prayer

Our culture preaches a narrative that we are able, capable, and only limited by the imagination of our minds. We don’t have to listen too closely to the voices around us to notice the overt emphasis on self-help and human capability.

But we are more like the dependent child depicted in the prayer image than we are capable adults in control of all our circumstances and situations.

There are times in each of our lives where we realize how insignificant and weak we really are. A cancer diagnosis. Unexpected death of a loved one. Job loss. Pandemic. Work stress. Family illness. Natural disasters. Spiritual death.

If we are honest with ourselves, many things in our lives are outside our control and influence. This sense of personal helplessness is a prime opportunity to find ourselves anchored to God through prayer. This will be the fourth and final anchored post, and it culminates the underlying themes of the previous posts: Anchored in the Word, Anchored in the Gospel, and Anchored in the Church.

Why pray? Our sense of helplessness and inability is a key factor in our willingness to pray. When we are overwhelmed, uncertain, stressed, unable, or facing lack, through prayer we can find ourselves anchored to God who is in control, certain, able, and owns everything.

Prayer is a conversation. Throughout Scripture God invites his people to pray. Think about that. God wants you to bring your requests, burdens, and circumstances to him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

If you are anything like me, you need God’s peace. So, if you are in need of God’s peace and interventions, then read on and learn some of the ways that prayer can anchor your faith.

When we pray, we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty and ability to intervene. There is nothing in this post more important than this truth. Praying reflects dependence on God. When we admit we are unable or that we lack, prayer and faith find their grounding in our spiritual lives. God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). So when we pray, we can express our faith in God alone. It is from this place of dependence that God intervenes and answers,.

When we pray, we are trusting God’s wisdom. There are many things that I’ve prayed about and asked God for that I have not received. We must remember God is not a genie in a bottle. Our prayers are not wishes he is obliged to grant. Rather, God is all-knowing and all-wise. We should bring our burdens and requests to him. He is able to meet every one of them. But since he is Sovereign and in control, he knows best how to answer. We need to trust his wisdom. Remember, even Jesus requested that the Father remove the cup of the cross from him (Matt. 26:39), but submitted to the Father’s will.

When we pray, we are talking to our Father. God designed prayer to be more than a ritual or an event in a worship service. God granted us prayer as a glorious privilege. It is a conversation. Jesus teaches us to call God, Father (Matt. 6:9). Our Father in heaven knows what is best and cares to hear us and spend time with us. Prayer is a relational conversation between you and your Father who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your privilege of prayer. This alone should motivate us to pray.

If prayer anchors our spiritual lives, then should we pray at set times or for extended periods of time like Jesus (Luke 6:12)? Should we pray for hours at a time like the spiritual giants of old (Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, and others)? Should we whisper prayers through the day never ceasing our conversation with God (1 Thess. 5:17)? Should we fast when we pray (Matt. 6:9-18)?

Yes.

Yes. To all of the above and to many more questions we could ask about our manner and pattern of praying. Whether you pray in the morning during your quiet times, at night before bed, throughout the day in whispers, or in groups and services at church, prayer is a privilege that we should take advantage of more often than we do.

Here are a few guiding reminders that will strengthen our prayer lives:

  • Pray Scripture. One way you can be assured that you are praying what God wants is to pray phrases and sentences that God has already spoken. After all his thoughts and ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). My daily Bible readings often provide the content for how I talk to God. I find myself thanking God for his interventions as detailed in Scripture and bringing requests to God that connect to his work in the past. A helpful resource on this topic is Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
  • Pray the gospel. What do I mean by this? Well the gospel teaches that we are spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3) and in need of spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). Our need for Christ doesn’t change when we receive salvation. We do not need to be saved again, but the pattern of humility and dependence that characterized our entrance into salvation should continue to permeate our spiritual lives. When we remind ourselves in prayer of our need, our desperation, our dependence, we move to an attitude of humility, surrender, and faith that God hears. Praying gospel truths also reminds us that we can approach the Father because of the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Pray with others. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” Prayer is a community privilege (Acts 4:23-31). While we cannot pray about everything on our prayer lists with everyone in the church, we can pray together with families, group members (Sunday school and discipleship groups), and close friends. Sharing prayer requests, praying together, and reflecting on answers to prayer will deepen prayer in our lives. Here’s one example. In our family devotions, we have often prayed for the sick and for protection. We also pray for the salvation of friends. Each time God strengthens, heals, and saves, we make time to thank God and praise him for answered prayer. This practice strengthens our faith.

Have you prayed today? I don’t ask to make you feel guilty if you haven’t. I ask to remind you that you can.

If you have a prayer request, I would be honored to join you in praying about it. Feel free to share in the comment section below, and I’ll pray with you about it today. If God has recently answered a prayer you’ve been praying, I would love for you to share that in the comment section as well. God’s answer to your prayer could encourage someone else!

My current sermon series has been “Patterns of Prayer.” During this Covid-19 crisis, racial tensions, political turmoil, and uncertain lives, I felt it necessary to focus my study on the subject of prayer. Prayer is something that everyone knows about, but most of us would admit that we could do better. For me, this series has been tremendously beneficial. God has taught me more about himself in this series than maybe any other that I’ve preached.

So why write an article about it? This post is aimed to encourage you to pray. Specifically, intercede for someone else.

Here are some reasons you should make time to today to pray:

  1. God invites you to pray. In Luke 11:9, Jesus teaches us to ask, seek, and knock. He wants us to bring our burdens before him.
  2. You need prayer more than you think. Prayer is our avenue of talking with God. Too often we ignore God because of all the other things we have going on. Make time to talk with God today.
  3. Someone else needs you to pray for them. Interceding for another person is a privilege. God partners with our prayers to meet the needs (physical, spiritual, emotional) of those around us.

When you pray today, pray specifically and pray scripturally. For example, pray for your friend by name. Pray for their healing, their need to be met, their soul to be saved, etc. But pray in a specific way that will allow you to know if God answers the prayer. While prayers like “bless my friend” or “be with the missionaries” are well meant, they are not specific enough for us to know they have been answered. Specific prayers allow us to experience the answers.

Also pray scripturally. If you are praying for someone to come to know Christ, pray that God would open their eyes to see his glory (2 Corinthians 4:4) or that God would convict their heart of sin (John 16:8-11). If you are praying that a friend would experience peace, pray that your friend would be thankful and experience the peace of God that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). If you are praying for a child or grandchild to know God’s will, pray Psalm 23 over their decisions and opportunities. Praying scripturally helps us align our prayers with God’s will.

Praying specifically and scripturally allows us to experience God’s answers to prayer. Here are a few of the specific ways God answered my prayers recently.

  • Our family prayed for God’s protection while we traveled. Answer: A vehicle in front of us experienced a blowout and a tractor trailer nearly rear-ended us. We experienced God’s answer for protection.
  • A family friend had brain surgery, and we prayed for her peace and that the surgery would go as planned. Answer: She was released from the hospital earlier than expected and experienced God’s peace during and after the surgery.
  • A church member was admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. We prayed that the medical team would have wisdom in his care, and that his health would improve. Answer: His issue was not a stroke, but something more manageable. He is now home.
  • A lady who is connected to our church has been struggling with sensing God in her life. For nearly a year, we’ve prayed that God would save her and make himself real to her. Answer: This past week, she put her faith in Christ alone for salvation.

God doesn’t always answer every prayer request as quickly or in the way that I might ask. But he does answer. I would encourage you to develop a prayer journal where you track how God works in your prayer life. Reflect often on his answered prayers. Remember, you can bring anything before God in prayer, but he loves it when you intercede for someone else.

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