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26 May, 2013

Thinking Of Prayer As Jesus Taught Part 1

As I meditated today I realized that my heart was overflowing with the need to share about cultivating the habit of a prayer life. Why? Because I know how hard it is to get there. I know how difficult it is to keep the momentum going and I also know that sadly, most of us in the Church do not have a true prayer life according to the will of God for us. Yet, prayer is what’s sustaining us. Prayer is as needed to live out the Christian life as we need air to breathe.

When I first became a Christian I started going to a mixed (men & women) Bible Study group. When we were asked to take turn to pray outloud, I remember panicking because I did not know how to pray, let alone praying in front of other people. Being me, (without a mask) before the prayer started, I boldly said, but…..uh! I don't know how to pray!  One lady who was facing me in the circle quickly answered “think of prayer as A.C.T. S. meaning ADORE – CONFESS – THANKSGIVING & - SUPPLICATION and that truly helped me to learn to pray

I left this Bible study group and went to a different one, as such I lost contact with this lady, even though we attended the same Church. Few years down the road I approached her before service time, just to say hi, to my surprise she was backsliding really bad, I could see that, even though I was still in the baby stage of my own Christianity. Not knowing how to handle it, I cut the conversation short.  Note that she was the perfect picture of God’s definition of backsliding in Jeremiah’s book.  She kept up with church attendance, functions, and kept up with all the outside appearances while following after false gods.

A few years down the road, I saw this lady in a shopping mall. I enquired about her walk with God. I sadly found out that she departed from God’s Word and distanced herself so much that she was comfortably resting in her backsliding mode. Yet, she was proud that she never missed a Sunday service. What was more sad, she had an attitude that she has been Christian a lot longer than I, as such I had no comments to make about the fact that she had chosen not to pray anymore because she did not have time since she had decided to build a business. (The cares of this world had first place) Worse, she was not worried about her state because she said; I quote “God knows my needs and my wants even before I utter them.” She was so proud to quote Scriptures to show me that there was no need to be concerned and that she was still following God’s will and God’s Word and there was nothing wrong.  

Sadly, there are several sermons that have been written on the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. Yet, we ignore the true lost son in all that. I cannot help wondering why? The truth is a lack of striving to develop a prayer life in oneness with God, always bring us to a state where we are like the older son of this parable who was always with the father. Even though he did not disobey outwardly like the one who took his inheritance and left, the elder son’s attitude on the inside was as disobedient, disrespectful and lacked love for the father. (In this case love for God). The first son, who left, did not love his father and wished he would die already so he could get his hands on his own inheritance. The second son served his father with no love and respect but in self-righteousness. His words denoted lack of love and complete indifference toward the father, even though he appeared obedient on the outside.

This is why you see me insisting over and over in most of my posts, about the attitude of our hearts and our motives in all that we do as Christians. I keep insisting on the fact that we must keep examining ourselves, because if our attitude and motives are not right, then it does not matter how beautiful the outside works appear it will also be wrong in God’s eyes. The first son, who squandered the father’s fortune, was brought to conversion but the second son never got there. I have to confess until God got hold of my heart where I became a bondservant of His with so much pleasure in my heart, I too was like the older son. This change did not happen for me until after He showed me I was regenerated while in the wilderness with Him. Until then I was angry toward God even though it was not a big kind of anger, nevertheless it was there and often times I questioned God’s judgement. My attitude was messed up.

One of my problems was the fact that I could not understand why Solomon was allowed to have all the women in the world and enjoyed so much debauchery, yet be saved and be so big in the eyes of God. I even remember saying to God as I questioned His judgement that “Solomon had the best of both worlds.”  However, mine was such a measly life that it was not even worth mentioning, yet, He set the bar so high for me and told me to remain celibate after my divorce. Until He opened my eyes, I found out there was resentment for a while there in my heart against God. But, what I did not know was that I was comparing myself to Solomon’s life because I was blinded by self-righteousness. When my heart changed, I found out all that time I should have been comparing my righteousness to His not to Solomon’s.  If I had done that, I would have known that I did not measure up.

As my heart got right with God, I learned to cultivate compassion toward the lost. I learned the meaning of reconciliation ministry and learned to rejoice with the father when a lost one is found or come back to Him. This attitude brings two things in one’s life, first, it means you have come to a point in your walk with Him that you truly understand the meaning of true redemption from His standards. It means that you understand like me, you, Solomon, Paul, Peter, etc., none of us got what we deserved which is His full wrath. (We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) It means you have come to a place of humility, and repentance has entered your heart and you have come face to face with true Salvation BY GRACE. Until then, you are just playing games with the religious life like the Pharisees, or you are still in the field like the eldest son who refused to participate in the festivities for his brother’s return. The Father extended His love to the older son, but left it up to him to come and partake with Him. The story did not tell us what decision he made. The Pharisees on the other hand, in their insistence to remain on the outside, they opposed Christ so much that the next step for them was to kill Him.

Secondly, when your heart is right with Him your compassion for the lost and the sweetness of redemption in your soul compel you to see the necessity of prayer as you are overwhelmed with a need to join the father in seeking for the lost whether in or outside the Church. While it will be hard to keep a prayer life exactly like Christ did when He was on earth, but your heart will strive with Him. If you still cultivate a meagre prayer life, and you do not find joy in praying for the lost with heart bleeding in unison with the father, then there is a need to act NOW! No matter how busy your life is, there is no excuse. Start by joining the weekly Church prayer. If a weekly prayer group is too much for now, then try joining a monthly prayer group, because almost every Church has a once a month ministry often on Saturday morning.

Then amend your own personal prayer life until you cultivate a heart of prayer where you feel disconnected in your oneness when you are not praying. Then go to a dollar store and get yourself a notebook for a dollar and write down the names of those you need to pray for. Write down the overwhelming needs out there, from injustice, to children dying of hunger daily. Stop looking at Salvation from a standpoint of “what’s in it for you.” Your prayer life reflects how much of God you have, how big He is in your sight and what Salvation means to your soul. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is okay with God. This lady I spoke of in this post has never past the point of seeing Salvation further than what is in it for her. Start praying where you are; don't put it off for tomorrow. Go to Him just as you are, like the prodigal son who voluntarily humbled himself and returned to his father with willingness to be become his servant (verse 19.) Lastly never stop praying God to fill your heart with the spirit of supplication so you too, can remain faithful in doing your part alongside of Him in His quest on behalf of the world.

Thinking of Prayer as Jesus Taught By Oswald Chambers

Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer. “Pray without ceasing . . .”— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer. He had the unlimited certainty of knowing that prayer is always answered. Do we have through the Spirit of God that inexpressible certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when it seemed that God did not answer our prayer? Jesus said, “. . . everyone who asks receives . . .” (Matthew 7:8). Yet we say, “But . . . , but . . . .” God answers prayer in the best way— not just sometimes, but every time. However, the evidence of the answer in the area we want it may not always immediately follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?
The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.