Winning The Battle Over Consistent Prayer

War RoomA recent movie was released called “War Room” that has done very well at the box office.  The main point of the move was to show the importance of consistent prayer and its effect on our lives and circumstances.  In the movie the major figure Elizabeth Jordan and her motherly mentor Miss Clara did something literally that Jesus spoke of “go into your inner room (KJV closet), close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” Mt 6:6.

In the movie both women developed a prayer room (war room) in a literal closet but whatever physical place is used for consistent prayer it carries the important spiritual point, prayer is essential in following Jesus.  Prayer is like oxygen to our body. Without it life will deteriorate.

In Mt 6 Jesus is speaking of Pharisees who expressed relationship with God in public but did not do so in private.  That is an important point of prayer.  Prayer is our ongoing communication with God.  Like any relationship communication is important.  Prayer is the ongoing expression/communication in our relationship with God.   We are no more authentic, spiritual, or mature than our real ongoing prayer life with Jesus.  It is where our life with Jesus is cultivated, sustained, and is the Genesis point of all Kingdom advancement in and through our lives.

Christians often face great challenges in developing a consistent prayer life.  We have an consistent prayerenemy within us and an enemy outside of us that does not like it when we pray. Our flesh (the enemy within) likes to lead and call the shots,  It usually resist prayer.   There is also the demonic (enemy outside)  that hates it when we pray and will do everything to discourage us.

I remember how difficult it seemed in my early years of serving Jesus to gain a consistent prayer life. I remember a book by Andrew Murray called “The Prayer Life” as well as other books on prayer that really helped me reach the tipping point in going from an inconsistent to a consistent prayer life.

You can read Murray’s book prayer life free online athttp://www.onread.com/reader/1145974.

The first thing we face in prayer is that it is a spiritual experience. In prayer we are forcing our mind to focus on things outside of the five sensory realms.  Our mind is use to operating based on stimulation from those realms.  With the proliferation of our online devices our ability to focus is limited due to the consistent stimulation.  The more we pray in a disciplined fashion and follow the Scriptural directives, the more prayer will become natural and consistent.  We literally retrain our senses to focus on God’s Spiritual realm.  Here are some essential tips if we are going to be more effective in prayer.

Tips for the prayer closet

  • It is good to have a regular time. As with anything else it is better to set a consistent time every day and get into a habit. In doing so we fit our life around prayer rather than trying to fit prayer into our life. If we simply try to fit prayer into our life it will be inconsistent. The Bible puts a premium on Morning Prayer. It is a first fruit time in which we are the clearest before the day begins.
  • Use real language remembering it isn’t our religious eloquence that counts. Prayer is above all communication with God. Jesus always seemed to frown on religious language but wanted real communication from our heart.
  • Find a private place where you can be alone and undistracted with God. This is what Jesus met by the prayer closet. As He said it is the “secret place” before for the Father who “sees in secret.”
  • Thanksgiving praise and worship are essential to entering God’s presence and staying alert there.
  • These things work to draw us to God and keep us alert in His presence.
  • Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
  • Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving
  • Shouting is a good way to create alertness and focus. Shouting is by far the most common expression of praise, and interacting with God in the Scripture. It is used 265 times. Shouting brings our foggy mind to a sense of focus and alertness.
  • Psalms 95:1-2 us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
  • Psalm 77:1 My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and Hewill hear me.
  • Psalm 142:1 I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice tothe LORD.
  • It is good to alternate praying in the Spirit (praying in tongues) with praying in your understanding. This helps cultivate a Spiritual atmosphere and engages us with the Spirit of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
  • Use Scriptural Prayers as a pattern and example. I have all the prayers of the Bible recorded on my computer and I regularly pull them up and pray them. It is part of Jesus’ instruction about His word abiding in us as we pray in John 15.

The biggest thing is to just do it. Prayer is not just a good intention or a good concept. It is a practice. The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray

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A Different Face of Self-Righteousness: But Just as Bad

Jesus told a story in Luke 18 about people who “trusted in themselves” for righteousness.  It is a kind of a no brainer story because it was about a Jewish religious leader and they were famous for having self confidence in their own abilitiy to be righteous.  Jesus constantly challenged this futile form of religious legalism. It is trusting in your own abilities to do, and not do things that constitute being pleasing to God.  Luk 18:9-14  And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

The second part of this self-righteousness seen in this story was that this Pharisee “viewed  others with contempt.”  In other words he measured his sense of righteousness by what others did or didn’t do.  By doing things the poor sinner didn’t do it was proof that he was pleasing to God.  Lk 18:11  “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…

Jesus ends the story with “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”   Exalting self is the centerpiece of self-righteousness.  It is a pedestal that self-righteous people stand on to say I am better than others because I do this or don’t do that.  It is easy to discern when people think their right activity according to God’s word is better than others but there is another form of self-righteousness that I am beginning to see more and more among Christians.  This one is very deceptive.  It is a confidence of righteousness based on things people don’t believe or are not doing.  Because they don’t believe those things or are not doing them they are somehow better than other Christians who do pursue them.

This form of self righteousness is a glorying in imperfections, not in the sense of being thankful for God’s grace,  but that imperfections are a sort of badge of honor that make them more  righteous  than others.  Those who are actually obeying Jesus’ commands are seen as being less righteous than those who disobey.   Paul gloried in his weakness 2 Cor 12:9 but only as a means of exalting Christ strength, not as proof of his own righteousness with God.

Some Examples

I remember one guy who tended to do this quite a bit.  He often lost his temper and cussed.  He frequently harbored resentment, had a hard time honoring authority, and had a very critical spirit.  The amazing thing was that he somehow felt he was better than others who tended to not do those types of sins.  In a strange way he felt he was a better witness for Christ, even though he rarely led anyone to Jesus, because people who were “too perfect” couldn’t identify with sinners like he did because of his frequent immature and sinful behavior.

I often come across online stories or comments from people who claim Christianity, but in the name of “being authentic” glory in things that God doesn’t approve of.  A case in point is a recent  Buzzfeed.com video called “I’m Christian, But I’m Not…”  It highlighted this phenomenon  of self-righteousness seen in Luke 18.  They have other videos along the same lines like “I’m a Trans (meaning transgender) but I am not, I’m a Muslim but I am not…”   While it was trying to make a good point it committed the same error as the Luke 18 story.  In the video five women and one man said they were Christians but they weren’t like other Christians (kind of like the guy in Jesus’ story I thank You that I am not like…).   They gloried in the fact that they weren’t “homophobic, close-minded, uneducated, judgmental, or conservative etc.”  They did glory in what they were, “accepting, queer, gay, feminist, believe in monogamy before sex but will give sexual advice, open minded, go to church, as well as loving  and affirming people from all religions.”  They wanted people to know that Christians are not all crazy (like all other Christians who do have problems with homosexual behavior, are conservative, are not queer or gay, believe that sex outside a heterosexual marriage isn’t God’s will, or believe that Jesus is the only way to God etc.).

While some of what they said may have had a good point we must be careful that in trying to get out of one ditch (self-righteous legalism) we fall in the ditch on the other side of the road.  They mentioned nothing about Jesus. Let’s be clear about this. My rightness before God isn’t based on things I am not doing or getting away with that Christians have believed and practiced for over 2000 years!

I am a Christian first and foremost because of the tremendous mercy and grace shown me through Jesus coming to earth as the perfect sacrifice.  He bore my sins and the punishment for them.  He took His sacrificial blood to heaven and the Father received it as the only means of me being forgiven and accepted as His son.  He now receives me into His presence through Jesus Christ.  This, and this alone, is the means of any righteousness I now have.  Contrary to wanting to see how much I don’t have to believe or how much behavior I can get away with, authentic Christianity has a much different foundation.  I think the writer of Hebrews sums it up well.  Heb 13:20-21  Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,  (21)  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.   The obsession of Authentic Christianity is to live to please Him in what we believe and how we live because of His great love and mercy!

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Five Minute God Thoughts: Authentic Discipleship Must Include Missions

Missionary Mystique 1The story of the Bible is about God’s family walking together as they pursue His mission. There is often a great misunderstanding when it comes to missions. Missions isn’t just a special calling for a few unusually gifted people.   Contrary to that mistaken idea is the Biblical one that missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Jesus sends all of us on His mission (Jn 17:18, 20:21) .  Missions is what our everyday life is about. Everyday we are on a mission’s trip.  It is hard to claim that one is a follower of Jesus if we aren’t engaged everyday with His family on mission to the world around us.

 

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Five Minute God Thoughts: Authentic Disciples must walk among His family

Discipleship relationshipsGod’s people often see discipleship as an individualized process.  Discipleship is a relational thing carried out among God’s people.  Relationships are the primary instruments God uses to mature His people.

 

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