Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Prayer


In my previous article I said: “Being a doer of the word includes BELIEVING it; having faith in what God has said and living our lives according to its truth”.
That includes believing what is said about prayer.

And prayer is another area of my life that I recognised needs attention and to be addressed in a way consistent with scripture.

In this article I will be going over some ground I’ve covered before, as I come to terms with the essential role for prayer in the life of the believer.

There are some important promises made about prayer, that need to be recognised as having a vital role in equipping us for both Christian living, and Christian service. Both of those aspects of our lives become severely compromised, possibly to the point of complete ineffectiveness if we don’t take those promises seriously.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21) NIV

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11) NIV

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.(1 John 5) NIV

A selection of wonderful promises regarding prayer, that the majority of professing Christians seem to disbelieve.

Unbelief is exposed by the excuses that are made to explain why these promises don’t really mean what they say – that sometimes God doesn’t fulfil those promises, but often says no and therefore we won’t receive, despite the promise.

They clearly don’t believe the following assurance either, that discounts the “no” answer. I’ve written about this previously here in the kind of post that doesn’t attract likes or comments of agreement.
How we love to cling to traditional ideas that help justify the failure status quo of the church.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1) NIV

James wrote of two reasons that people fail to receive from God.

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) NIV

  1. A failure to ask, and
  2. A failure of motive: asking for things to fulfil pleasures

The verse following the above gives a hint to the kind of pleasure he meant: those that keep us attached to the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God

I’ll add a third and perhaps more common reason for not receiving.

UNBELIEF.

I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this article:  “Being a doer of the word includes BELIEVING it; having faith in what God has said and living our lives according to its truth.”

There is a serious warning in Hebrews 11 about the potential to displease God. But it also contains a promise at the end.

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb 11) NIV

It’s not enough to believe in His existence, we need to believe in His willingness and desire to reward those who earnestly (diligently) seek Him. And especially believe in His promises to give whatever we ask for in prayer.

Am I wrong?
Have I written heretical nonsense?

Ask God what He thinks, but do it expecting and BELIEVING you’ll receive an answer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1) NIV

In assessing my own prayer life, I have to confess it has been seriously lacking. I don’t know whether I ever recently prayed with any conviction that I’d have a prayer answered. I didn’t have the fervency, persistence or any assurance that my prayer would lead to anything. Prayer had become a matter of obligation, realising I should be praying, and hurriedly saying a few words I thought appropriate. Or turning to the default of praying in tongues, where no personal thought was required. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Cor 14. NIV)”.

It hadn’t always been that way. I’d frequently attended church prayer meetings, and especially appreciated those that went for several hours, staying for the full course of an evening. But those kind of meetings also seem to be neglected now. The last ones I attended barely went for an hour and had only a few participants, unlike the well attended, long meetings I had experienced a couple of decades ago.

So that’s another aspect of my life that I’m clearly having to address, making prayer a priority not an afterthought.
The above biblical references to prayer show its importance as a means of receiving from God through asking and believing.
Believing prayer is a demonstration of trust in God, and an acknowledgment of our insufficiency without Him, that we need His provision.

In the past, when I was a prolific letter writer, I found it helpful to write my prayers to God in letter form. Doing that helped to keep me focused.
Maybe that is something I’ll explore again.

Another aid is a prayer journal – something I came across in several YouTube videos. I’m creating one in an A5 sized ring binder, divided into several sections. The basic idea is to follow daily and weekly prayer schedules.

missionsIn the daily section are prayer for self, spouse and family. Then the weekly section has a different focus for each day. In mine Sunday is devoted to “Missions and Ministries”, where the ministries we support can be prayed for – such as the child we sponsor, and organisations supporting persecuted Christians.

friendsMonday is for “Friends and Enemies” – praying for people we know who have special needs, and others we come across who have been antagonistic towards the gospel.

Tuesday is for “Town and Country” – referring to my local community (town) and the nation at large (Country).

Wednesday relates to my blogs, and other personal outreach/ministry ventures.

As my journal is still in its early days, Thursday through Saturday are still open for additional needs that come to mind.

And the final aspect of prayer that I think I need to address is a return to group prayer – assuming there is such a thing in my local community, with a church holding frequent prayer meetings with a good attendance of BELIEVING Christians.

Addressing that leads me on to the next topic.

To be continued…

 

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Thank you Gloria for your creative help with labelling the dividers in my prayer journal (see illustrations above)

1 thought on “Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Prayer

  1. Yes. Now we agree that praying for an answer — not only in the sense of expecting to get ”what” we want — can involve expecting to get an answer to a question or query. Sometimes, that leads to a or the thing or matter quickly happening. Sometimes, I think, that can involve knowing the answer (or maybe even audibly hearing information or something like that from God) on how to go forward. That’s more difficult to discern — particularly when we don’t usually ”hear” (and not everything is written). [Not only that, there are mistranslations and misconstruals.] It will be interesting to hear about your journal. I used to keep a journal (many, many), not specifically for prayer, although I’m sure I had some prayer in there. I no longer keep a journal at all. I have had surprising answers to prayer/desire/inquiry/pain (of the spiritual kind) at times, really surprising and manifest (and not necessarily in my vicinity).

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