When You Pray…
I was born again in 1962 in a PRAYER Fellowship in Nazareth of Tamilnadu, India. The leaders of the Fellowship were mighty prayer warriors. The most important activity of the Fellowship was prayer. One grows fast and strong in an atmosphere of prayer. Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting with several men of God and learning from them and their writings a number of secrets of this heavenly exercise called prayer. The Lord through His Word has led me into many glorious aspects of prayer. I continue to be a student under Christ our Master in His School of Prayer. I have not yet graduated. I am sharing here some of the very simple and basic lessons I have learnt about prayer.
WHEN YOU PRAY…
1. Acknowledge God’s presence.
When we gather in the Name of Jesus, God is already there in our midst (Mt 18:20). We need not invite Him, but simply welcome Him! Strictly speaking, God does not come to us in prayer but we go to Him. “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16). Sometimes we “feel” God’s presence intensely but not always. We should not depend on our feelings. Whether we feel it or not, the fact is we are in the very presence of God. In the Tabernacle, there was sunlight in the outer court and candlelight in the inner court or the holy place, but no light in the innermost court or the holy of holies. One must walk there not by sight (or any sense) but by faith (2 Cor 5:7). The ground of prayer is the all-holy place. The pathway is sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. You have to just thank God for His presence and go on praying. We are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit indwells us. This is true every moment of our life. Acknowledging the everabiding presence of God with us is the first secret of unbroken fellowship with God in prayer.
2. Address the Father.
Very sadly it has become a fashion today to begin the prayer as “Lord Jesus!” and end it saying, “We ask in Your Name!” Where in the Bible do people find such a teaching, I wonder. Jesus taught us to pray TO the Father. “When you pray… pray to your Father… pray: Our Father in heaven…” (Mt 6:6-9). Referring to the Church age after Pentecost, Jesus said, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (Jn 16:23). The practice of the early Christians was as taught by Jesus. Read their prayer in Acts 4:24-30 and see how they addressed the Father and referred to Jesus as “Your holy Servant Jesus.” The teaching of the apostles in the Epistles is also clear. “For through Him (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit TO the Father” (Eph 2:18). Paul testifies, “I bow my knees TO the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:14). Eventhough Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to ask the Father to give us the gift (Lk 11:13). Also praise and worship must be primarily addressed to the Father. Jesus taught the Samaritan woman to worship the Father, in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23). Read the following references Eph 3:21; 5:20; Phil 2:11; Col 1:3,12; Heb 13:15. Can words be clearer? If there are prayers in the Bible after Pentecost addressed to Jesus, it is more an exception than a rule. Also what we read in the Book of Revelation cannot be a pattern for us today because the conditions today are different and we are not yet ushered in the literal presence of God where we will see Him face to face. It may be alright for a Sunday School child or a recent convert to Christianity to address his prayers directly to Jesus. “But when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). Learning to pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit will keep us from many doctrinal errors and deceptions.
3. Adore the Lord God.
We make a distinction between prayer, thanksgiving and praise or worship. But the prayer taught by the Lord to His disciples, which we call the Lord’s prayer, contains worship or adoration both at the beginning and the end. “Hallowed be Your name… For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Mt 6:9-13). That means, prayer must be enveloped by or saturated with praise. Adoring means “giving” to the Lord whereas asking is to “receive” from Him. Did not Jesus say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive?” As I grow in my relationship with the Lord, during the seasons of my communion with Him, I find myself naturally adoring the Almighty more than making petitions to Him. Several men of God have shared the same experience. The reason why many believers don’t find a release in their worship is that they don’t take time to meditate on the attributes of God. The chief purpose of Bible Study is to “know Him!” Every page of the Bible reflects any one particular character of God. It is a good practice to keep the Bible open while adoring the Lord. Or you may keep a notebook exclusively to note down the attributes of God as and when you read the Bible. This notebook will become an excellent companion in your worship. See how David, an excellent worshipper in his time, combines “worship” and the “Word.” “I will worship toward Your holy temple… for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all things” (Psa 138:2).
4. Appreciate God’s deeds.
“Forget not all His benefits”—is a Scripture verse we invariably say at the close of every prayer. But how easily and often we forget what He has done! When a person remembers or counts all the blessings he has received, one by one, it will surprise him and leave no room for murmuring. We can thank God all our life for just that one thing called salvation! I consciously remember to thank God everyday for the gift of salvation, gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Scriptures. I thank Him for my justification, reconciliation with God, and sanctification by His Word and Spirit. This naturally leads me to thank Him in anticipation for the final glorification. Next I thank God for the loving wife and the lovely daughter. Everything we have is what we received from God. Our body, our clothes, our house, our food, and everything! Paul challenged the Corinthian Christians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). We should never take anything for granted. If we don’t appreciate God in prayer for His mighty acts and precious gifts, how shall we testify for Him before others? There is nothing more awful than a thankless heart.
5. Allow God to search you.
One should not always be speaking in his prayer time. The early saints used to call the devotional hour as the Quiet Time. Though this does not mean we do no speaking, it does imply the necessity to wait before God patiently and quietly to let His searchlight turn upon us, to bring out from our lives all that displeases God. Solomon spoke with wisdom, “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools… Let our words be few” (Eccl 5:1,2). Apostle James also says the same thing: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak” (Js 1:19). David prayed, “Search me O God” (Psa 139:23,24). The hymn-writer sang, “Take time to be holy!” A hurried visit to the presence of God will not shape our lives. Spending a few minutes each day before we retire to bed to take a stock of how we walked during the daytime, is a healthy practice. Unless we are regular in this, we will unconsciously backslide to a condition of excusing ourselves of several pet sins in our life. The spiritual sensitivity and sharpness of conscience will be lost.
6. Ask in faith.
Apostle James gives in simple words this profound truth: “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Js 1:6-8). The remedy for anxiety is believing prayer. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer… let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). Worry vanishes away when we trust God in prayer. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (l Pet 5:7). When you find it difficult to believe God in a particular crisis, don’t lose heart but simply pray, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24). That will melt the compassionate heart of God. There are times when we feel weak in faith. The only remedy is to meditate on the Word again and again. Because, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). Seek the help of the fellow believers and faithful ministers when your faith shakes (Rom 14:1; 15:1). “God has given to each one a measure of faith” (Rom 12:3). We should help one another.
7. Avoid vain repetitions.
This is one of the clear lessons on prayer by our Lord. “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Mt 6:7,8). “Pray without ceasing”—This does not mean repeating the words like chanting. Also we don’t need to give a lecture to God to explain to Him why we need a particular thing or how we want Him to answer. What a difference it will make in our prayers if only we truly believe that God already knows what we need! Then why does God want us to ask Him? He delights in the conversational relationship of His children. Also by vain repetition one should not mean repeated prayer. Jesus prayed three times in Gasthsemane using the same words. Paul prayed thrice for the removal of thorn from his body. The pagan chanting is what is actually condemned— “not…as the heathen do.” An example of vain repetition may be: “Give me Lord, Give me Lord, Give me Lord, Give me Lord, Give me Lord…”
8. Arrest straying thoughts.
The devil trembles to see the weakest saint on his knees. He will do all that is possible to distract a soul from prayer. All kinds of thoughts will hoard your mind the moment you begin this heavenly exercise. Arrest the thoughts right at the beginning. Once you start meditating on them, it becomes difficult to bring back your mind to concentrate in prayer. Praying aloud will also be helpful. Jesus suggested a room where we can shut ourselves away from the noisy and distracting world (Mt 6:6). We may claim the power of Christ’s Blood against the disturbing and distracting forces. When I find the distracting thoughts too much to handle, I resort to praying in tongues. When I pray in tongues my mind or intellect is byepassed and my spirit is active (1 Cor 14:14). Some have also suggested a change of posture. Switching over to praise also helps. Or you can sit up to read the Scriptures to fill the mind with the Word and then start praying again. In any case don’t give up and give the devil a win.
9. Assume a humble posture.
Both in the Old Testament and the New, kneeling has been practised by men and women of prayer. “Solomon… knelt down on his knees… and spread out his hands toward heaven” (2 Chron 6:13). “Daniel knelt down on his knees three times… and prayed” (Dan 6:10). “Jesus knelt down and prayed” (Lk 22:41). Stephen, even while being stoned, knelt down and prayed (Acts 9:40). “Paul… knelt down and prayed” (Acts 20:36). There is nothing wrong to occasionally sit and pray. But it has become fashionable in some churches never to kneel down. Some argue that what is important is the heart attitude and not the physical posture. This is simply incorrect. Both our soul and body belong to the Lord. The Bible says, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father” (Phil 2:10, 11; Rom 14:11; Isa 45:23). Are we going to spiritualize this passage also? Then what will be the meaning of “every tongue shall confess…?”! Beloved, “Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psa 95:6). Let us preserve the Bible culture! How much we like the “praying hands!” Bent knees, bowed head and folded hands help us maintain a spirit of awe and reverence before the Almighty. In addition, the Bible exhorts women to cover their head while praying or prophesying (1 Cor 11:5-10).
10. Accept God’s will.
“Ask God for anything and He will give it!”—This is not what the Bible teaches. “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 Jn 5:14). Again Jesus said, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (Jn 16:23). What does this mean? You cannot ask the Father what Jesus Himself would not approve. When you use His name you must have His approval and pleasure over that request. That’s what we mean by God’s will. God’s mind is revealed in the Scriptures. God’s Word is God’s will. And we must pray being filled with the Holy Spirit. Because, “we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us… according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26,27). Using the phrase, “If it is Your will” in prayer, is no indication of unbelief. A leper came to Jesus saying, “Lord, if You are willing You can make me clean.” He was not rebuked but instantly healed by Jesus (Mt 8:2,3). Jesus Himself prayed to the Father in Gethsemane to remove the cup from Him if it was His will (Mt 26:39). A novel doctrine is becoming quite popular which repeatedly quotes the verse, “Concerning the work of My hands, you command Me!” (Isa 45:11). The exponents of this doctrine teach the people to command God for whatever they need! What a blasphemy! Read the entire chapter, especially verses 9 and 10, and understand the context. God in this passage as the Creator is challenging us His creatures, “Do you or can you command Me?” Beloved, beware of taking a text out of context. A text out of context is a pretext. No doctrine should be developed on any obscure passage in the Scripture. The “whole” counsel of God should be sought. Also sometimes when we pester God, He may grant our request but send leanness into our soul (Psa 106:15). We must be interested in God’s perfect will, not the permissive will. Let’s submit to God. He is Sovereign!
D. L. Moody said, “Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cur sed earth have been men and women of prayer!”