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The Gift of Prayer

September 4, 2012

Today, I’m going to talk a bit about prayer. Simply put, prayer is the most important activity we, as Christians, can do! It is a powerful gift, not just to others, but to ourselves, and most importantly, to God! Prayer is quality time with God, it’s the moments that we spend with Him, talking directly to Him, and feeling His love and grace upon us. It’s the moments that we choose to get down on our knees and give thanks, confess sins, ask for forgiveness, ask for His help, His strength, His guidance for us and others, and worship the Lord Jesus! In fact, praying is so important, that the act of not praying is considered to be a sin! “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray…” – 1 Samuel 12:23. Prayer is actually our given ability to channel God’s will into our lives and the lives of others! If we have faith, there is nothing that prayer cannot accomplish for us and others through the Lord Jesus! “If ye have faith, and doubt not… ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed… it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” – Matthew 21:21-22. We cannot change God’s will through prayer, or conquer His reluctance to answer, but rather we can grab a hold of His willingness to help!

Praying on a regular basis can be something we struggle with. I know that I do. While I may talk to God fairly often, I don’t always do it through prayer. I work as a security guard, so oftentimes I may talk to Him on my rounds, or even when I’m just sitting at my post. And while God certainly enjoys the interaction, He looks for each of us to get on our knees and pray. And we need to find the time to do so. We need to find the time in our busy, hectic schedules to pray, to interact with God, to spend time with Him daily. Jesus spent every day in prayer, he spent time alone, by Himself, on His knees in prayer, especially in the morning hours. He was our model for prayer, and even gave us a template by which to pray ourselves. He gave us the Lord’s Prayer during his sermon on the mount. Almost everyone is familiar with this prayer, even non-Christians. I remember as a child, growing up Catholic, we would recite it twice every mass. I remember reciting it during school every morning right after the Pledge of Allegiance (before it became “uncool” and “offensive” to worship the Lord in school).

Now, when Jesus gave us this prayer, He meant it as a template for our own prayer. We were not meant to recite it verbatim. If it’s one thing God doesn’t like, it’s repetition. Jesus teaches: “… when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do…” – Matthew 6:7. This type of praying was characteristic of the pagan ritualistic lifestyle as evidenced in the Old Testament when the prophets of Baal confronted Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:26-29). Jesus taught us to pray in “secret” rather than publicly. “… when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret…” – Matthew 6:6. This doesn’t mean that we should be ashamed of being Christian or of praying, rather this was a directive to pray to the Lord, or the Father, not to man. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus teaches about the act of giving, and we may draw comparisons to the act of prayer. Verse 1 says: “… do not your alms before men, to be seen of them…“. Verse 2 continues: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee… that they may have the glory of men…“. These verses tell us to give out of faith to God, not to earn the respect or adoration of men. We shouldn’t publicize our giving, any more than we should publicize our prayer. We need only concern ourselves with gaining the adoration of the Father in Heaven, not of man. Jesus does not condemn public prayer, rather the misuse of it to gain public adoration.

The Lord’s Prayer, therefore, is our template, or a sample of a suitable prayer. Again, since Jesus warned us about vain repetition, this prayer was not meant to be recited repeatedly, and in no way does it embody all of Jesus’ teachings on prayer. But it is a great example of how we should model our own prayers. And speaking of repetitions, I fell victim to that myself not too long ago, however, I believe the Lord had quite a bit of mercy on me considering the circumstances. Considering I’m a relative newbie to being a Christian as it is, I tend to stumble through my prayers all the time. Growing up Catholic, we were taught repetitive prayers that we were to memorize and repeat over and over (completely disregarding Jesus’ teachings!!). I didn’t know how to pray from my heart, it felt more like I was praying out of a sense of obligation. It’s part of what led me to reject religion and even God later on in my teenage years. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was struggling to get a ride to work, when it dawned on me that I simply wasn’t going to get one that day. So I decided that I was going to walk to work. Now, let me just set this up. My job is over seven miles from my place of residence, and I am what you would call… out of shape. I basically went from being a fairly active teenager to a fairly lazy, computer geek slash couch potato in my mid to late twenties. Needless to say, I have yet to recover from my inactivity. Now, I’m walking to work, I’ve got my laptop with me in my backpack, which is strapped to my back, and a single bottle of water. Thankfully, God chose to bless me with a fairly nice day, not too hot, not cold, just right. Even so, by about mile three, my water is gone, and I am in desperate need of replacement. By mile four or so, I come across a Sinclair gas station where I buy another bottle of water. Now, by this point, I’m starting to feel a little worn out; my backpack is starting to dig into my shoulders, my hips, my feet, my calves are all starting to burn. But I keep on going, and I turn left to start heading a bit further west, and it’s on this mile and a half stretch of road where I really start to lose it. By the time I’m turning left to head back north, I feel like I’m dying. Now, it’s the home stretch (only about two more miles to go… ugh) and I start chanting “help me, Lord” repeatedly, over and over in what I believe was a fatigue induced state of delirium. God be praised, soon after I felt the breeze pick up and just flow over me, and it felt so good that I starting chanting “thank you Lord” over and over, with the occasional “I know You’ll get me there, Lord” thrown in for good measure. I finally get down to the home HOME stretch (only another mile to go… yay) and I see a bus stop bench. Now my second bottle of water is gone, and by this point I’m already five minutes late for work. I decided to take a break on that bench because, oh, it looked SO inviting. And as I’m sitting there, on the bench, I’m watching the traffic go by, and I look to my left, and behold, one of my co-workers pulled up to the stoplight!! I ran over to him, grabbing his attention, and hopped in before the light turned green. And as we took off, he looked at me and said: “Well, that answers my question. I’m going to have to apologize to my wife now.” And I asked him why, and he said: “Well, I was just getting lippy with God, asking Him why He was making me late for work again, and now I know.” Apparently, his wife had needed him to do something, which caused him to be running late! If he had left on time, he would have missed me! The power of prayer folks!

Now, verses 9-13 in Matthew give us the Lord’s Prayer. As a quick breakdown of this prayer, we should start our prayers with adoration and worship of the Father in Heaven; “… Hallowed be thy name.” – v9. The second part of our prayers should reference our desire for His coming kingdom, and our willingness to conform to His will, and to His nature and purpose. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…” – v10. Next, we petition for ourselves. “Give us this day our daily bread.” – v11. This section of prayer should be short and sweet. God already knows our needs, and we don’t need to spend a large amount of time petitioning Him for ourselves. When we petition for others, however, we can feel free to be as long-winded and detailed as we like! God loves to see us care so much for others that we would take the time out of our schedules to petition Him for help on behalf of another! And we can rest soundly, knowing that if we ask in Jesus’ name, and it be God’s will, it will be fulfilled! Next we petition for forgiveness of sins, confess that we are sinners. We need not name all our sins, but merely give word that we know we are sinners. “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – v12. Notice that we should forgive those who have sinned against us as well. We should not hold hatred or malice in our hearts towards anyone, no matter how much they may have wronged us. We ask also for His help is guiding us and giving us strength in our daily battle with the forces of temptation and evil. God will never tempt us to do evil, but we are tempted by our own lusts. However, God may test in order to give us opportunities to prove our faithfulness to Him. If we reject the devil, he will flee from us. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” – v13. And finally, the prayer ends with a fitting and climactic affirmation of faith! “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – v13.

By using this prayer as a model, we can rightly petition and worship the Lord, and avoid sinful praying! Prayer is vital to being a Christian, and it is vital to living and communicating with God! It is the lifeblood of a Christian man, it is his conduit to the Father! And it is the most powerful gift from God to us, and from us to others! It is the greatest gift that we can give to others, greater than money, food, clothing, or any other material thing! We should all pray, every day, at a bare minimum at least once! Pray in the morning right after you wake up! Pray in the evening before bed! Pray and give thanks before you sit down to eat! Everything that you have is by the grace of God alone! Give thanks to Him for all that He has done for you! Always remember to pray! God is waiting to hear from you! Don’t miss out on quality time with Him! It can change your life, and reshape it into something glorious! It can remove fears, doubts, stress, anger, and sadness. It can bask you in the warm glow of His tender love and care! And that is an amazing feeling, folks!

Blessings upon all of you! Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps you all!

Published by Jay McAnally
Copyright © 2012
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