God’s Bigger Purpose for Prayer

A godly man is a praying man. As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out. Prayer is the soul’s traffic with Heaven; God comes down to us by His Spirit, and we go up to Him by prayer.” Watson

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1, Matthew 6:5-13) He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.  Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.  He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray.  Prayer is to be a normal part of our life so much so that Paul said we are to never stop praying 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  

Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering and communicating with God.  It is like oxygen to our inner man.  It is the continual breathing in of the life of the Living God. 

When Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer the first order of business was the glory of God and His purposes being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This was before specific daily needs and guidance.  The focus is on God’s greatness and His will.  It is the continual reminder that He is God and we are not.

A story that highlights this important truth 

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray.  Their individual needs, will, and desires are often first and foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this.  Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation.  If He is the God of all creation then our alien friends obviously want to find out what this God is all about.

They decided to send an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  He was invisible so he was able to get an accurate account as he observed.  He watched and listened in on their communication with God.  He listened to their personal prayers.  Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently.  He also attended several varieties of Christians meeting together.  Most of the meetings had “prayer request times” or points in the gatherings where they prayed for each other.

Most of what he heard went something like this.

Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog.  Pray for me that I have the will power to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise God helped me win in the drawing at work.  Pray that God would get the devil off my back, he has really been harassing me.  Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to the school she really wants to attend.   Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better.  Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced so I have something to match my new outfit.  I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss.  How about making me the boss.

As the envoy not only observed the way Christians lived but listened to their prayers He was able to quickly determine what this Christian God is about.  He reported to those who sent him, “Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beckoned call.  He exists to give them the kind of life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future.  The sum total of His existence is to serve them.  The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing,  “THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME.  IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT ”

Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”  

Three things prayer brings to our life

We must understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God and asking Him for things.  Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to living for God.

  1. Prayer first affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze.  Through prayer, we become more Christ-like and we become more inclined to do God’s will.  As we come under the force of His gaze (sight) we become softened towards repentance in the things that are hindering Him working in us.  We are also stimulated to do the things of God that may be dormant in our lives.  Through prayer, He works in us what is pleasing in His sight.  Heb 13:20-22…, 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.
  2. Prayer affects our revelation and understanding. By praying and seeking God He is able to influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will.  “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9).
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart and we are influenced to live for His will.  The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It does emphasize that God purposely chooses to connect much of what He does with prayer. Our hearts also become intertwined with His causing us to progressively live more for “His sake” nor ours.

Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and co-labor with Christ in what He is doing.

If you want help in having a more Christ-centered and less self-centered prayer life here is a resource you can download called “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.”  It lays out the understanding of praying for God’s will then gives us examples as a guide to every prayer in the New Testament that the writers prayed.  This will help get us on track in co-laboring with God according to His will in prayer.

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Keeping Alert in Relating with God

alert-prayerThe things that often cause God’s people to avoid or quit praying is dullness, sluggishness, and drowsiness. There is a great need for alertness in prayer.  Paul says we can do this with “thanksgiving,” and in the Bible, thanksgiving is often associated with shouting.

Shouting is an act God prescribes over and over in His word.  It is something often forgotten or undiscovered in many circles. Many Christians don’t realize how often it is mentioned in the Bible.  Shouting and lifting our voice is by far the most prescribed expression towards God.  Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud is mentioned 265 times in the Bible.

Psalms 95:1-2 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let 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.

This is in contrast to only about 11 times “silence” is mentioned (most of which are about meditating on things).  Only 3 mentions of silence are in terms of direct interaction with God.  These statistics are amazing when you see them in light of the other physical expressions God encourages His people to express in response to Him.

  • Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud 265 times
  • Playing music and instruments 58 times
  • Singing 29 times
  • Lifting our hands 14 times
  • Clapping our hands12 times
  • Bowing or kneeling 12 times
  • Dancing 9 times
  • Standing 7 times.

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Harry Ironside

According to the Bible, shouting can break the power of fear, doubt, heaviness, barrenness, sluggishness, and grief. Circumstances and/or the devil often turn up the volume of the difficulty and hopelessness in our minds.  We must not be buried under these attacks but retaliate by lifting our voices in high praise.

Shouting and lifting voices are usually associated with Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition, but according to the Bible, it is associated with the Spirit’s activity in reminding us of our adoption by Christ.  The only two verses that speak about the Spirit reminding us we are adopted through Jesus are associated with shouting.

  • Rom 8:11-16...15  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
  • Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father

When the enemy comes to lie to us about God’s love and Fatherhood towards us we need to let the Spirit “cry out” through our lips with thanksgiving.

My wife has taught grammar for many years.  Exclamation marks should be used only when conveying extreme emotions or important points.  She says that they are way over used in emails and texts. Often it is used to try to get people to pay attention, but they were intended, according to the dictionary, “to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.”  In the Bible, exclamation marks appear over and over, especially in the Psalms.  The reason, to elicit strong emotions.  I like how the Message Bible portrays these truths.

  •  Ps 47:1″Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!”
  • Ps 95:1 “Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”
  • Ps 98:4 “Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!”

3 reasons shouting can help us in prayer and worship.

  1. Shouting awakens us to God’s great power and authority. Many times the voice of the enemy and our own doubts and fears have turned up the volume in our mind and emotions. Shouting turns up the God volume.  It can break off the power of fear, heaviness, and doubt.  Sometimes we need more than just silent prayers, we need to shout.
  2. Shouting is a means to break us out of barrenness into fruitfulness.  Isaiah 54:1-3 (Gal 4:27) Rejoice, O unfruitful one that never bore; break out a song and shout… For more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the married woman…(2)  Make the place of your tent larger and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes;  (3)  for you shall break out on the right hand and on the left. 
  3. Shouting can release victory. The story of the walls of Jericho is a good example.  God used the shout to bring them down (Josh 6:20).  God released a great earthquake through Paul and Silas’ late night praise that set them free from their chains and began a move of God that resulted in the planting of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:22-26).

Self-dignity and Self-consciousness leads to Spiritual Barrenness

Christians are often too embarrassed to lift their voice and shout. Some think it is embarrassing to be around others who do.  Unfortunately, this was the same attitude Michal had towards David when he danced, sang, and shouted wildly when bringing God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant) back to Jerusalem.  Scripture reveals the results; David was fruitful while Michal was barren for the rest of her life (2 Samuel 6:14-23 ).   

Some mistakenly think that shouting is a cultural or personal preference.  It is a Biblical preference!  Shouting is encouraged twice as many times as all other expressions combined, and over 4 times as much as the second most frequently mentioned expression (playing musical instruments mentioned 59 times).  Shouting is encouraged over 9 times as much as the third most frequently mentioned expression (singing mentioned 28 times).

Shouting saints are more like David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others, including those right now around the throne in heaven than those who choose the self-dignity route.  David was a shouter and even shouted while alone in his tent Ps 27:6 “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”  We can do the same.

If you are dull, drowsy, sluggish, spiritually barren, or full of doubt and fear, don’t let it drive you from the place of prayer; shout your way past them into God’s presence Ps 47:1 Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.   

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Online Comparisons

“I I was shocked to hear they had separated!  All the way up until the time I found out her Facebook page indicated that they had a wonderful life, marriage, and family.  How could she publically put out that appearance when it wasn’t what was really going on?”  With bewilderment, she was referring to a college friend who lived in another city that she was close to and a godparent of one of her children.

Hungarian Proverb “If you keep wanting to be someone else who will be you?”

 

In our day and age, an online presence can become more influential than our real presence.  It is our current cultural platform through which we communicate.   It has spawned worldwide communication and opened great possibilities to share your life worldwide.  Like any other thing, it can be good or bad.  For God’s people, the good thing is to stay in touch with friends and highlight the good things God is doing in your life.

Unfortunately, It can also be a means of portraying a false online life that isn’t rooted in reality.  I have heard it referred to as people becoming curators of the display of self.  It can also provoke people to comparisons that can lead to something very harmful to all of us, jealousy and envy.

  • “Look at where they got to go on vacation…we have never gone to a place like that.  How do they do it?”
  • “Look at how nice their new house is…How did they manage that?”
  •  “Their kids seem to have no problems.  They are so cute, happy, and obedient.  What’s wrong with mine?”

It can even carry over into our life in Christ.

  • “We had 15 people baptized in the past 2 weeks.”
  • “I had 3 international trips in the past 3 months and am reaching the ends of the earth”
  • “I am preaching to the Alive Conference tonight with 6000 people; please pray for this humble servant of God (of course posted with pictures of the amazing meeting).
  • “Our new building is advancing rapidly and the money is pouring in.”
  • “I was asked to speak at the …(famous, big, and slick)… conference. Hope to see you there!”

Google the phrase “Facebook envy” and you will get 24,000,000 hits.  Google the phrase “Facebook depression” and you will get 91,900,000 hits.  These are growing trends.

Paul speaks of the danger of comparisons.

2 Corinthians 10:12-13  For we will not make comparison of ourselves with some of those who say good things about themselves: but these, measuring themselves by themselves, and making a comparison of themselves with themselves, are not wise.  (13)  We will not give glory to ourselves in over-great measure, but after the measure of the rule which God has given us, a measure which comes even to you.

When we start the comparison game we automatically fall into the trap of pursuing the wrong kind of glory.  We pursue a glory (even God’s glory) to give validation to ourselves.  The great problem for followers of Jesus is that it is validation from sources other than God.   Paul speaks of this as well.

Galatians 1:10-11 GNB  Does this sound as if I am trying to win human approval? No indeed! What I want is God’s approval! Am I trying to be popular with people? If I were still trying to do so, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (11)  Let me tell you, my friends, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 GNB  Instead, we always speak as God wants us to, because he has judged us worthy to be entrusted with the Good News. We do not try to please people, but to please God, who tests our motives.

Ephesians 6:6-7  Do this not only when they are watching you, because you want to gain their approval; but with all your heart do what God wants, as slaves of Christ.  (7)  Do your work as slaves cheerfully, as though you served the Lord, and not merely human beings.

Glory Hounds

C.S.Lewis Mere Christianity “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more if it than the next man.  We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good looking, but they are not.  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.”   

Constant comparison is fueled by one thing, pride.  It can be toxic spiritually because it has cousins called jealousy and envy that will always move in to stay.  When we constantly compare ourselves it becomes about our glory rather than His.  Even when Peter admonishes us to use our unique gifts that aim was “His glory” not ours.

1 Pet 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Three important things from Peter that helps avoid comparisons.

  • We all have gifts and value. Everyone is special and needful in God’s economy.
  • The purpose of these gifts is to serve His body so she reveals His glory (Eph 1:22-23 3:10-11). Gifts are not about boosting our ego.  We are to use our unique giftings and wiring so the church can flourish and God gets the glory.   
  • The ultimate goal of everything is so God is glorified through Jesus…forever and ever.

Chasing our own glory through comparisons leads to futility.  Jesus frees us from that futility as we “lay our lives down for His sake.”   Remember the more self-focused you are the more you will care about comparisons and the less self-focused you are the less you will care about these comparisons.

Remember the more self-focused you are the more you will care about comparisons and the less self-focused you… Click To Tweet

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