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How You Can Pray With Confidence - Part 2
Part 2. Answers To Your Questions On Prayer
Take from the Transferable Concepts which were developed by Campus Crusade for ChristShare page
We have learned through the years that the average Christian does not know how to pray. A friend of mine who has been a Christian for more than fifty years told me, "I never pray in public, and I know very little about prayer or how to pray." Because so many Christians - new and old alike - know so little about prayer, I wish to share with you some simple, basic truths and answer some vital questions about prayer.
1. What Is Prayer?
Prayer is much more than words, however. It is an expression of the heart towards God. It is an experience, a relationship, not an activity.
As a child of God you are invited to come boldly before His throne. "Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," Paul writes, "let us...then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Because the one to whom you pray is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Creator of heaven and earth, you come into His presence with reverence. But He is also your loving heavenly Father who cares for you and delights in having fellowship with you. Therefore, you can enter into His presence with a relaxed joyful heart, knowing God loves you more than anyone else has ever loved you or will ever love you.
To me, real prayer is simply communicating with God, inviting Him to talk to you as you talk to Him. There is more to prayer, but this is basic to true prayer.
2. Who can pray?
Man instinctively prays whenever He is faced with tragedy, heartache, sorrow or danger - even if only to false gods made of wood, stone, or His own fallen imagination.
But serious danger exists in this. People always assimilate the moral character of the objects they worship. Those who worship gods of lust, for example, become morally degenerate. Those who pray to gods of blood, gore and war, become militaristic, ruthless and sadistic. Those who bow to the god of materialism become greedy and self-centered. Prayer to anything or anyone apart from God through our Lord Jesus Christ is forbidden. God's Word declares:
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Paul writes that "anyone who comes to Him (God) must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." By coming to Christ and worshipping Him, you are changed into His image:
We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
This explains the scriptural emphasis on the worship of and prayer to the only true righteous, holy and loving God.
According to the Scriptures, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men..." Jesus Himself claims to be the only way to God. He says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Does this sound too exclusive? No. Jesus Christ came to die for all people in all lands. He promises rest for all who are weary and heavy-laden. Many people who have ignored God for a lifetime come to a difficult situation near the end of life and are too embarrassed to turn to Him in prayer. They reason, "I've ignored God all my life - it's too late now."
Do not feel this way. God listens to the prayer of any truly repentant individual. He proved His love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still in our sins. There is nothing that you or I can do that will cause God to stop loving us.
The fact still remains, however, that you cannot expect God to answer your prayers unless you come to Him in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus as your only mediator and confess your sins and receive Him as your Savior and Lord.
Those who have clean hearts can pray. You must not only ask in the name of Jesus. You must also come with a clean heart. The psalmist says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear: Therefore, you cannot expect God to answer your prayers if there is any unconfessed sin in your life. Just as the omission of one ingredient in a cake recipe can result in failure, so the omission of confessing any known sin can result in prayer failure.
Those who have a forgiving spirit can pray. One of the most frequent hindrances to prayer is an unforgiving spirit. Jesus said, "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive Him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." In our Lord's prayer, the words "give" and "forgive" occur in the same context: "Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven out debtors." No prayer except the prayer of confession can be answered by God unless it comes from a heart that is free of unforgiveness and bitterness.
The well-worn compromise, "Well, I can forgive, but I can't forget," only defeats your prayers. What if that were God's attitude? His love has prompted a wonderful forgetfulness in which He has pledged to put all of your sins behind His back and remember them against you no more. You and I must come to God with a forgiving heart if we are to receive the Christian's legacy of power in prayer.
Those who pray in faith can pray. You must also have a believing heart if your prayers are to be answered. The same Lord who says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" and, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" also says, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" and, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" and, "According to your faith will it be done to you." Yet few of us take seriously these words, and few dare to claim what God has so generously promised us.
Watch and pray. Pray with thanksgiving. Pray in the Spirit. Always pray and not give up. Pray for those in authority. Pray for utterance. Pray for boldness.
You pray because of our Lord's example. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was obedient in prayer. Although His day was filled from morning to night with many pressures and responsibilities - addressing crowds, healing the sick, granting private interviews, traveling and training His disciples - He made prayer a priority. If Jesus was so dependent upon this fellowship in prayer alone with His Father, how much more should you and I spend time alone with God!
You pray because of the examples of the disciples and others. The lives of the disciples and the biographies of Christians who have been mightily used of God through the centuries all testify to the necessity of prayer. They, too, are examples of obedience to His command to pray.
I'm not suggesting that you need to spend long hours each day in prayer, though some are called to this high privilege. But you can "pray continually," bringing everything to God in prayer. Those who obey God's command to pray are mightily blessed and used of God.
You pray to have fellowship with God. God waits anxiously for you to come to Him in prayer. Proverbs records, "The prayer of the upright is His delight." This should motivate you to spend more time with our Lord because you wish to please and delight Him.
My own sons help me to realize the importance of this fact. No matter how busy I am, when Zachary or Bradley want to talk with me, I gladly put aside everything else just to have fellowship with them. I long and love to be with them, and I am always grateful when they want to be with me.
One day, many years ago as I was studying in our home, Zachary appeared with a stack of books and sat down across from me at the table. Although neither of us spoke, I sensed the warmth of His love.
I finally broke the silence by saying, "Zac, I want you to know how much it means to me that you have come to sit with me." He replied, "Daddy, that's the reason I came. I just want to be near you.:
For the first time in my life, I really understood how the great heart of our loving God delights in us and longs for our fellowship.
You pray to communicate with God. He said, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Prayer is not just an "escape hatch" for you to get out of trouble, please yourself or gain your selfish ends. It is your line of communication with God. As His child, you have direct access to His throne. He loves you so much that He has made Himself available to you at all times. Through prayer you talk to God and He responds to you.
You pray to receive spiritual nurture. Just as a child needs food to grow physically, so you need food to grow spiritually. You can miss a meal and not feel any ill effects, but if you go without food for a week, you begin to weaken and run out of energy. So it is with your spiritual life. You can go through one day without any apparent ill effects, but if you continue this practice, you will become undernourished, losing the strength to live a victorious life and to maintain the boldness necessary for a vital witness for Christ.
You pray to obtain results. Genuine, biblically-based prayer does change things. It so changes those who pray that God is free to reveal His will to them. Prayer also releases God's great power to change the course of nature and people and nations. The faithful prayers of Spirit-filled, believing Christians have proven this many times over.
Many buildings on the grounds of Arrowhead Springs, our international headquarters, including the bungalow where Vonette and I live, came extremely close to being engulfed in flames during a terrible brush fire several years ago. Seven of the buildings were destroyed.
After evacuating the grounds, a group of people who remained to fight the fire prayed earnestly at about two-thirty in the afternoon that God would turn the ninety mile-per-hour winds away from the buildings. Precisely while they were praying, one of the firefighters observed the flag snapping violently in the wind. Suddenly, the flag began to turn and within moments was flapping in the opposite direction. They all were awestruck at what God had done before their very eyes.
Urgent word also came to Vonette and me at about two-thirty that the flames had enveloped the campus of our headquarters including our bungalow. We, too got on our knees and began to pray that God would turn the winds.
Those who were fighting the fire reported that the heat and smoke became so intense, they were forced to lie on the ground in order to breathe as they sprayed water on the buildings. At about two-thirty they were at the point of abandoning our bungalow to the flames surrounding it on three sides - when suddenly the winds miraculously shifted and swept the flames in another direction. Many similar, dramatic answers to prayer could be shared. Yes, prayer truly changes.
You pray to become a fruitful witness for Christ. The divine order is first to talk to God about men and then to talk to men about God. Witnessing is simply gathering the results of prayer, both the prayer of the one who is sharing Christ and the prayers of others. I am convinced that the single most important factor in my becoming a Christian was the prayers of my godly mother.
When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Your prayers are validated by Jesus Christ and are interpreted to God the Father by the Holy Spirit. But since God is one God, manifested in three persons, it is perfectly acceptable to pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. There is no jealousy between the three persons of the Trinity. But the scriptural pattern which Jesus taught addressed the Father.
It is meaningful and encouraging to realize that as you are praying, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding. Paul tells us in Romans 8:34, "Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
Earlier in Romans 8 Paul wrote, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
5. When Should You Pray?
I then like to spend whatever time is appropriate reading and meditating on God's Word. I often kneel quietly before the open Bible and talk with God. I ask the Holy Spirit, who inspired its writings, to make my reading meaningful and edifying to me.
As I read, I pause to thank God for His loving salvation and provision, to confess any sins in my life that the Scriptures may reveal, to ask Him for the boldness and faith His apostles displayed, and to thank Him for new insights into His divine strategy for reaching the world with the good news of His love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. I often pause to pray about some special truth or claim a promise.
In the evening I kneel once again to worship my Lord, to read His Word and to ask of Him, "Lord, is there anything in me that is displeasing to You, anything I need to confess?" If the Holy Spirit reveals any sins and weaknesses, I confess them and claim by faith God's victory for my life. Then I can know that since my last conscious thoughts are of Him, my subconscious thoughts will continue to worship Him all night long. Thus when I awaken, my first thoughts will be of our dear Lord.
Group prayer also is vital to the Christian's prayer life and yet few meetings are more dull, unattractive and boring than the average group prayer meeting. The reason is simple. The majority of Christians involved in the group have not spent time with God in private worship and prayer; consequently, they have nothing to say to Him in public except memorized prayers patterned after older Christians who have learned their way of praying from still others.
How much more exciting it is to teach the group to talk to God as though He were actually present, as indeed He is. This permits spontaneous, Spirit-directed prayer in which one area of praise or petition at a time is brought to Him as the Spirit brings subjects to mind. One very rewarding way to pray in small groups is to pray through favorite passages of Scripture verse by verse with each person limited to a thirty-second-or-less prayer. But there are special times of Spirit-directed and anointed prayer which may last for hours but seem like only minutes.
However, "ACTS" is merely a guideline and not a rigid sequence which you must follow in your prayers.
Let's consider each of these words.
Adoration. To adore God is to worship and praise Him, to honor and exalt Him in your heart and mind and with your lips. Prayer is often misunderstood as a vague, mystical element in one's relationship to a holy, awesome God. But the Word of God does not teach this. Rather, it teaches that God, our Father, desires the fellowship of His children.
Your relationship to your heavenly Father should be one of complete trust, faith and obedience. Likewise, your prayer should express your complete trust in Him and reflect your confidence that He hears you. As a result, you approach Him in adoration and praise, with reverence and awe, with love and gratitude.
Reading aloud psalms of praise and other similar portions of Scripture can greatly enrich your prayer time. A cold, ungrateful heart will soon be warmed, and praising God will come easily.
Personally, I cringe at such references to God as "the Man upstairs," for the God whom I worship is one whom I also honor and reverence. He is the omnipotent, holy God, creator of all things. Yet, I feel perfectly free to open my heart to Him - to share my deepest heartfelt needs, knowing that He is not only the omnipotent, holy God, but He is also my loving heavenly Father. He loves me more, understands me better, and believes in me more than anyone else in all the world.
I happen to pray in just about every conceivable posture: with my eyes open or my eyes closed, while I am walking, while I am lying in bed, audibly and silently. But my favorite posture is on my knees. The first thing I do when I awaken in the morning is to kneel and acknowledge that the Lord Jesus is in control of my life and thank Him that He loves me and is living His life in and through me in all of His resurrection power and presence. I invite Him to continue His ministry of "seeking and saving the lost" through me, to use me in whatever way is pleasing to Him.
Confession. The Christian who needs to be restored to fellowship with Christ should begin with confession. Isaiah declares:
Listen now! The Lord isn't too weak to save you. And He isn't getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because for sin He has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore.
If your discipline of prayer begins with worshipful adoration of God, the Holy Spirit will reveal any sin in your life that needs to be confessed. By seeing God in His purity, His holiness and His love, you become aware of your own sin and unworthiness. As the Holy Spirit makes you aware of sin, you will want to confess it.
Always be totally transparent with God. Don't wear a facade or put on an act. He already knows everything about you. So tell Him exactly how you feel at all times. If you do not feel spiritual, tell Him so. If your heart is cold, confess it. If you have been disobedient, confess it and receive His forgiveness and cleansing which will restore you to fellowship with Him.
Thanksgiving. Nothing pleases God more than your consistent expression of faith. And there's no better way to demonstrate your faith than to say, "Thank You."
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. God's Word commands, "Give thanks in all circumstances," because "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." To fail to give thanks is to disobey God.
If you are filled with God's Holy Spirit and recognize that He controls all things, you can thank God not only for the many blessings of each day, but also for the problems and adversities. James says, "Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow." The apostle Paul records, "we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady."
May I suggest that you meditate quietly on all of your daily blessings, such as your salvation through knowing Christ, assurance of sins forgiven, the opportunity to serve Christ, the chance to go to school, your good health, family of loved ones, a good job, food and clothing? Thank God for each one of them.
Then make a list of each problem, disappointment, heartache or adversity which concerns you, and thank God in spite of each one of them as you are commanded to do. Giving thanks demonstrates that you really do trust God. Expressing your faith pleases God and enables Him to make Himself strong in your behalf; whereas a critical, unbelieving spirit displeases God and hinders His efforts to bless and enrich your life and to use you for His glory.
Supplication. For many Christians, prayer is like window shopping - they spend much time looking but never buy anything. Supplication includes petition for you own needs and intercession for others. You are to pray for everything and in specific terms. Paul admonishes:
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.
As you talk to God, pray that your inner person may be renewed and quickened - be made alert and alive, vital, refreshed, always sensitive to and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Pray about your problems, pray for wisdom and guidance, pray for strength to resist temptation, pray for comfort in time of sorrow - pray for everything. There is nothing too small or too great to bring before the Lord.
Then pray for others. Christians often do not realize the importance of intercession. The apostle Paul continually prayed for his converts. He also asked them to pray for him. You should pray for other Christians and encourage them to pray for you.
Let me illustrate the importance of this. In 1960 the Mau Mau uprising gripped Kenya in terror. During that time, missionaries Matt and Lora Higgens had to drive through the heart of Mau Mau territory on their way to Nairobi. They were well aware that both Kenyans and missionaries had met violent death at the hands of Mau Mau terrorists in that very area.
After dark, about seventeen miles from Nairobi, their Land Rover stalled. Matt tried in vain to repair the vehicle in the darkness. Fearfully, the couple locked themselves in the car and tried to sleep. Together, they prayed Psalm 4:8 aloud, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."
When they awoke, Matt repaired the Rover, and they were soon in Nairobi. The following week, a local pastor told the missionaries what had happened while they slept. Three terrorists had crept up to their car, intending to kill them. But when the Mau Mau saw sixteen men surrounding the Rover, they fled in fear!
Matt and Lora were thrilled - and puzzled. "What sixteen men?" they wondered.
Weeks later, back in America, the rest of the story came to light when a friend asked them, "Have you been in any danger lately?"
Matt told Him about the Mau Mau, the stalled car and the sixteen men. The friend nodded excitedly. "On March twenty-third," He said, "God burned my heart for you. I called the men at our church, and sixteen of us met together for emergency prayer on your behalf!"
No doubt heaven will reveal endless accounts of how God has used intercessory prayer to protect His people and to advance His kingdom.
Always pray daily for your husband or wife, for your children and for your parents. Then pray for your neighbors and friends.
Pray for various other Christians to whom God has given special responsibility. Pray for presidents and kings and for all those in authority over you.
Pray especially for the salvation of souls, for a daily opportunity to introduce others to Christ and to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our generation. Begin with your campus or your community. Pray for and seek to find one or more Christian friends with whom you can establish prayer partnerships.
Don't underestimate the power of intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls. My mother and father were married for thirty-five years before he received Christ. Their love for each other was strong, but dad's indifference to the Lord must have caused my mother to experience much heartache and shed many tears. Nevertheless, she kept praying - for him, and for my brothers and sisters and me - until finally she began to see results, and our entire family had received the Lord.
I prayed for several years for my fiancée, Vonette Zachary, to receive Christ. When we became engaged, I just knew she was God's choice for me. She had been very active in the church from her youth, and I assumed she was a Christian. As time passed, however, I began to realize that Vonette was a church member but probably not a Christian. There was very little evidence that she had given her life to Christ. So I prayed earnestly for her salvation. Since I had surrendered my life to the Lord before I proposed to Vonette, I dared not marry an unbeliever. Doubts grew and I began to wonder if it was really God's will for me to marry this wonderful and beautiful young woman to whom God was not a reality, even though I loved her dearly.
Then one summer day at a Christian retreat to which I invited her, Vonette surrendered her life to Jesus. My prayers were answered; we were married soon afterward, and we have since spent more than four God-blessed decades together in a wonderful, Christ-centered marriage.
So I can identify with you if you have been praying for a son, daughter, spouse or friend and have not yet seen results. And I encourage you to trust in God's timing. Although I wanted Vonette to receive Christ right away, God chose to wait three years - a different time table - one that brought greater glory to Himself. He is sovereign and will answer your prayer in His special way, at His special time.
I encourage you to receive this special word of assurance from God: He desires the soul of your loved one, friend or neighbor even more than you do.
God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Just claim the promise of 1 John 5:14,15, "We are sure of this, that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we really know He is listening when we talk to Him and make our requests, then we can be sure that He will answer us." Then pray for your loved ones and friends with confidence that He will hear you and answer your prayers as He promised.
The ACTS pattern - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication - has helped many Christians to develop a more well-rounded prayer life in communication with their loving God and Father.
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