being able to see over the horizon that there’s something better around the corner, that God in due time delivers, that God will bring you the prayer’s answer and the prayer’s victory. It is so terrible if you are so blinded because you are not steep in God’s word, and there’s no joy in your heart. But when you trust the Lord, there will always be joy, even in the darkest circumstance. Why? Because you know deep inside, something good is going to happen. So, joy and trust goes together. When we trust the Lord, we will have joy because we know in the end it will be alright. And if we have joy, it is easy to trust God. So, it’s a wonderful cycle, developing joy and trust in the Lord. And that is a great benefit of prayer, to have joy in every circumstance. Life is about the ups and downs, isn’t it? Having tears and laughter, good things are happening, at the same time bad things are happening. So, it is our attitude, finally. The attitude of trust in Christ and finding that joy even when we are struggling against some very unpleasant event. In our heart we know that it will turn out well in the end. That’s the benefit of prayer!
4. The time of prayer.
People often ask, when do I pray?
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3).
Prayer should begin in the morning, it is a good practice. And here the Psalmist is saying , “You are going to hear my voice, Lord, first thing in the morning”. So, we can cultivate that. When you wake up in the morning, instead of saying, “O Lord, it’s morning again”, dress up your attitude, be joyful and say, “Good morning Lord”. It’s a simple prayer. Just say it. “Be with me, Lord, I want to live this day for your glory”. While you haven’t got out of bed yet. I think it’s a wonderful time to pray, first thing in the morning. Or call the name of Jesus softly. Paul talks about unceasing prayer. That means anytime, every time.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1).
We have to train ourselves when facing difficulties whether at home or at work, the first thing we say, “Lord, help me. I need your wisdom, I want to be mindful of your presence, so speak to my heart as I tackle this problem”. Now, when you do it, you’ll find that ideas will be brimming all over in your heart. You can cultivate this prayer. So, if ever possible, first thing in the morning you pray. Due to the nature of your work perhaps, you do it first thing in the evening. So, you set a time for prayer even it is only a few minutes. If you are rushing, it is better to have a few minutes of communication than not at all. If you have this idea of prayer, that I have to kneel down for one hour, otherwise nothing. Now you have to choose, even if you don’t have time, if you were the Lord, what would you choose? Snatch of prayer here and there better than nothing, isn’t it? At least you are communicating with God. If you don’t have time to have 15 minutes or half an hour on your knee, while you are getting dressed, just talk to the Lord. But it is also good to set a time for prayer habitually. So, what do we do? Set a time for prayer and also snatch of prayer and if possible pray unceasingly, especially when you are going through a crisis. You carry an attitude of prayer, you make prayer a habit, you are breathing prayer. And when you have this conversation with the Lord, you can sense God speaking to you.
5. The venue of prayer.
Where do you pray? People talk about prayer closet – a specific place in a home to pray. Some people pray in the kitchen, some in a specific spot, some beside the bed or in the living room. Although it’s good to have specific place to pray, we must also pray anywhere. Everywhere you go, the Lord is there.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Genesis 28:16).
This is about Jacob’s runaway, God gave him a wonderful vision of a stairway of angles coming up and down, denoting the presence of God was with him. And when Jacob woke up, he said this, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Wherever I go, because I believe in Jehovah God , surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. And because of that we should pray everywhere, not only we pray anytime, we pray everywhere. But it is also important to have a specific place to pray a longer time every day. Try to get somewhere to just seek the Lord, even it’s for 15 minutes or half an hour and you start increasing the time. But don’t forget, anywhere you should be praying. Even when you are having a shower, talk to the Lord, not necessarily a prayer for help. Just fellowshipping with Him. You can just say, for instance: “Lord, tomorrow I’m going to have this presentation, I haven’t done anything, but I’ll do my best, let your Spirit just guide me.” It’s a prayer, a very powerful prayer! Even while you are bathing, it’s still a prayer and God hears it. Some of you may find it miraculous after praying that way and you see something unfolded. Like Jacob, you may say, while you are in the bathroom, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t even know it.” Or while you are sitting on your “throne” in your toilet, you can still pray. Some may say it’s kind of rude. Well, if you are breathing prayer, you can pray anytime, anywhere.
6. The posture of prayer.
Do I have to kneel down every time I pray?
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. (Psalms 4:4).
Talk to yourself as you talk to God, on your bed.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (Psalms 63:6).
Sometimes when we are so tired, just lie on bed, meditate on Scriptures and pray to God, half meditating. It’s a good way to go to bed too. Some people may have difficulty in sleeping. Well, you can choose Psalms 91, 103 or 23, John 14 and just go through those Scriptures, applying to yourself, speaking to yourself and to the Lord. Just meditating and at the same time praying until you sleep. And the first thing when you wake up, the first name you call up is Jesus. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? And it has to be cultivated. But of course, don’t always pray in bed. Having said that, I think it’s good at least once every day to kneel before the Lord. It’s not compulsory though. It is so nice to acknowledge Him as our Lord every morning, even it’s only a few minutes. When it become a habit, you seem to know certain things quite supernatural because God keep speaking to your heart.
So, the posture of prayer, you can be on your bed, walking and praying, it can be in any place.
7. The difficulties of prayer.
We are so sense oriented and so dependent upon our five natural senses. So, when we don’t see the Lord with our naked eyes, we don’t feel like praying. No wonder Jesus told doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those (meaning all of us) who have not seen and yet have believed.” So, that is our main difficulty. There are other difficulties as well.
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3).
It‘s a strange thing that there are people who could in due time by trusting and believing and working towards a certain goals then would have more to spare. But today they are fighting, fussing around, being so broke, frustrated and coveting people’s goods, and they are Christian but they don’t pray. They don’t believe in prayer. We talk about lusting or coveting after other people’s goods. If a Christian doesn’t pray to God the Father, “Lord, I need this and patiently work towards it”, but goes around trying to cheat other people, it is so sad. And here the Bible is so clear, you are doing all these wrong things to get certain legitimate things but you go about the wrong way. Why? Because you ask not, you are not praying at all.
Verse 3 says some people ask for the wrong thing. They pray for all kinds of unnecessary items. And we can be like that. We either don’t ask or ask for the wrong thing. That’s the reason why to be Word centred is so important. When your heart is so full of the word of God, you will discover that you need very few things. Happiness is not based on the amount of stuff that you want but based on very few things in life that you want, that makes you happy. And the most important thing in life is free. So, when you are trained in the word of God, you will desire few things, not a lot of stuff. It will be good to pause a while and look at the promises of God and then ask in a very wise manner, what you really need from God. Don’t be afraid to ask if you really need something, but don’t ask for the wrong thing.
I will continue the fundamental about prayer point 8 to 15 in my next post (Prayer 101 Part 2).