TEACH US TO PRAY
We know we are meant to pray but, if you are like many of us, you probably find praying a real challenge. You want to pray but you just find it difficult to develop a life of prayer. We shouldn't be surprised. If prayer is "the chief exercise of faith" (John Calvin) then it should be no surprise that everything conspires to stop us praying. The world, our flesh, and the devil all try and distract us from praying.
Act rather than React
When we want to learn something new, it is always helpful to have a good teacher. When it comes to prayer, the best teacher we could ever have is Jesus. We can read about His life of prayer in the Bible and one of the things that we see time and time again is that He acted rather than reacted to the situations He faced. When we react, we allow other people, or circumstances and situations to take control. But Jesus acted and took control of every situation. Even when he was being judged by the Roman governor, Jesus took control of the situation. He was able to act rather than react because he spent time talking to His Father in Heaven and this guided the decisions and the actions He took.
We can learn to act rather than react by spending time in prayer. As we pray we discover the mind of Christ so that when we make decisions we can be confident we are acting within the will of God.
The disciples spent many months with Jesus and one of the main things they noticed was the way He prayed and the relationship He had with His Father in Heaven. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He stopped praying, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray..."
The answer Jesus gave has become our template for praying. It is often called The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:10-13)
"Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy. Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done, on earth as it is done in heaven. Give us our daily bread today. Forgive us as we forgive others. Don't allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one."
Using the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern.
When we pray we can begin with praise and adoration, we have a Father in heaven and His name is holy. We should pray with an expectation that what God is doing in heaven, he will do on earth. We should ask for what we need, "Give us our daily bread", confess our sins, "Forgive us", and be quick to forgive others. Finally we can trust God for our protection from temptation.
Ask, Search, Knock
In Luke's account of Jesus teaching the disciples to pray, He goes on to talk about asking, searching and knocking.
"So I tell you to ask, and you will receive, search, and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find, and for the person who knocks, the door will be opened."
In prayer, we must learn to ask. God is our Father and He enjoys giving to His children.
"If you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you...Ask and you will receive so that you can be completely happy... You will ask for what you want in my name. I'm telling you that I won't have to ask the Father for you. The Father loves you because you have loved me and believe that I have come from God."
How to Ask
Ask in Faith (Matthew 21:22)
Ask in relationship to Christ (John 15:7)
Ask with the right motivation (James 4:3)
Ask in accordance with God's will (1 John 5: 14-15)
Prayer is all about devotion. Deuteronomy 4:29
"If you seek the Lord, you will find Him. If you seek with all your heart and soul." In our prayers, we seek to strengthen our relationship and love for God. Paul reveals in Philippians 3:15 that the sign of Christian maturity is a desire to attain an intimate relationship and communion with Jesus. This is accomplished through reading the Bible, but primarily through prayer.
Jeremiah 29: 11-14 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all you heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord."
The third aspect is praying for the needs of others. We knock on the door of Heaven to see the needs of others met. This might be for physical healing, for financial provision, for them to come to know Jesus. In fact we can pray about anything and for anyone. As part of God's family, we share Christ's burden and compassion for people and this motivates us to pray
Colossians 1: 9 "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives."
1 Timothy 2:1 "First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way."
Matthew 5:44 "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
The Qualities of an Intercessor
Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) is a great example of someone who prayed for others and for world events. He models the following qualities:
He was devout
He was patient
He was full of the Holy Spirit
He trusted God
He was a man of Vision