ALL KINDS OF PRAYER – PART 1

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” [Ephesians 6:18]

In his wonderful little book, “Talking About Prayer,” Richard Bewes writes, “Prayer is such an education! We go on learning about it all of our lives. We never reach the point when we can say, ‘I’ve got it licked.’ Never.” I think that when Paul said that we are to pray all kinds of prayers he was indicating a journey of discovery about prayer.

The acronym A-C-T-S helps us to remember four different kinds of prayer.

A stands for adoration!

Here is the heart of worship in prayer – to adore God. The word “adore” or “adoration” is not found in most translations of the Bible, although in the Message Bible the word “adore” is found in Psalm 22:23. It replaces “revere” [NIV] or “fear” [NKJV]. Psalm 45 is a wedding song, and the bride honours the King [NIV] but in the Message Bible that word honour is translated as “adore.” The word has the meaning of “to bow down,” “honour,” and “to revere!”

The dictionary definition of the word adore is “to worship” “to love intensely.”

A key part of worship or adoration is to express praise to God and to express our love to Him. The hymn writers regularly use the word “adore,” as worship to God, and in fact, the first section of the 1932 edition of the Methodist Hymn Book is entitled “Adoration and Worship.” One of our greatest hymns is the Christmas carol with the chorus, “O come let us adore Him.” The Westminster Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to worship God and to enjoy Him forever.” God does not need our worship, but has given it to us for our benefit. Worship and adoration leads us into God’s presence!

The heart of true worship is to focus totally on God, to honour and adore Him. When did you last take time to just focus on Him and tell Him how much you love Him? As the hymn writer puts it, “Lost in wonder, love and praise.”

Questions:

1. Why do you think that it is always good to begin times of prayer, both as individuals, and as a community with worship and adoration of God?

2. Read Psalm 145. There are several statements that begin with the words “The Lord …” [verses 8,9,13b,14,17]. When completed what do each of these statements say about God? Does this make you want to worship Him?

3. Will you take ten minutes today, to forget about yourself, and to just focus on the greatness of God, bow down and worship Him and tell Him that you love Him?

PRAYER IS NOT AN INSURANCE POLICY

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:1-40

Some people seem to think that prayer can be used as an insurance policy against trouble and through it we can avoid difficult times.

Many years ago someone gave me a book with a fascinating title, “God Wants You Rich.” Its sub-title was, “and other enticing doctrines.” It exploded a number of false doctrines, including the teaching that all Christians should be materially rich and that Christians never get sick! That does not mean that some Christians will not enjoy an abundance of material things or that God does not heal. It answered especially the guilt that comes from teaching that you can have anything you want by faith, and if you don’t have them there must be something wrong with your faith.

God’s Word is very clear that we do experience trials and that God actually uses these to develop our character [see James 1:2-4]. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Someone has humourisly added, “but more on the just because the unjust man steals the just man’s umbrella!” The Psalmist says that the wicked are free of care, and amass great wealth [Psalm 73:12], but they will not last long [see Psalm 37:1-2].

If we only see prayer as a means of getting things, then seeing the wicked who do not pray prosper, may tempt us to think that prayer is irrelevant. The point of prayer is not simply that we get things we want – it is something far deeper than that. Like everything that has God’s stamp on it, prayer is an issue of love. It is the most amazing privilege that we can have a relationship through prayer with the God of the universe who loves us, and who wants to enjoy fellowship with us. That is the heart of prayer.

The hymn writer penned the words, “Sweet hour of prayer, that calls me from a world of care.” As we are in prayer, in God’s presence, we focus on the things that really matter and live in a different dimension to the one who has hope in this world alone. Here we are touching the invisible and find the things that money and this world cannot buy, and which will last forever.

Prayer is not an insurance policy or simply a means of selfishly getting things that we might want. It is communion with the living God

Questions:

1. What is the main lesson that you have learned about prayer from todays devotional word?

2. In what way does Psalm 37 show us that the righteous are not insured against trouble? What promises does God give to the righteous in this Psalm?

3. There are four clear commands in psalm 37:3-7 and they can be summed up in four words. What are they and in what way are they linked to prayer?

A SEASON OF PRAYER – PART 2

Bible Reading: Psalm 24:1-10

I once heard the Rev. Duncan Campbell tell the story of the revival on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides of Western Scotland. Nothing ever spoke to me of the importance of a season of prayer more than his remarkable story.

Duncan Campbell sensed a call from God to go to the Isle of Lewis. When he arrived there from Edinburgh, he visited the home of one of the elders in the Church of Scotland. The wife of the elder answered the door but told Duncan Campbell that she was not sure whether her husband would talk with him. She returned a few moments later to say that her husband would meet him, and Duncan Campbell was ushered into a small room with just a deep-pile sheepskin rug on the floor. He looked at the elder and then in the rug he saw the imprint of man’s body. He asked what this was, and the elder replied that thirty-six hours earlier the Holy Spirit had told him to get into God’s presence and seek His face, because God wanted to do something on the Isle of Lewis. He had been lying on that rug praying, with tears, for thirty-six hours!

The following Saturday evening there was a prayer meeting at the church. A sixteen year old boy stood to pray, and read Psalm 24:3-4 – “Who shall ascent the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” He raised his hands above his head and cried out, “Lord, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”

At that precise moment the Spirit of God moved powerfully across the Island. A bus driver was unable to continue driving his bus. He knelt down on the road and cried out to God. The dance band could no longer play as the presence of God swept through the dance hall. At three o’clock in the morning many people were running to the church seeking God. It was the beginning of the Lewis Revival of 1949, and it began with a man who prayed.

Questions:

1. What lessons can you learn about prayer from both the story of the elder of the church and the sixteen year old boy in the prayer meeting?

2. Sometimes God calls us to enter a season of prayer. On of the dangers is that we know about prayer but don’t pray! If God called you to do so, would you be prepared to do what the elder of the church did in this story?

A SEASON OF PRAYER – PART 1

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

Just recently a group of us men met together and came to the conclusion that we long for more of God’s manifest presence, both in our own lives and in our church. This morning one of those men wrote us all an email, and said that he had booked the prayer room at church for 9.00am to 10.00am for the next five Saturdays so that we could meet to pray for revival and breakthrough.

There are times when God calls us to a special season of prayer. In his book, “Talking About Prayer” Richard Bewes says, “A true revival of the Christian faith is marked by five major characteristics – an impassioned preaching of the cross, deep-seated moral repentance, hundreds of thousands of conversions to Jesus Christ, widespread unashamed witness and unceasing prevailing prayer.”

God’s Word says, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” [2 Chronicles 7:14]. This is a promise from God! He keeps His promises. However, the word “if” makes it clear that it is conditional. We can choose to pray or neglect prayer. Every major work of God in history has begun with a prayer movement.

Let me suggest four things about special seasons of prayer. Firstly, it is not our planning and then asking God to come and bless our plans, but rather seeking God and then doing what He tells us to do. Secondly, God honours people who pray individually, but it is even more powerful when they pray together in agreement and in unity – 2 Chronicles 7:14, uses the plural word “people.” Thirdly, when individuals in the group pray out from their hearts others are able to agree and give an amen! In many ways this is more helpful to people because as they listen to others praying they learn how to pray. Prayer is much better modelled than taught. Fourthly, a key factor in this kind of praying is that we don’t just for something from God, but wait for Him to speak to us.

Questions:

1. Are you hungry for God and His presence? Would you find two or three people likeminded with yourself and begin to pray together?

2. In his book, “Power through Prayer,” E.M. Bounds makes the statement, “Men seek better methods but God seeks better men.” What do you think is the meaning of this statement and how does it relate to prayer?

3. Read 1 King 18:36-37. What can you learn about prayer from this prayer of Elijah? Why do you think that God answered Elijah’s prayer?

ALWAYS AND EVERYTHING!

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The Bible says, “Pray all the time” [1Thess. 5:17 Message Bible] and “Do not worry about anything but pray about everything” [Phil. 4:6 The Living Bible].

Do you struggle with these two statements? How can you pray all the time? There are so many other things to do – praying all the time is impossible, or is it? God actually tells us to pray all the time. He would never ask us to do something that was physically impossible for us, so there must be an answer.

Perhaps the answer to the always is in the “everything.” The key to praying all the time is to turn everything that you do and every thought into prayer. In this way you begin to live in the atmosphere of praying without ceasing. This must surely be linked to Paul’s injunction to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ [2 Corinthians 10:5]. Literally all of my thoughts become subject to Jesus.

This is going to take some real discipline and determination and will not be very easy at first. It is going to mean breaking some habits and creating new habits. Let’s look at the example of worry, or anxiety, in Philippians 4:6. Worry is a problem for most of us. My wife said to me this morning, “Sometimes I go days without a care in the world, but then days come when worry nags at me.” We worry about work, our kids, health, money and so much more. Can you imagine beginning to catch each worrying thought as it comes into our mind and turning it instead into prayer? The more that you do this the easier and more natural it will become. You can do this too when thoughts about other people come into your mind. Can you imagine how much less we would talk about people if we turned every thought of them into prayer?

Questions:

1. Would you make a decision today to begin to turn your thoughts into prayer and begin to make this a life-style?

2. What do you think will be the long-term effect in your Christian life if you turn every thought into prayer?

3. Why do you think that this kind of praying will begin to counteract negative attitudes and begin to make us more positive people?

CHILD LIKE PRAYER

Bible Reading: Matthew 18:1-4

Jesus said, “Except you become like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God” [Matthew 18:3]. He doesn’t mean childish, but rather child-like in our simplicity, trust and even vulnerability. Nowhere is this more obviously seen than in sincere prayer.

For forty-three years my wife and I have had the privilege of being part of a wonderful international mission called WEC [Worldwide Evangelization for Christ]. Among its many remarkable missionaries is Dr. Helen Roseveare. Dr. Helen spent more than twenty years as a missionary doctor in the Congo. In her early years in the Congo she worked at a clinic and orphanage. She had been there almost four years when a mother died in labour, leaving behind a premature baby and a two-year old girl. With no electricity and no incubator it would be difficult to keep the newborn baby warm. The only available hot water bottle burst when it was filled with water. They were situated in the jungle, miles from anyone who could help.

Dr. Helen shared the situation with the children and a ten-year-old girl named Ruth decided to pray. Her prayer was so simple, “Please, God, send us a hot water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, would you please send a dolly for the little girl, so she’ll know You really love her?”

The only way this prayer could be answered would be the arrival of a parcel from home, but Dr. Helen had not received a single package in the four years she had been in Congo. Who, in their right mind would send a hot water bottle to the equator? Later that afternoon a large parcel was delivered to Dr. Helen’s door. They found clothes, food and bandages in the parcel, and a brand new hot water bottle. At the bottom of the parcel they found a doll for the little girl. The parcel had been sent from England five months earlier!! The Bible says that before we call God will answer [Isaiah 65:24]. Daddy God had heard this child’s prayer and had already been answering it months before the prayer was even was prayed. But, when that prayer was prayed the result was stunning!

Questions:

1. What principles about prayer do you learn from this wonderful story of a ten-year-old girl called Ruth?

2. How could you incorporate these principles into your own prayer life?

3. Why do you think that God honoured and answered this prayer?

WHAT IS PRAYER?

Bible Reading: Matthew 6:5-15

James Montgomery was a Scottish poet who wrote over four hundred hymns Perhaps his most famous hymn is about prayer. He wrote that prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try, and the Christian’s vital breath. That’s it – the Christians vital breath. Without breath we die and without prayer we die spiritually.

Prayer in its purest form is conversation with God. We speak and He listens. He speaks and we listen! What is your concept of God? The disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them to pray, and He gave them a model prayer that began with the word “Father.” The Greek word for Father in the Lord’s Prayer is ‘Patēr’ from which get our word papa. Jesus, however, would not be using Greek but Aramaic as every day language, and the word that He would have used in Aramaic would have been “Abba.” This is the most intimate of all words for father and correctly translated would be “Daddy.”

We recently had the most delightful Filipino Christian lady stay in our home. She has a remarkable ministry among the slum and street kids of her town in the Philippines. When she prays or talks about the Lord, she always uses the phrase “Daddy God.” At first it seemed a little strange, because in England adults rarely use the word “Daddy” when speaking of their father, but the more Elaine used the word the more it seemed so natural. This word “Daddy” cuts through all the pride of religious language and shows us that the heart of prayer is relationship with a Daddy God who loves us deeply. It is unforced conversation that flows naturally between a Daddy and His children.

Yesterday I watched a couple of kids with their dad at the seaside. “Look at me dad!” one of them shouted with delight. Another fell over and began to cry, and his dad ran to pick him up and comfort him. It was all so natural and so spontaneous. Prayer is coming to God, talking and listening to him as a child comes to his daddy.

Questions:

1. Why do you think that so many Christians struggle with the word “Daddy” when speaking about God?

2. Every time you pray this week will you preface your prayer with either Daddy or Daddy God and see the difference it will begin to make as you speak this out?

WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO PRAY?

Bible Reading: Luke 18:10-14

Today I am beginning a new series of devotional words on prayer. One of the things that I wish to do is to demystify some of the issues surrounding prayer.

I am not really interested in writing about the doctrine of prayer, or even lectures on prayer, but something childlike and practical. The purpose is to help you to pray.

I find it interesting that many great Christian leaders have said towards the end of their life that they wish they had given more time to prayer. Why is it that so many of us have struggled to pray? Five reasons immediately spring to mind:

Firstly, it is difficult because of the nature of prayer. Max Lucado writes, “We might as well admit it. Prayer is odd, peculiar. Speaking into space. Lifting words into the sky. We can’t even get the cable company to answer us, yet God will? The doctor is too busy, but God isn’t? We have our doubts about prayer” [From “Before Amen,” p.2].

Secondly, Some people struggle because they feel disappointed. They prayed but God did not seem to answer and they felt let down. It didn’t seem to work!

Thirdly, prayer is difficult because of the way it has been misrepresented. Religion has made prayer complicated! This is amazingly portrayed in our text today – the two prayers – of the Pharisee and of the tax collector [Luke 18:10-14]. The Pharisee’s prayer was religious but the tax collector prayed from his heart and was real! Some people even feel that they are not religious enough to pray and can’t even seem to get the words right! So sad because religious prayers do not impress God at all!

Fourthly, We live busy lives and prayer does not often come high up on our priorities. There is the family to feed, bills to pay, deadlines to keep and the feeling of weariness when you got up early and came home exhausted after a long day at work.

Fifthly, Satan hates people praying and will do all he can to stop people praying. The hymn writer, William Cowper famously said, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” Prayer is a battle and Satan will do everything he can to distract and hinder us from praying.

Questions:

1. If you struggle to pray can you identify what the reason is from the five possible reasons given in todays devotional?

2. Why do you think it is that towards the latter part of their life so many Christian leaders say that they wish they had given more time to prayer?

3. In this series on prayer I am hoping that it will help people to better understand and more effectively pray. Would you, in the next month, as we look at the subject of prayer ask God to help you pray more effectively?