Prayer is a delicacy in our relationship with our Creator that most of us, myself included, do not take full advantage of. But, it is the realization of the lack that is the first step to the cure. How many of us say that we don’t have enough time to really spend in prayer, certainly not like so many of the men of God that are examples in Scripture? What is the difference between them and us? I am including myself in this question! I consider myself a praying man but realize, every time I spend time studying the subject, that I really am lacking! Long ago I came to the place in my life where prayer was a regular part of my life. The kind of prayer that is really a conversation between me and my Maker. Yet, during any lack of life-threatening difficulties, I don’t find myself very desperate! Unfortunately, that is one of the reasons that challenges come into our lives. God wants us to become desperate enough to pray–and pray in “earnestness” as it says in the Book of James. I have printed out verses 13-18 in the Amplified Bible. Let’s look at what it says:
“Is any one among you afflicted–ill-treated, suffering evil? He should pray. Is any one glad at heart? He should sing praise to God. Is any one among you sick? He should call in the church elders–the spiritual guides. And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s Name. And the prayer (that is) is of faith will save him that is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess to one another therefore your faults–your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins; and pray also for one another, that you may be healed and restored–to a spiritual tone of mind and heart. The earnest (heart-felt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available–dynamic in its working. Elijah was a human bieng with a nature such as we have–with feelings, affections and constitution as ourselves; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months. (1 Kings 17:1) And then he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops as usual. (1 Kings 18:42-45)
One of the questions that is asked so often amongst Christians is, “Why does God not answer prayer like it says He would in the Bible? Why do I pray for miracles and they don’t happen? Without getting into a teaching on the subject in this article, could it be that God is able and willing, but our prayer life is lacking? I suspect so.
Of course, we’ll quickly defend ourselves and say that this can’t be the case. It’s human nature to look for someone else to blame. But, if our God is a God of miracles, and if He has promised to answer a righteous person with the miraculous answer necessary to meet the need at hand, could the problem be with us and not with Him? Once again, I suspect so! God is never the problem……. we are. So how do I correct the problem, because I really need to get answers to my prayers?
Prayer is the most important means of developing an intimate life with the Lord God. Communication with Him, not only on a daily basis–(although that alone would be a great improvement over what many experience), but as a regular part of our life, should be the norm. It is what really defines the closeness of our relationship with God. When was the last time that you had a meaningful “alone” time with Him? Was it just the last time when you had a crisis in your life? Hopefully, it is not the crisis times of our lives that number the times we spend any significant time in prayer. Prayer, maybe more than anything, measures the level of intimacy we have with our Lord. Psalms 5:1-3 has King David saying this:
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my god, for to you I pray. in the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (NIV)
Mark 1:35 shows what was the habit of Jesus:
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (NIV)
Fervent and effectual prayer has nothing to do with terminology, fancy sounding spiritual words, or long drawn out expressions of holy sounding phrases. It has to do with intimacy with the One we are addressing. The most illiterate person can have a relationship that surpasses the Bible College professor! It has to do with relationship, and God knows those that are His own! Let’s look at Hebrews 10:22-23:
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
I have found that it is much easier to live a life of prayer when my conscience is clear with my God. Have you ever tried to pray with some depth when there were things between you and God? It doesn’t work well. It isn’t because God doesn’t want to hear from us; it has to do with the fact that we are allowing something else to be more important to us than the relationship between us and our loving Creator….. the most important relationship in life.
There is a quote by Andrew Bonar, found in his diary:
“Tonight I gave myself to a time of waiting upon the Lord. I had not been much in the spirit of prayer, but now several things have become clear to me. I realize I have not communed enough with the Lord, nor come to Him as often as I should. Little forethought has been given to the requests I’ve made. There has been much conversing and outward engagement with men, but I have not been occupied enough with God Himself. I also realize that a closeness to him gives abundant strength and is like sunlight shining through the clouds on a gloomy day.”
We are busy. We have no end of things to do. We have people to see, bills to pay, kids to raise, jobs to put our 100% best into, groceries to buy, our children’s teachers to see, taxes to do, the lawn to mow, oil to change in the family car, and so many other things! So often we find ourselves shoving God further and further down on our priority list. By the time we finally get to Him, we are so tired, so sleepy, exhausted, and often discouraged to a point of frustration we can’t even describe. Does this sound familiar? Then the neighbor calls at 9:45 pm, informing you that they just watched your dog chase their cat up the tallest tree! Where do we fit God in all this?
The only way I know to turn the tide on what life will inevitably throw at you is to start first thing in the morning with the LORD.. Recognize Him first thing every morning! It is because of Him that you are still alive!! After you recognize the Lord of your life and the fact that He brought you through another night when you were totally oblivious, ask Him from the bottom of your soul to watch over you through the day that is ahead, keeping your body, soul, and spirit in mind as you begin to navigate the day ahead. It is also most important to spend some time in the Word of God. We know it is a roadmap through life. Don’t take on a new day, a day that you have no control over, without looking for God’s divine guidance, protection, and blessing. Do we believe we are children of God? If so, then this is a most important ingredient of our Christian walk!
As we recognize the Lord of our life at the very beginning of our day, we also need to feed our souls with food that can only be received from our Creator. It is called the “Word of God” and was specially designed to meet the needs of every single one of us! God speaks through His Word!
There is a powerful connection between God, His Word, and us. God’s Word, if we learn to meditate on it, builds our faith. It is a connection that God Himself intended. Romans 10:17 tells us that our faith comes by hearing. Hearing what? Hearing the Word of God. This can come by hearing a teaching from God’s Word or it can come by a person reading and studying God’s Word for himself. Many people have little to no faith at all. Why? Because they don’t “hear” the Word. This is either because they aren’t paying attention to the Word when it is delivered to them; they don’t believe it; or they just don’t let it change them when they do hear it! Hebrews 4:1-2 shows God’s thoughts on the matter:
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest!”
There are always going to be people who will be quick to retort, saying, “God has not given us a spirit of fear!” “ I should not fear anything.” That is actually not true–not according to God’s Word! Of course God’s Word teaches us that there is nothing of this world that we should have fear of; in fact, not even hell itself, but there is something that we should have a genuine fear of, and that is a fear of falling short of the rest that God has promised us! A whole multitude of Israelites missed it, and it was because they didn’t take God’s Word seriously and apply it to their lives. It takes a life of prayer to do so. And, it is the life of prayer that gives us an intimacy with the lover of our souls that we should all crave. Do you crave that intimacy with Him? There is no substitute for it, folks! That’s why I’m making such an issue of it here.
E.M. Bounds was known to be a man of prayer like few others. He said this:
“Men and women are needed whose prayers will give to the world the utmost power of God; Who will make His promises to blossom with rich and full results. God is waiting to hear us and challenges us to bring Him to do this thing by our praying. He is asking us, today, as He did His ancient Israel, to prove Him now herewith.” Behind God’s Word is God Himself, and we read: “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, his Maker; Ask of me of things to come and concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.” As though God places Himself in the hands and at the disposal of His people who pray–as indeed He does. The dominant element of all praying is faith, that is conspicuous, cardinal and emphatic. Without such faith it is impossible to please God, and equally impossible to pray.”
Read through that slowly and hear the heart of God. The world around us needs us to be able to experience rich and full results because we pray! Why? Because the world around us doesn’t have the connection with God that they expect us to have. It is a connection that He wants us to have.
As a child of God, I want Him to work through my life personally because Jesus lives in me and I live in Him. I should not depend on God to pour His Spirit out on my pastor, teacher, or godly friend! There is no substitute for getting hold of God yourself. This is the way God has laid things out.
A second quote from E.M. Bounds can inspire us:
“The praying which makes a prayerful ministry is not a little praying put in as we put flavor to give it a pleasant smack, but the praying must be in the body, and form the blood and bones. Prayer is no petty duty, put into a corner; no piecemeal performance made out of the fragments of time which have been snatched from business and other engagements of life; but it means that the best of our time, the heart of our time and strength must be given.”
How many of you remember love when it was “young” (whether you were young or not), and you could not understand where the time went when you had been with the love of your life? It seemed like you had looked at your watch two hours earlier and here you were–feeling like you had just spent 15 minutes! I have to ask myself when was the last time I lost track of time in the Lord’s Presence? I am afraid it doesn’t happen often. How about you? Do you, like me, want to change that?
It’s great to have a calling to do our part in fulfilling the “Great Commission,” but it will seem pretty mechanical unless it flows out of our intimate walk with God! Everything of value in our Christian walk must come through the filter of the intimacy of our walk with God! In fact, we can go through all the motions, singing all the songs, raising our hands in worship, closing our eyes in seeming adoration of our KING, but unless we have really connected with the Spirit of God, it is all in vain! I’ll likely not have greater results than the Pharisees did, and they were compared to vipers!
I remember the lyrics written by artist Chuck Girard years ago for a song called “Witness.” Let’s take a look at them:
I witnessed to a man today, I witnessed to his wife
I told them ‘bout the way and I told them ‘bout the life
I told them how they needed to surrender to the lord
I told them ‘bout the power of His double edged sword
Witness, witness, witness
Witness all the time
Such a little witness
See him shine, see him shine, see him shine
I witnessed to a drunkard outside a tenement
I told him he was shameful and he needed to repent
I witnessed to a blind man beggin’ money on the street
I put a tract into his cup and did not miss a beat!
I passed out little tracts with all the scripture underlined
I handed one to each and everyone that I could find
I’d shove one in their hands and I’d walk on to the next
I must have reached a hundred souls with my salvation text
I gave out little Bibles with the gospel of St. John
Into a hundred hands before my Bibles were all gone
I told each one I met the words of John 3, verse 16
And sandwiched in a little bit of Matthew in between
I finished out the day and yet I was not satisfied
And on my way back home it hit me and I almost cried
I’d given them the message and I’d given them a little shove
But I’d missed the most important thing, I had not given love
Witness, witness, witness
Witness all the time
Such a little witness
See him shine, see him shine, see him shine!
We can go through all the motions of “acting” spiritual, sometimes being more legalistic in our walk with God than being intimate with him. But the fruit of intimacy with God will ALWAYS be love, more love for Him, and more love for our fellowman. Jesus had a love for people that came from His own love for the Father. Our love for people should resemble His love for people; after all, it is the second greatest commandment. If our love for God shows, our love for people should show as well, and it won’t necessarily look “religious.”
To Be Continued in Part 8