How is your prayer life? I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a person by listening to them pray. Prayer warriors-people who live a life of prayerfulness-pray different than people who don’t pray regularly. Like any worthwhile endeavor, prayer takes practice. You don’t learn how to mountain climb by attempting to scale the Himalayas your first time out.
I had the good fortune of praying with friends like Mark Jones, Gordon McDonald, Barbara Jones, and Jeff Long. Each of these sweet souls had a passion for prayer and believed in the power that prayer has in our lives. I continue to be blessed by friends like Gerry Bagamano who show me what a heart of prayer looks like when it is nurtured and stewarded well. I am richer each time I go down to Union Gospel Mission Dallas and pray one-on-one with the men staying at the shelter.
A prayerful life can be cultivated through regular exercise of our prayer muscles.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Prayer is an open conduit to God. The Lord hears us when we lift our voice to Him. Prayer professes our dependence on God. This is something our rebellious hearts struggle with because we like to be independent and find it difficult to submit to a power greater than ourselves. As a friend of mine likes to say, “It takes us being tore up from the floor up,” to recognize our need to go to the Lord in prayer.
Genesis 4:26 marks the beginning of prayer, our ability to life our voices to our creator. It states clearly, “”To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” Genesis Chapter 4 reflects the outcome of sin. The world after Cain murders Abel oozes with envy, arrogance, rebellion, murder, punishment, separation from family, and separation from God. The descendants of Cain go their own way, moving further and further away from the Lord. Seth, Adam and Eve’s son, marks the beginning of a new line that expresses it’s dependence on God, even worshipping Him publicly.
God answers prayers.
I know because in the course of my life, God has answered numerous prayers for me. A couple of days ago I felt frustrated. Ministry is hard, especially if you’re someone who comes at it from the outside like me. I didn’t grow up in church. I haven’t attended seminary. Nonetheless, I prayed that the Lord would use me. Then, out of the blue, I got an unexpected phone call from my friend Chaplain Charles down at Union Gospel Mission Dallas. He asked me if I could fill in for chapel Thursday morning. My ministry is simple: Know God and Make God Known. I do that through preaching God’s Word, through writing, like on my blog, the Devotional Guy, and by serving on the worship team. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to lead the staff, disciples, and other clients in their time of devotion. I always leave Union Gospel energized and amazed from seeing God at work.
News headlines will tell you that prayers are wasted breath. As a Christian living in 21st century America, I know that nothing could be further from the truth. Prayer works, although not always in the way that we expect. A little over a year ago my home church gathered to pray for Pastor Mark’s healing. God answered. He healed him, making him whole by calling him home. Shortly after God called my good friend Mark home, my Mom fell and broke her ankle. Many of us prayed for her healing. I’m happy to report that today, she is healed, moving around better than ever.
Prayer is an asset.
Just as we have God’s Word to lean on and glean from, we have the incredible gift of prayer, helping us tap into the power of God, giving us strength, courage, endurance, and deliverance along with spiritual growth and change. Prayer is a powerful asset that breathes life where there is death and shines light where there once was darkness.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Psalm 119: 105 (NIV)
A Model for Prayer.
I don’t know about you, but my own problems always seem bigger to me than the problems someone else maybe having regardless of the magnitude of their problem. The difficulties we face in this life either cause us to draw closer to God or push Him away. Where does our help come from when we are troubled? Who can we turn to for guidance and direction?
Psalm 119 focuses on the power and truth of God’s Word and the spiritual discipline of prayer. In Psalm 119, we find a series of prayers, all addressed to the Lord, our God. Psalm 119 shows us how to pray. The writer of Psalm 119 calls out to God about a problem, turning his eyes to the Lord and to God’s word. The psalmist gets his eyes off the problem and instead relies on God. Psalm 119 shows us how we can pray.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11 (NIV)
Often in our lives, our problems seem insurmountable. We don’t think we can overcome them. We’re too close to it. We’re too focused on it. We’re overwhelmed with worry and frantic with fear. When we step back and look to the Lord for the answer by taking it to Him in prayer, we suddenly see more clearly. I know this has been true numerous times in my life. I’m sure it’s been true in yours.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103 (NIV)
Prayer Honors God.
We honor God when we go to him in prayer. We recognize the Lord as the all-sufficient one. We realize apart from Him, our own power is insufficient or inadequate. Prayer accomplishes much and moves mountains of difficulties and challenges. Without prayer, we grow weary and fall short. We give out and give in. With prayer, nothing seems impossible because through prayer we have access to almighty God who can do incredible things, far greater than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Matthew 17:20 He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.”
James 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.
Prayer keeps us close to God. Failing to pray regularly, continuously, and fervently creates distance between us and God that doesn’t need to be there. We’re not intended to be far removed from God. Rather, we’re called to be in a deep, close relationship with Him.
Praying, like climbing the Himalayas, requires practice, if we are to grow in our prayer life. You get better at praying by praying, regularly and frequently, at all times. Does God answer all prayers? I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe not all. Possibly most, including the times the answer is no. Perhaps it’s good He doesn’t answer all of them. Unanswered prayers may be blessings in disguise. What I do know is that God can’t answer if we don’t ask.
How is your prayer life?
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.