Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Prayer
Volume 5 No. 301 August 21, 2015

[Table of Contents]

This Week's Features - Prayer

Prayer to Jesus before Holy Communion
O Lord, my God, I am not worthy that you should come into my soul, but I am glad that you have come to me because, in your loving kindness, you desire to dwell in me.

You ask me to open the door of my soul, which you alone have created, so that you may enter into it with your loving kindness and dispel the darkness of my mind.

I believe that you will do this for you did not turn away Mary Magdalene when she approached you in tears. Neither did you withhold forgiveness from the tax collector who repented of his sins or from the good thief who asked to be received into your kingdom.

Indeed, you numbered as your friends all who came to you with repentant hearts.

O God, you alone are blessed always, now, and forever.

Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop, Orator, Doctor of Church

Act of Contrition

O MY God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin.

Amen.

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Praying With Persistence

by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Gospel: Lk 11:9-13

Two men were shipwrecked on a deserted island. Frustrated by their situation one man began to pray, "Dear Lord, I know that I haven't been a very good person. In the past I have lied, cheated, and hurt people with my behavior. I drink, smoke, swear and gamble. But God, if you get us out of this mess, you'll see a changed man. I'll…." At this point his friend shouted, "Hold it. Don't say another word. I see a boat and it is coming in our direction." It is interesting how some people view prayer. (1)

I think there are a lot of people - Christians included - who view prayer like these two men. The first chap turned to God in prayer only as a last resort. If there were other options, he most likely would have considered them first. Only when he is in a desperate situation that he believes he cannot get out of does he turn to God for help. The content of his prayer reveals he is praying to God in a conditional way - if God will rescue them from the mess they're in, then he is about to promise God certain things and make changes in his life. This method of praying is really bargaining with God - if you do this God, then I'll do thus and so. However, in most cases, such prayers are likely not going to change God. We cannot manipulate God like that to get what we want. God knows the deepest thoughts and motivations of our hearts, souls and minds. Such conditional, bargaining prayers are often not sincere - since when times improve and things are going well again, often the folks who prayed such prayers forget about God and fail to honour what they had promised God.

In the case of the second chap, who stopped his friend from praying any further; he may either have been skeptical that his friend could keep promises to God; or perhaps he didn't want his friend to stop living a sinful lifestyle; or perhaps he placed more faith in himself and other human beings to get them out of their mess than he did in God.

At any rate, I think that we too at times are tempted to pray conditional prayers; to bargain with God in our prayers - thinking incorrectly that we can manipulate God in order to get what we want. Or perhaps at times we, like the second chap abandon prayer altogether; thinking incorrectly that we don't need God and we don't need to pray. Rather, we can do everything on our own or we can rely on other human beings to get what we want.

I must confess that our gospel today is a challenging one for me personally. I often feel guilty or feel badly that I come to God in prayer as if I were a shopper with an endless list of items that I want. Too often I think we get our priorities mixed up. We pray for what we want rather than what we really need. Yet, I counsel myself by the reminder that even Jesus and the apostle Paul could get it wrong in their prayers by mixing up wants and needs. You remember in Gethsemane that Jesus prayed for his heavenly Father to remove the cup of suffering and death from him. Afterwards he prayed the best prayer of all - not my, but thy will be done. Paul too had prayed that the Lord would remove his "thorn in the flesh." Yet, the answer he received was that no, God would not remove it - rather, God's power was made known through weakness.

Yet, in today's gospel, one of the most important messages Jesus teaches is to be persistent in praying: "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone - not a small chosen minority, NO! EVERYONE - who asks receives, and EVERYONE who searches finds, and for EVERYONE who knocks, the door will be opened." As wonderful and full of promise as these words are I think that they've been misunderstood and misinterpreted by a lot of folks over the years. I DO NOT believe that Jesus offers his followers a blank cheque here; he DOES NOT mean that if you pray to win the fifty million dollar lottery you shall win; nor that if you pray you can fly off of Niagara Falls and land safely below without being killed you will be able to do so! Such prayers are certainly incorrect and harmful. Nor does Jesus say here that he will give you ANYTHING OR EVERYTHING you pray for. For example, if you pray to understand the intricacies of thermodynamics and quantum physics at the age of five, most likely the answer to your prayer will be 'No'; or if you are one-hundred years old and you pray to be a healthy twenty-five-year-old, most likely the answer again shall be 'No.'

On the other hand, what Jesus is saying here is full of promise. He invites EVERYONE to ask, search, and knock. No one is left out here - he offers the invitation to you, me, and all people. The implication of his offer here is that HE DOES ANSWER EVERYONE who asks, searches, and knocks. The answer may be: 'yes,' 'no,' 'wait,' or perhaps even 'you're asking for the wrong things; you're searching in the wrong places; you're knocking on the wrong doors.' Such answers are all necessary and the best for us at the time; given the nature of the prayers we pray and the circumstances in which we pray them.

Sinners that we are, most likely we don't always get it right when we pray; thus Jesus' instruction to be persistent in praying - keep asking, don't stop searching, continue with your knocking. In fact, ultimately what is most important for us is not necessarily that we receive what we ask for or find what we search for or walk through the door we're knocking on. NO! Rather, what is ultimately most important is that we DISCOVER AN INTIMACY WITH OUR LORD THROUGH PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER. We come to realise that it's about relationship with Christ and basking in and valuing that relationship more than everything or everyone in the world. Prayer is being known by and knowing our God of love as OUR Father, OUR Messiah and OUR Holy Spirit. In the intimacy of prayer, we not only commune with God the Creator of the universe; we also bear our deepest secrets to Jesus our most Trustworthy Friend and Brother; and we are graced with the presence of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and reassures us of the promise that we are forgiven. With this gift of intimacy with God through persistent prayer God sometimes gives us the spiritual hug we need when we're lonely or rejected; or the state of joy by simply being alive; or the courage required to face a situation of conflict at home, on the job, or in school. Another way of stating it is that through the gift of intimacy with God; we come to see our wealth is not in what we do not have; rather, it is in what we already have been given.

Jesus speaks about this intimacy of prayer with him by comparing it with sinful, imperfect parents providing for the needs of their children. Even they know how to give the right gifts to their children when they ask. If sinful, imperfect parents do not give their children a snake when they ask for a fish; or when they do not give their children a poisonous scorpion when they ask for an egg - then how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! In other words, it is not that God is hard of hearing that we are admonished to be persistent in prayer. Rather, it is because God our heavenly Parent wants an intimate relationship with each one of us and by giving us the gift of his Holy Spirit we shall come to trust in God as we ask, search and knock; knowing that whatever God gives us by way of answering our prayers; it is all and always for the best.

Footnote:

1  Cited from: Emphasis: A Preaching Journal for the Parish Pastor, Vol. 25, No. 2, July-August 1995 (Lima: OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc.), p. 36.

About the Author

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson is Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society's South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

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When You Don't Have a Prayer

by Dr. Richard C. Leonard, Laudemont Ministries

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13 NIV

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.' "

Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

"They didn't have a prayer."

  • The sports car that pulled out in front of a speeding semi.
  • The guy who flunked out of college and then applied for a teaching position.
  • The geeky type who tried to date the high school homecoming queen.
  • The Cubs hoping to make the World Series.

Why is it that in these and so many other apparently hopeless situations, people who never darken the doors of the church will use this expression, "They don't have a prayer"? Is there some latent recognition that prayer really could make a difference?

And why is it so hard for many people to pray, even people in Bible-believing churches? Why is it that in a gathering where the minister is present he's the one who is often asked to lead in prayer - because nobody else has a prayer?

It used to be hard for me to pray in public, unless I was reading from a bulletin or a worship book. I'll tell you why it was hard. It's because prayer is talking with God. And if you don't really believe there's anyone on the other end of the line, it's hard to keep up your end of the conversation. Yes, some people don't have a prayer because they don't have a God to pray to.

But that's not your problem. And it wasn't the disciples' problem in our passage from the Gospel of Luke. When they asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray," it wasn't because they didn't believe. Maybe they had a poor model in some of the praying people they knew. If their example in prayer was the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men" - making sure everyone would notice - then it's understandable why the disciples wanted something else. Sometimes they could be pretty dense, but Jesus had at least got it through their skulls that God is real and is on the move, and it's time to get real about prayer.

And maybe a little jealousy was at work here. John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray, and Jesus' disciples didn't want to be left out. They didn't want to have it said of them that "they didn't have a prayer."

So they came to Jesus with a simple request, "Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." Interestingly, Jesus didn't use this occasion to make some cutting remark, like, "Get behind me, Satan, you only want to pray because you're jealous of John's people." No, when his followers asked, "Teach us to pray," he just flat taught them how to pray!

He taught us several things about prayer. He gave us a pattern for prayer. He taught about persistence in prayer. And he taught about the purpose of prayer.

We'll come back to that first idea, the pattern, later on. But let's take up what Jesus taught about persistence in prayer. He used the example of the friend who comes at midnight, pounding on the door of his neighbor's house to borrow bread for company that's just arrived. Picture the scene: the householder is up on the flat roof with his family - in Palestine they slept up here because of the summer heat - and the Mrs. and all the children are asleep around him. If he gets up to find the bread, he has to clamber over all the kids and they're going to wake up cranky and the baby will start crying and the wife will have a fit. But what's he going to do? The friend beating on the door will wake them up anyhow. With friends like that, who needs enemies? As Jesus said, "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs."

We ought not to push this too far. Jesus isn't teaching that prayer is a way of wresting away from a reluctant God something he doesn't really want to give. But he is teaching us that consistent prayer gets results. He follows up the story by saying, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Some interpreters try to make this mean more than it says about persistence. The Greek tense here is the perfect tense, which is taken to mean "Ask and keep on asking . . . Seek and keep on seeking . . . Knock and keep on knocking." The trouble with this is that Jesus didn't teach in Greek. The Greek New Testament is a translation of what he actually said, and the original Aramaic wouldn't have this nuance. It's really just a simple truth: The way to get something is to ask for it, the way to find something is to look for it, the way to open a door is to knock on it. We just can't bypass step number one, to pray in the first place. But that's the very step we might forget to take - when we just don't have a prayer. As Jesus' brother reminds us, in James 4:2: "You have not, because you ask not."

Jesus goes a step further, in our passage, by showing us the purpose of prayer. He does it with a couple of illustrations: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

We learn here two things about prayer. First, prayer is about relationships - specifically, a family relationship with our heavenly Father. There's no point in praying to a tyrant, a kind of heavenly Saddam Hussein. There's no point in praying to some nebulous, fuzzy blob, or to the good side of "The Force." The only point to prayer is that we're talking with our Father, the head of our family who has our best interests at heart.

Think about this: if prayer is a family matter, those who aren't in the family really don't have a prayer. Our father ought to be willing to do good things for us, but if someone isn't our father why would we ever ask him for these things? Perhaps people who've never committed themselves to God think they're praying when they address him, but the first real prayer of the unbeliever is, "Lord, I repent. Take me into your family, through Jesus your Son."

Second, our Father is eager to give us good things - not just what we think we want, but things that fit into his plan for us. As John says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). Jesus makes it plain that our Father wants to give one thing above all else - his Holy Spirit. Why? Because it's by the Spirit that you and I are enabled to be God's witnesses and servants in a world that desperately needs to hear about the benefits of being part of the family of God. "You will receive power," Jesus told us, "when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). And (if you'll pardon the expression) it's like God is just itching for us to ask him for the very thing he most wants to give us. The Holy Spirit is the key to making our lives count, as we're empowered to overcome the darkness around us and become beacons of light and love and healing.

So to undergird the purpose of prayer, to enable persistence in prayer, Jesus established a pattern for prayer. He gave the disciples a model prayer we call the Lord's Prayer, also called the "Our Father" from its opening words. It's clear, it's logical, it's short but it covers the bases of a well-rounded prayer life. We'll take a brief look at them.

First, Jesus teaches us to begin with adoration of the holy God: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." Prayer begins by recognizing who it is we're praying to: not a projection of our culture's values but one who is hallowed or holy - a biblical word that means set apart from the ordinary. There's a mystery about the being of God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He's our Father, but not the ineffective and bumbling father of a TV situation comedy. He's not the preoccupied or abusive father so many people have had to deal with today. He's a father of authority, dignity mystery - and compassion.

Jesus teaches us, second, to submit to our Father's will: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Think of this in its broad dimensions. It's not just for God's will for our personal lives that we are praying. We pray that his will may have its effect over all the earth: our community, our nation, our world. Such prayer is much needed today, and its purpose isn't to force our agenda on God but to align ourselves with what he wants to do in his world.

Third, Jesus taught us to pray acknowledging our dependence on God for every need. "Give us this day our daily bread." Three things about this.

First, it's hard to pray this prayer, because we would like God to supply our needs not just for today but for tomorrow and the day after. There's no Social Security in the Lord's Prayer, no entitlement. Instead, it expresses a daily dependence on God that forces us to maintain the family relationship. If God gave us, right now, everything we would ever need, it wouldn't be a gift from our Father. It would be like a bequest from a dead uncle, and we could easily live off the interest and forget the family ties.

Second, the bread Jesus is talking about isn't just food or material sustenance. In the Bible, bread is a symbol for all that sustains and preserves our life. It's a symbol for the life-giving Word of God; as Jesus told the devil, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." And bread is a symbol of God's healing and deliverance, for when the Syrophoenician woman asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter he tested her faith by answering, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (Mark 7:27). When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we're appealing to God for healing of our lives, for insight into his purpose for us, and for ordinary physical needs.

Third, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As thou didst break the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee, Lord;
My Spirit pants for thee, O living Word!

Jesus himself, in his risen presence, is the true Bread. That's why it's appropriate to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," just before sharing in Holy Communion, the emblems of Jesus' life in our midst.

In the fourth place, Jesus reminds us to come to God acknowledging our sinfulness. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Instead of praying like the Pharisee, "God, I thank you I'm not like those sinners over there," we pray with the tax collector, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." We don't make ourselves out to be worthless scum. We're anything but that in our Father's eyes. But, as Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and we need to acknowledge our brokenness before him. It's not only God we have sinned against, but other people, and they've sinned against us. That's just part of being human. As Alexander Pope said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." Forgiveness is God's gift. Jesus explains elsewhere that unless we forgive others we won't be forgiven our own sins. We can't clench our fist, clutch our hurts and refuse to release all those things that have been done to us by others, or we'll never grasp God's forgiveness. It takes an open hand to receive a gift.

Jesus concludes his pattern for prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." He's not just talking about moral temptation here, for the word peirasmos really means "testing" or "trial." Here's where we can put the Lord's Prayer into its historical context. In the first century the Jewish homeland was under the thumb of the Roman Empire, but there was a growing nationalist movement. Eventually it would lead to revolt, which the Romans crushed in the year 70 when they burned Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.

Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, a kingdom of mission and service that was far more important than the political issues of the time. He was seeking to redirect his people to their true purpose, to be a blessing to all nations, for he understood where this violent nationalism was headed. He wanted to spare his followers the horrible end that was sure to come if his message fell on deaf ears. So he taught them to pray that they would be spared this tribulation and testing. And they were spared, because the nationalist religious system was crushed but the church endured.

"Lead us not into testing, but deliver us from evil." For us, these words are a plea that we might endure the evils of our time through the protection of God. As Paul says, "Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).

Jesus gave us this prayer as a model, showing us the points that need to be covered in a well-rounded prayer life. We can always pray other prayers based on the same pattern:

Acknowledge God as our Father
submit to his will
ask for his provision for life
ask forgiveness for our sins
appeal for God's protection in an evil time.


But it's also good to pray the Lord's Prayer itself. A very early Christian document, perhaps from the first century, is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It contains this passage: "Neither pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel: "Our Father in heaven . . ."Pray this way three times a day" (Didache 8:2-3).

If you're having trouble praying, use the Lord's Prayer as your model and just make up your own words to fit the pattern. Don't worry if it doesn't sound like a religious professional. You may think you're praying poorly, but as G. K. Chesterton said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." Or, if that's hard for you to do, just pray the Lord's Prayer itself. Let it never be said of any of God's people that "they didn't have a prayer."

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How to Establish a Consistent Prayer Life

by Richard Tow

Gospel: Luke 11:9-11:13

Introduction

I want to introduce the sermon this morning with a brief clip from the movie, The Passion. Jesus is in Gethsemane knowing that the hour of his suffering is rapidly approaching. He is praying and he has asked his disciples to pray.

Many of you know this story. Jesus has asked the disciples to pray and, instead of praying, they sleep. Can anyone besides me identify with the struggle these disciples had in being faithful in prayer? I'm glad the Bible records their struggles because it gives me hope. They eventually rose above their failure and became mighty in prayer. We see that in the book of Acts.

The question that we want to address is how we can enter into greater victory in this area of our lives. What is it going to take for us to develop and maintain a strong, consistent prayer life? I'm sure if great persecution broke out against Christians, or if we were experiencing some horrific problem we would pray more. But I don't want to enter into it that way. I want to be a child of God who learns to come to his heavenly Father with all his needs and enjoy the interaction. I want to learn how to live in the presence of God and live in prayer. How can we do that?

We do it much the same way we do anything? It happens first and foremost because we decide to do it. One reason we struggle in this area is that we over-spiritualize it so to speak. We think that it's going to happen some happy day when an outside force, maybe God, just kind of thrusts it upon us. But if that were reality, then why does God tell us to do it. The Bible is filled with commandments to pray. As a general rule, prayer is not something that happens to us. It is something we do by a choice of will.

Every Christian "wishes" he/she would pray more - enjoy it more - be more consistent in praying. We all want that. But wanting something is not the same thing as choosing something. I may want a new car. I may dream of someday having a new car. I may even go to the dealership and test drive a new car. But at some point I have to count the cost and "decide" to have a new car. One reason I have not chosen to have a new car is that I know when I choose that, I will have to give up having something else. So there is something else that I have in reality chosen over having a new car. I still "wish" I had a new car. But wishing has never gotten me one.

We all live pretty much with what we've chosen. It's hard to say and hard to hear; but the truth is my prayer life and your prayer life is what we've chosen it to be. The good news is we all have the power to choose something different. That means we have right here this morning opportunity for a better prayer life if we choose to have one.

We enter into that the same way we enter into other things. How did you enter into the career you currently have? How did you enter into sports when you were in High School? How did you enter into your marriage? In every case there was a process of choice. What is that process?

1. We must conclude that it is genuinely worth the investment.

We are rational being who have limited time and resources. The most valuable thing you have is your time. "Time is money" as they say. If you invest your time wisely you can convert that into money. It's called a job. Every day we are faced with hard choices: how will we invest our limited, most precious resource (time)? Bottom line is this: all of us are investing our time where we have decided to invest it.

So the first question we must deal with is this: is it a good investment of your time to pray? The devil has a thousand different ways of suggesting "no" as the answer to that question. He will tell you that it's really not doing any good anyhow. "Maybe somebody else's prayers work - but not mine. I prayed for this and for that and nothing happened."

Have you ever felt that way? Sometimes it comes to our mind in a more subtle way than that. But the devil is actively trying to convince you and me that prayer is mostly a waste of time. Why do you think he might do that? Perhaps it's because the opposite is true. One way for me to gauge how much I have bought into that lie is to inventory my prayer life. I invest in what I think is a good investment of my time. So do you.

Beyond telling us to pray, what does the Bible say about the value of prayer? Look with me at Luke 11:9-13. After teaching the Lord's Prayer and illustrating God's willingness to answer prayer, Jesus says to you and me, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The point Jesus is making is that God answers prayer. When you pray the infinite, a Almighty Creator of heaven and earth responds to the request. The rhetorical question is asked to the fathers. "Suppose your son (that you love) comes to you asking for fish sticks. Would you trick him and give him a snake instead. Suppose he was hungry and asked for an egg. Would you cruelly hand him a scorpion instead?" No father would do that. He would give his child what the child needed. But those natural fathers don't even come close to the love and tender care that God, the Father, has for His children. Either Jesus is a liar or God answers prayer.

Heb 11:6 "And 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."

Do you believe that God rewards those who earnestly pray and seek him? Only to the extent that you believe that will you pray. Just praying because you ought to will not sustain itself. You have to believe that the rewards are really there.

What will be my experience in prayer? It will be according to the principle of sowing and reaping. Do you remember what the Bible says about that in 2 Cor 9:6 "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." It works that way for every one of us; nobody beats the system.

Until a person comes to realize the value of prayer, he/she will not have much of a prayer life. We are all good at calling on God in a crisis. But I'm talking about daily communion with God in prayer.

Once we're convinced of the value of prayer what do we do next?

2. We must establish it as a priority in our lives.

Have you noticed how hard it is to have more than one first priority? As finite creature we can only have so many top priorities. Everything can't be a priority. So if we are to take charge of our lives, we have to choose what those priorities will be. That's what will get done and a whole lot of other things will not get done. The trick is to choose the right priorities.

Fortunately, God gives us some guidance in that matter. For example, in Matt 6:33 Jesus tells us to make the spiritual a priority and the material things will follow. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Are you seeking first the kingdom of God or has something else preempted that?

In Luke 12 Jesus told the parable of the man who spent his life gathering material things. And he was quite successful at it. He was a farmer and the crops flourished and filled his barns. So what did he do? He decided to build bigger barns. He decided to live comfortably, eat, drink, and enjoy himself as much as possible. Luke 12:20 "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'" The moral of the story, Luke 12:21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." NKJV

I want to encourage you this morning to not allow circumstances to dictate priorities in your life. Do not allow immediate and urgent concerns to eclipse important and eternal matters. The cares of life[5] can rob us of God's best if we are not very intentional about how we will invest our lives.

I have talked about two decisions: 1st the decision that an investment of time with God in prayer is a good investment and 2nd the decision to make prayer a priority. Without those two decisions the rest of what I am about to say is meaningless. But with those two decisions what must happen next?

3. We must develop a plan for accomplishing our priority.

Have you noticed the importance of a plan in all other enterprises? When a building gets built, long before that happens a detailed plan for the construction has been engineered. I doubt there are any major league football teams who just show up for the game. They show up with a plan and a strategy for winning the game. Over the years Jeanie and I have been very good at planning work. As a result, a lot of work has gotten done during our lifetime. On the other hand, we are not good at planning recreation or vacations. Without a plan, a lot of years rolled by with no vacation at all. Whose fault was it? We have to take responsibility for not planning on it. Whatever is not planned gets squeezed off the calendar. At any rate, that has been my experience.

So, what is your plan for praying? When will you do it? Where will you do it? How will you protect the time? I have found that a predetermined time and place for prayer is a powerful factor in it actually getting done. Vague, general good intentions usually accomplish very little. A written plan is better than a verbal plan. But a plan that is realistic and executable is essential.

Listen to David in Psalm 55:17 "Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice." NKJV David had a plan for praying three times a day. In Acts we see the apostles going to the temple a 3:00 pm for the scheduled prayer meeting. Acts 3:1, "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer-at three in the afternoon." What happened on their way to prayer? The cripple man is healed, revival broke out and about 5,000 people got saved. It all happened on the way to a routine, scheduled prayer meeting.

When and where will you be praying this year? What else do we need for a strong, consistent prayer life?

4. We must discipline ourselves to continue doing what we've committed ourselves to do.

Gal 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." That verse address something we will encounter in this process of being faithful in prayer - the time gap between praying and seeing the answers. We understand that principle in the area of farming. If I plant an apple tree today, I can not expect to go out tomorrow and pick apples off that tree. I will have to water that seed and nurture the twig that comes up for a long time before there are any apples to eat. If we don't understand that principle we will conclude that prayer isn't working. Prayer works; but it doesn't always work as fast as we would like for it to work. I think that is one reason Jesus made it so clear in Luke 11 that God does answer prayer. Listen to His words again. Luke 11:10 "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Who receives? Everyone who asks receives. Who finds? (Everyone who sincerely seeks.) Turn to your neighbor and say to that person, "Jesus said everyone; that includes you."

Before we finish let me share with you Three helpful keys to perseverance in prayer.

a. Accountability.

In Acts 3, Peter had a prayer partner. Who was Peter's prayer partner? It was John, wasn't it? Acts 3:1, "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer-at three in the afternoon." There is something about a commitment to another person to meet together and pray that helps us follow through with our intentions.

Somehow in our culture we are conditioned to keep commitments to other people and feel like we need to do what we told them we would do. A prayer partner is a great way to keep encouraged in prayer. One caution: agree to pray and not just talk with one another. Pray your requests out while the other prays in agreement.

b. Proper balance of routine and variety.

The time and place of prayer needs to be routine enough that it becomes a habit. But learn a variety of prayer expressions. In Luke 11:1 the disciple asked Jesus to teach them to pray - and Jesus did just that. Why, because prayer is something that has to be learned. Don't be satisfied with your current knowledge about prayer. Pray with people who can model expression you don't have and follow their example. Be a life long learner of how to pray.

c. Keep yourself motivated.

Go back to step one and remember why you are doing this in the first place. Do not allow feelings to determine what you will do. Stay committed to the biblical principle regardless of the ups and downs in your emotions. Celebrate answers to prayer. Don't just celebrate the huge, earth-shattering answers. But thank God for each and every answer. Find other things that stir your passion for prayer. For some it is music; for some it may be tapes or books. Find out what fans the flame for you and fan it. Amen?

d. Don't allow interruptions to divert you from your commitment.

Daniel prayed three times a day. He encountered a pretty serious reason for breaking the commitment. He was told that he would be thrown in the lions den if he continued with his prayer time. Now I have had things come up that threatened to disrupt my prayer routine, but nothing as pressing as that. So, what did Daniel do? Did he regretfully concede? No, he kept his appointment with God and got thrown into the lions den. But that's not the end of the story for even in that lions den Daniel kept praying and some pretty wonderful things happened as a result.

What God has done for others, He will do for you. Will you pray? If you do, you will find Him to be indeed a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Let us pray. ...

Copyright 2003-2010 | Outreach Inc., All rights reserved.

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How You Can Receive Powerful Answers to Your Prayer

by Dr. Jack Graham

"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."

Luke 11:9-10

So often among Christians today, prayer is too general. Some ask, "Lord, bless us. Lord, bless the church. Lord, bless the missionaries. Lord, bless and save the lost. Amen." Now that's safe praying because you never know if God answers it.

When you pray that way, you miss out on the joy of seeing your prayers answered. I talk to Christians all the time who can't name one prayer that God has answered for them. And inevitably, it's because they aren't praying for specific things!

But when Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to pray specifically. As we see in today's passage, we aren't to be timid when it comes to prayer, but to present our requests to God knowing that he is going to do something great. And when you begin to ask God to do specific things in your life, you'll see him work in amazing ways.

So the next time you pray, make a list with specific prayer points and pray boldly. Then, write the answer down when God gives it! Doing this will not only help you see a clearer picture of God's faithfulness, it will empower your prayer life as you continue to pray boldly!

PRAY BOLDLY FOR SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND WATCH GOD ANSWER IN POWERFUL WAYS!

Source: Power Point with Jack Graham

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The Ultimate Objective of Prayer

by Greg Laurie

And he said, "Please, show me Your glory."
- Exodus 33:18

When I was a new Christian, I always prayed for things for myself. Lord, bless me. Give this to me. Provide this for me.

But as A. B. Simpson wrote, "Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord; once it was the feeling, now it is His Word; once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own; once I sought for healing, now himself alone."

As we start growing spiritually, we will start saying more often, "Lord, I just want You. I want more of You. I want to know You better. No matter where I go, everything is good as long as You go with me, and I go with You." That is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Jacob, after years of conniving and scheming, met his match when the Lord Himself showed up and they had a wrestling match (which of course Jacob lost). It started out with Jacob trying to overpower what may have been an angel or perhaps the Lord Himself. In the end, Jacob was hanging on to Him. It started off with cunning, and it ended up with clinging. It began with resisting, and it turned into resting.

Wrestling with God in prayer doesn't mean getting God to do what we want Him to do. It means that we are going to completely surrender to what He wants to do. That is the ultimate goal.

When Moses said to the Lord, "Please, show me Your glory," he was saying, "God, I want to see You now. I want You to actually show Your face to me."

That really is what prayer is all about. It is not about getting stuff from God. Prayer, when it reaches its ultimate objective, is getting God. It is God that you want - it's closeness with Him.

Share this today:

As we start growing spiritually, we will start saying more often, "Lord, I just want You. I want more of You. I want to know You better. No matter where I go, everything is good as long as You go with me, and I go with You." That is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Copyright © 2015 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

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Praying to the Trinity
There are three special prayers in the Christian tradition: The Lord's Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and the Hail Mary. These prayers are directed especially to the members of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is easy to see in the case of the first two, which are explicitly addressed to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the third, although we know that he is the Spouse of the Mother of God, and St Maximilian Kolbe even refers to Our Lady as the "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit. These two - The Spirit and Our Lady - are closely entwined at the deepest level.

What we normally mean by "prayer" is talking to God (albeit silently) about things we need or things that worry us - or praising him and thanking him for this and that. Much of that kind of prayer involves thinking, imagining, conceptualizing. It is takes place in a mind full of echoes and mumblings of conversation, memories of things that have happened or fears of what may be about to, or simply random words rattling around in our head - traces of thoughts that have not quite died away. Prayer in that context often feels a bit like writing a message in a bottle, and consigning it to the sea addressed to the God we hope will find it. God's actual presence is at best assumed, but it is hardly tangible.

The aim of the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, constantly repeated) is to lead our constantly changing thoughts and feelings into a single conduit. The clearing of the mind is the result of a long struggle that the Fathers describe in the Philokalia. It doesn't come easily to anyone: we have to keep trying.

If we achieve it, this state of emptiness or purity reveals God to us, or makes the mind transparent to God, like a mirror that, once cleaned, reflects the light of the sun. We stand astonished in front of an abyss, the infinite but personal presence of the supreme Subject that transcends us utterly and on which we depend, before which we can only submit and offer adoration in humility. The Fathers refer to this as a state of "prayer beyond prayer."

Then it is the Spirit who prays in us (Rom. 8:26-8). "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:15-16). Through our prayer in the Spirit - that is, through in a sense our becoming prayer, becoming a "word" carried by the Spirit - we enter into eternal life. Already in this life we enter into the "we" of God by becoming Church.

The Marian prayer that complements the Jesus Prayer is based around the name of Mary, though it contains both.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

The prayer contains three sentences. In the first sentence, the reference to the Lord is an invocation of God the Father. In the second sentence the name of Jesus is invoked directly, so that the Mary Prayer enfolds the Jesus Prayer in something like the way the Christ Child is borne in the arms of his Mother in the most familiar icons of Madonna and Child. Thus you could say the icon is a visual translation of the Hail Mary. In the third sentence, Mary's motherhood is invoked, and along with it the entire Church whose soul is the Holy Spirit.

Source: All Things Made New; copyright © Stratford Caldecott 2012

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