Prayer and the Open Window

open-windowC.S. Lewis once said, “If you find within yourself longings that nothing in this world can satisfy it can only mean you were made for another world.”   We truly are made for another world!  Christians live in two different realms of existence simultaneously, the natural realm (the five sensory realm), and the realm beyond the five senses (supernatural spiritual realm).

Movies and shows  that feature aspects of life beyond the natural realm are always popular.   The reason can be attributed to what Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, God has “set eternity in our hearts,” which is the sense of a realm beyond the natural.  That spiritual dimension in us is part of the “image of God” in us (Gen 1:26)  because “God is Spirit” (Jn 4:24).

C.S. Lewis, “If you find within yourself longings that nothing in this world can satisfy it can only mean you were made for another world.”  

We often face a battle in our modern culture.  With all of it’s technological advances and scientific sophistication, culture has created an of a world without windows into the spiritual realm.  This secular worldview has damaging effects on God’s people.  The natural ends up replacing the supernatural, the physical replaces the spiritual, the temporal replaces the eternal, and people become dominated by what is seen without the influence of “what is unseen” (Heb 11:27).

If God’s people are not careful this worldview can subtly creep in and create a form of Christian Deism (a belief that if God does exist He is far removed from any active involvement in our everyday life).  

Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work. Oswald Chambers Click To Tweet

An practical example of viewing life without windows

A few years ago I had an office without any windows.  I often went to the office when it was still dark outside.  I remember times when it would be raining or foggy as I drove to the office.  As the day progressed I would assume that it was still overcast, rainy, and foggy outside.  It affecting my approach towards the day.  My emotions were overcast and any plans I considered had rain, fog, and an overcast future in them.  

Many times to my surprise when I stepped out of the building I discovered that it was actually a clear day.  My negative overcast attitude was met by a different reality of a clear, sunny, and bright day.  My previous feelings and attitudes were changed by a different reality.  Before stepping into the reality of a sunny day I had made phone calls and plans that were all affected by my perception of a rainy overcast day.  If I would only have had a window giving me insight into what was around me my plans and attitudes would have been different.  The same holds true in the spiritual realm.

If we don’t have windows into the reality of God’s presence we can become stuck in the emotions and circumstances of the natural realm immediately around us.

Looking through God’s window as we pray in faith

Heb 11:1-6  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ..6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

When we pray with Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2), we begin to see into God’s realm.  We see into His possibilities and no matter how rainy or overcast it is, we see the reality of God’s new days.

There is always a new day in Jesus 

Scripture refers to Jesus both as the “bright and morning star” and the One who gives us the “morning star.”

  • Revelation 22:16  “I, Jesus… am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
  • Revelation 2:25-29 ‘He who overcomes…(28)  and I will give him the morning star.  

In that day the morning-star was the name that Greeks assigned to the planet Venus which was the brightest object in the sky apart from the sun and moon.  It often appeared in the east leading on the morning.  It appears before the sun rises because the sun is shining on it.  In a sense it announces a new day where the sun is shining, even though it often appears at the darkest time before the dawn.  Eventhough it is dark around us a new day is already shining.

It works in a similar way in prayer.  We begin prayer with dark burdens and overcast emotions.  As we continue to look to Jesus we start to see through His window into His realm.  Then the morning star begins to rise up in us and we know that a new day, beyond the challenges of the current day, is coming.  It’s already shining. The God of possibilities begins to lead us into His new day.  Our inward posture begins to change as the “Morning Star rises up on the inside of us.

2Pe 1:19 …you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

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Putting Hunger in Your Prayer

I once heard a story that highlighted, even in somewhat of an extreme way, the hunger-for-god
importance of desire in prayer.

A young man walked along the beach every morning on his way to school, he would pass a old man standing on the beach, arms stretched out in prayer and intercession.  Every afternoon as he headed home, the old man would still be standing there.  Intrigued by this man’s dedication and passion for prayer, he stopped one day and asked him, “sir, will you teach me to pray like you?” The old man proceeded to grab the young man by his shirt, drag him into the ocean and push his head under water.  He held the young man’s head under the water and then pulled his head up.  The boy gasped and filled his lungs with air just as the old man pushed his head back under the water for another minute.  The old man pulled the boy’s head back up again and allowed the boy to desperately grab a lung full of air.  Shocked, the young man asked him, “Why did you do that? All I did was ask you how to pray!” The old man looked at the boy and said, “son,  until  you want God as badly as you just wanted air, I cannot teach you to pray.

Desire, which the Bible expresses using terms of hunger, thirst, seeking, and zeal is an essential element in prayer. 

  • Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Proverbs 16:26  A laborer’s appetite works to his advantage, because his hunger drives him on.
  • Psalms 107:8-9  You should praise the LORD for His love…  (9)  To everyone who is thirsty, he gives something to drink; to everyone who is hungry, he gives good things to eat.
  • Psalms 42:1-2 As a deer gets thirsty for streams of water, I truly am thirsty for you, my God.  (2)  In my heart, I am thirsty for you, the living God. When will I see your face?

While we need discipline to have a consistent prayer life (1 Tim 4:7), it can become a dead religious habit.  When prayer becomes a duty with no delight we have fallen into dead religion.  Yet God desires seeking Him to be a delight not just a duty.  Psalms 37:4  Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

 

EM Bounds said, “DESIRE is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment. , that desire is an absolute essential of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified. Prayer is the oral expression of desire.”

7 Ways You Can Stir Up Desire and Hunger For God

  • Miss it.  One of the worst states to be in is to be in famine without hunger and dryness without thirst.
  • Pray for hunger.  I often seek God for hunger to be hungry.
  • Exercise the power of remembrance. It isn’t a bad thing to remember times when you were moving in zeal and desire for God. Those are great seasons.  Remembering when hunger was there is part of realizing when it isn’t.  Jesus told the Ephesian church, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen and turn back” (Rev 2:4-5). 
  • Get around hungry people. God has designed us in such a way that the people we are consistently around affect us.    Much is written about this phenomenon.  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals” 1 Cor 15:33 (Prov 13:20).  The best thing you can do when hunger and zeal are low is to get around hungry people. Listen to their conversations.  Read their writings and posts.  Listen to their music.  God’s Life is contagious.  One thing about dead people in the cemetery is hardly any of them notice that they are all dead.  Get around people that have God’s life moving in them. 
  • Hunger has a sound. Listen to music that has a hunger for God in it.  Live praise and worship music often has a sound of hunger.  Listen to messages that have hunger for God in them.  Go to gatherings of God’s people who express huger to hear, speak with, and speak from God (1 Corinthians 14:1-39   Beyond the words is a sound of desire for God.  Just like your stomach growls when you are hungry, hunger has a sound that affects you. 
  • Take steps to desire Him.  As you do you step into something greater than your own desire, the desire God has for you.  This has a way of catching you up in God’s orbit of desire. It is like the gravitational pull of the earth.  You can get outside of it but when you get a little closer it’s gravitation pull begins to suck you back towards it.  The same is true when we come around the pull of God’s desire for you.  You realize afresh His desire for you, and it correspondingly causes you to desire Him more, and it catches you up in His orbit. 

    A.W. Tozer  “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”

  • Getting even a taste of God makes you want more.  The Bible reveals that the many attributes of God are “sweeter than the honeycomb” (Ps 19:10). When you eat something good you instinctively want more of it.  God is like that so we must do everything we can to approach Him to “taste Him.”    Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good.   A.W. Tozer said, “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”  
  • Fasting.  Fasting natural food has a way intensifying our prayer life with hunger.

Song of Solomon 7:10  “I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me.

1 John 4:19  We love, because He first loved us

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Coming Before Him in Personal Prayer

personal-prayerMatthew 6:1-9  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven…(6)  “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  (7)  “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words….  (9)  “Pray, then, in this way.

Prayer is to our soul is like breathing to our body.  We must breathe to live. In His famous teaching in the sermon of the mount Jesus speaks of our personal prayer life with God, when you pray go into your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”  While our walk with God isn’t private it is personal.  We must have both a personal and corporate life with Him.

While our walk with God isn’t private it is personal.  We must have both a personal and corporate life with Him.

God always wants to bring us to the place of reality in our relationship with Him. Dead religion is often the public facade of a connection with God while the reality behind it is lacking. While our corporate life and gatherings are essential, we must be careful that they aren’t a substitute for our personal walk with Jesus. It is impossible to have one without the other. What we are before God when it is just Him and us is a good indication of the depth of our relationship with Him is.

Charismatics are good at learning how to touch God in corporate meetings. Their corporate time together is usually less boring than what is found in dry institutional church life, but there is an inherent danger in a church with dynamic corporate gatherings. While we may be experiencing a “move of God” corporately if we don’t experience Him privately them something vital is lacking.

holy-spirit-background

Charismatics can be just as religious as non-charismatics

If a move of God doesn’t affect our personal prayer life then we have taken the charismatic and made it religious.  This is a profound truth. When we think of being religious we think of “high church” or “traditional church” situations in which there is a lot of outward formality with little heart. Charismatics can be just as religious if all we have is a corporate experience without a daily personal experience with Him in prayer.  

Real Spiritual foundations are not just a result of a corporate move of God but are laid in the secret place before Him. Click To Tweet

Real Spiritual foundations are not just a result of a corporate move of God, but are laid in the secret place before Him.  I think the following quotes are appropriate when it comes to personal prayer.

Leonard Ravenhill, “No man is greater than his prayer life. A godly man is a praying man.”

Robert Murray McCheyne, “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.. A man is no bigger than his prayer life.

Authentic Christianity is maintained in the secret place before the Father. If God doesn’t affect our personal prayer life then we will live a double life. We will show a desire and walk with Him in corporate settings but it will be absent in private.

John 15:4-5  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

In John 15 Jesus talks about the fact that real Christianity is an abiding relationship with Him. The word abide is important to understand. Abide means “to continue, to be present, to be held or kept, to remain as one not to become another.”

The more self- confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have, the more you have to pray. When we side step the prayer closet we are really showing a lack of faith in believing that apart from Him we can do nothing.

This idea of “remaining as one not to become another” has much to do with our personal prayer life.  If we say we are wanting to abide in Him yet bypass our personal prayer we are in danger of “becoming another.” In becoming another we live in a way that goes against what we profess. 

We need to make sure we fully embrace the move of God both in corporate meetings as well as in our personal prayer lives. We must not allow anything to cause us to avoid the secret place with God in prayer.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:29  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him.
  • Psalms 95:2  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
  • Psalms 100:2  Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

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Help For Everyday Prayer

pray-without-ceasingEverything in our Christian life begins, and is sustained through prayer.  Prayer is really all about communication with God. Prayer for our soul is like breathing to our body.  We must have Spiritual oxygen to live and we breathe it through prayer.  This is one reason Paul says to “never stop praying” 1 Thes 5:17.  Prayer need be a regular part of our life.

Our everyday prayer life is an accurate reflection of our belief in the reality of two of God’s truths. 

When we think of being religious we think of “high church” or “traditional church” situations in which there is a lot of outward formality with little heart. Charismatics can be just as religious if all we have is a corporate experience without any ongoing “real” walk with Jesus.

Joh 15:1-7 for apart from Me you can do nothing

Php 4:12-13  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Many Christians would admit that they struggle with consistency in their everyday personal prayer life.  It is something that everyone knows they need to do, but often struggle with consistency.  Why is it so hard and is there anything that can be done to help?

We must understand that we have an enemy within us (flesh), and outside of us (the demonic) that works to keep us from prayer. If we are consistently with God in prayer we will tend to overcome both enemies and advance the Kingdom of God.   

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 at http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/praylife/indexpray.htm.

Prayer is a spiritual experience and the first thing we need is spiritual discipline.  In prayerjames-stewart
we are forcing our mind to focus on things outside of the five sensory realms.  Our mind operates based on stimulation from the five senses.  The more we pray in a disciplined fashion the more prayer will become spiritually natural and consistent.  Here are some essential tips if we are going to be more effective in prayer.

Tips for the prayer closet

  • 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. 
  • Find a private place where you can be alone and undistracted with God.  This is what Jesus met by the “inner room.”  As He said it is the “secret place” before the Father who “sees in secret” (Mt 6:4-18).  
  • Real language, not religious eloquence, is the language of prayer.  Prayer is above all communication with God.  Jesus always seemed to frown on religious language but wanted real communication from our heart.
  • It needs to be regular and consistent (a date with the Divine).  As with anything else it is better to set a consistent time every day and get into the habit.  In doing so we fit our day around prayer rather than trying to fit prayer into our day.  Trying to fit prayer into our day will rarely work.  Other things will always come up to sidetrack it.  The Bible puts a premium on morning prayer.  It is a first-fruit time in which we are the clearest before the day begins.  If you can’t do morning prayer make sure you set another time (that works in your schedule) that is a priority that you attend to every day. 
  • Psa 100:4  Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
  • Col 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.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  
  • Psa 77:1  My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
  • Psa 142:1 I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the 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.  I would be glad to send them to anyone who emails me to ask. 
  • 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. The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray. Click To Tweet

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