That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Few More Thoughts on Prayer

Prayer is how we (Christians) talk to God.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to speak with God face to face in the garden of Eden?  Wow!  Amazing!  We can't see God.  His physical presence is no longer with us, but we CAN still have fellowship and communion with God.  Hebrews 4:16 says, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  

Fellowship with God is restored when we are saved.  We have the same privilege Adam and Eve had to speak to God directly.  Many religions would say that only certain "holy" people can access God's throne.  They would say one needs to speak to God through an advocate, a priest, or a holy person.  Many religions teach their adherents that prayer is a ritual.  The correct words must be spoken, or the prayers are ineffective.  Some religions even publish prayer books, giving a prayer for different needs, occasions, and crises that arise in a person's life.  The understanding is that unless prayer is made in the way the church or religion mandates, then the prayer won't work.  Yet, the Bible teaches that mercy and grace are obtained from God, not from repeating a specific prayer.

I've heard prayers read in church services from a book.  They sound empty, shallow, insincere.  The first time I heard a prayer read out of a book, I almost laughed out loud.  I thought it was silly. It sounded so fake.  I was quite young at the time, but I had prayed directly to God my whole life.  I didn't need a book to tell me what to say when I prayed.  I talked to God even as a small child, and I know He heard me!  There's nothing in the Bible that demands our prayers be approved by a church, priest, or come from an approved book.  Nothing!  We can pray at any time, in any place, and in our own words.  Jesus never read a prayer from a book, and neither did the apostles.  Neither Jesus, nor the apostles taught their followers to repeat specific prayers verbatim, or that prayer must go through a church leader in order to be heard by God.

The verse I quoted from Hebrews says we are to come boldly before the throne of grace.  The Bible also instructs us to pray in faith, believing that we will receive an answer (James 5:15, Matt. 21:22).  James 5:16 says, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Prayer is to be bold.  Prayer is to ask.  Prayer is to be made in faith, believing God will answer.  But, prayer is NOT a magic formula for me to get whatever I want from God.  Neither is prayer a right for me to tell God what to do.  I've heard Christians pray and "declare" God to give them blessings and cast out evil in their lives.  I believe God does want to bless His children, and that He wants our lives to be void of evil, but He doesn't do those things simply because I "pray" or "declare" or "decree" Him to do them.  Jesus had all power in heaven and earth, yet He prayed in Matthew 26:31 ...not as I will, but as thou wilt.  Prayer is not about what I want, what I need, or what I can make God do for me.  The type of prayer that seeks to invoke God's blessing or favour or even to cast out evil is self-centred.  It's based on personal "felt" needs, rather than the will of God.  We can't simply repeat words of Scripture and expect God to answer in a way that we want Him to answer.

James 4:2-3 was written to believers, and it explains this selfish type, demanding, declaring prayer to a tee.  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  This verse takes us the full circle.  Remember, it was written to believers.  I find that fact in itself astounding, because James calls out these people on some pretty wicked stuff: lust, desire, kill, fight, war.  Wow.  These Christians had some MAJOR issues.  They were totally focused on themselves.  They didn't have, because they didn't ask. It doesn't say they didn't pray, it says they didn't ask.  I wonder if they were praying like so many today who decree and declare God to do all these things, instead of asking.  James goes one to tell them that even when they do ask, they are asking in a wrong attitude.  It's like they figured out they couldn't demand God to give them what they wanted, so they gave in and asked, but God still isn't pleased.  The only reason they are now asking when the pray is that they might have things for selfish desires!  It goes right back to what the verse started with. Lust. Lust is the problem.

Do we not see so much lust in the world today/  People are constantly wanting what they can't have.  It's EVERYWHERE!  We want, want, want.  Sadly, this ungodly attitude has poured over into the church, and it has affected the way we pray.  Many Christians pray just like these believers in James were.  Their motive is to pray for things they can consume upon their lusts.  The whole prosperity gospel movement is founded in this very principle.  This type of think makes a mockery of true, genuine prayer.

Let's remember the privilege that prayer is: communication with our Divine Creator.  Let's be grateful for this amazing privilege, and let's pray without ceasing as the Bible commands us.
I Timothy 2:1, 3
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men... For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

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