Psalm Saturday: How is Your Prayer Life?

How is your prayer life? I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a person by listening to them pray. Prayer warriors-people who live a life of prayerfulness-pray different than people who don’t pray regularly. Like any worthwhile endeavor, prayer takes practice. You don’t learn how to mountain climb by attempting to scale the Himalayas your first time out.

I had the good fortune of praying with friends like Mark Jones, Gordon McDonald, Barbara Jones, and Jeff Long. Each of these sweet souls had a passion for prayer and believed in the power that prayer has in our lives. I continue to be blessed by friends like Gerry Bagamano who show me what a heart of prayer looks like when it is nurtured and stewarded well. I am richer each time I go down to Union Gospel Mission Dallas and pray one-on-one with the men staying at the shelter.

A prayerful life can be cultivated through regular exercise of our prayer muscles.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Prayer is an open conduit to God. The Lord hears us when we lift our voice to Him. Prayer professes our dependence on God. This is something our rebellious hearts struggle with because we like to be independent and find it difficult to submit to a power greater than ourselves. As a friend of mine likes to say, “It takes us being tore up from the floor up,” to recognize our need to go to the Lord in prayer.

Genesis 4:26 marks the beginning of prayer, our ability to life our voices to our creator. It states clearly, “”To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.”  Genesis Chapter 4 reflects the outcome of sin. The world after Cain murders Abel oozes with envy, arrogance, rebellion, murder, punishment, separation from family, and separation from God. The descendants of Cain go their own way, moving further and further away from the Lord. Seth, Adam and Eve’s son, marks the beginning of a new line that expresses it’s dependence on God, even worshipping Him publicly.

Pray without Ceasing

God answers prayers.

I know because in the course of my life, God has answered numerous prayers for me. A couple of days ago I felt frustrated. Ministry is hard, especially if you’re someone who comes at it from the outside like me. I didn’t grow up in church. I haven’t attended seminary. Nonetheless, I prayed that the Lord would use me. Then, out of the blue, I got an unexpected phone call from my friend Chaplain Charles down at Union Gospel Mission Dallas. He asked me if I could fill in for chapel Thursday morning. My ministry is simple: Know God and Make God Known. I do that through preaching God’s Word, through writing, like on my blog, the Devotional Guy, and by serving on the worship team. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to lead the staff, disciples, and other clients in their time of devotion. I always leave Union Gospel energized and amazed from seeing God at work.

Prayer works.

News headlines will tell you that prayers are wasted breath. As a Christian living in 21st century America, I know that nothing could be further from the truth. Prayer works, although not always in the way that we expect. A little over a year ago my home church gathered to pray for Pastor Mark’s healing. God answered. He healed him, making him whole by calling him home. Shortly after God called my good friend Mark home, my Mom fell and broke her ankle. Many of us prayed for her healing. I’m happy to report that today, she is healed, moving around better than ever.

Prayer is an asset.

Just as we have God’s Word to lean on and glean from, we have the incredible gift of prayer, helping us tap into the power of God, giving us strength, courage, endurance, and deliverance along with spiritual growth and change. Prayer is a powerful asset that breathes life where there is death and shines light where there once was darkness.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119: 105 (NIV)

A Model for Prayer.

I don’t know about you, but my own problems always seem bigger to me than the problems someone else maybe having regardless of the magnitude of their problem. The difficulties we face in this life either cause us to draw closer to God or push Him away. Where does our help come from when we are troubled? Who can we turn to for guidance and direction?

Psalm 119 focuses on the power and truth of God’s Word and the spiritual discipline of prayer. In Psalm 119, we find a series of prayers, all addressed to the Lord, our God. Psalm 119 shows us how to pray. The writer of Psalm 119 calls out to God about a problem, turning his eyes to the Lord and to God’s word. The psalmist gets his eyes off the problem and instead relies on God. Psalm 119 shows us how we can pray.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

Often in our lives, our problems seem insurmountable. We don’t think we can overcome them. We’re too close to it. We’re too focused on it. We’re overwhelmed with worry and frantic with fear. When we step back and look to the Lord for the answer by taking it to Him in prayer, we suddenly see more clearly. I know this has been true numerous times in my life. I’m sure it’s been true in yours.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103 (NIV)

Prayer Honors God.

We honor God when we go to him in prayer. We recognize the Lord as the all-sufficient one. We realize apart from Him, our own power is insufficient or inadequate. Prayer accomplishes much and moves mountains of difficulties and challenges. Without prayer, we grow weary and fall short. We give out and give in. With prayer, nothing seems impossible because through prayer we have access to almighty God who can do incredible things, far greater than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Matthew 17:20 He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.”

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James 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.

Prayer keeps us close to God. Failing to pray regularly, continuously, and fervently creates distance between us and God that doesn’t need to be there. We’re not intended to be far removed from God. Rather, we’re called to be in a deep, close relationship with Him.

Praying, like climbing the Himalayas, requires practice, if we are to grow in our prayer life. You get better at praying by praying, regularly and frequently, at all times. Does God answer all prayers? I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe not all. Possibly most, including the times the answer is no. Perhaps it’s good He doesn’t answer all of them. Unanswered prayers may be blessings in disguise. What I do know is that God can’t answer if we don’t ask.

How is your prayer life? 

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.

Why Do I Pray “In Jesus’ Name” ?

Have you ever wondered why Christians pray “in Jesus’ name”?

Awhile back, a friend of mine and I attended a luncheon bringing together people from different faiths to explore working together for the greater good of the community. The spacious banquet room was filled with about sixty representatives from every faith you could imagine. Naturally, the Big 3 (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) were scattered around different tables. Catholics sat next to Protestants, who came in full-force, hailing from different denominations. Methodists sat next to Baptists, Baptists sat next to Presbyterians. You get the picture.

All in all, it was a pretty cool scene. Once it became time to start, an event organizer opened the meeting with a prayer, ending his prayer in what I consider to be the traditional “in Jesus’ name.” This quickly drew the ire of a Rabbi attending the meeting, who happened to be sitting at our table. He expressed his preference that we forego ending prayer in the name of Jesus as he found it deeply offensive. He pointed to an Imam who sat one table away from us and explained that ending prayer in this manner was disrespectful of his faith as well. The Rabbi pointed out that not everyone believes in Jesus and praying to him is blasphemous in the traditions of some faiths. Needless to say, my friend and I, who are both Christians, were taken aback by the Rabbi’s request. Neither of us had ever considered not praying in Jesus’ name. Had we ever ended a prayer without closing it that way? Yes. Could we not pray that way? Well…NO.

While we did not expect the Rabbi or the Imam or any non-Christian to pray in the name of Jesus, being told that we as Christians could not do so was completely a different story. Thankfully, when push came to shove, the agreement was reached that each person would pray according to their faith traditions while respecting the manner of prayer of others in the room. Whew!

praying hands TDG

As a Christian, have you ever wondered why you pray “in Jesus’ name”?

Often, we use phrases in a religious, ritualistic manner without understanding why we do what we do. This is certainly true of praying in the name of Christ. So why do we do it? As believers, the Scriptures serves as our go-to source for biblical insight and faith. So what exactly does the Bible say about praying “in Jesus’ name”?

The Devotional Guy_sharing Gospel

Let us take a look at a few verses:

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He follows that up in verse 13 saying, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” And finally, in John 16:23-24, Jesus shares, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul points out that through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we have “boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12). The writer of Hebrews states, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heaves, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Why Do I Pray

These verses reveal the biblical foundation for praying ‘in Jesus’ name’.

As broken and fallen people, we can only access God through faith in Christ because Jesus died in our place and took our sin upon Himself, bearing the penalty and paying the debt for our sins. Through the atoning work of  Jesus we gain access to God. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life through whom we can connect to the Lord. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted into the Kingdom and become children of God. Jesus has made all things new and brought life where once there was only death.

John 1624

Jesus is our advocate. In anticipation of his death on the Cross, Jesus instructed his disciples to pray to God, the Father, in His name. Our faith in Christ opens the door to a personal relationship with God. It is our relationship with Jesus that gives us the privilege of not only entering into God’s presence through prayer, but the assurance of our prayers being heard. He makes it possible for us to have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father.

This then, is why we, as Christians should pray. “In Jesus’ Name”.

 

May the Lord fill your life with abundant blessings.

Amen.

RB 

Prayer Is Action

Genesis 4:26
And then Seth had a son whom he named Enosh.
That’s when men and women began praying and worshiping in the name of GOD.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ge 4:26). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Recently, in the light of events happening in our city and throughout the world, I’ve had several people ask “Aside from praying, what can we do?” In various social media platforms and on different media channels, I’ve heard people clamoring that “praying is not enough” and that we need to “take action” or “do something” instead of just praying about it.

For centuries, people have prayed. There is something instinctive about prayer. We know that we need to do it and that we can do it. We may not know how. Like Jesus’ disciples, we need the Lord to teach us to pray.

Prayer is action.

When we pray, we are doing something. And not just something simple, but something significant. Prayer has power. Throughout centuries, men and women have been praying to God and witnessing the results of those prayers. But we don’t pray just to get results. We pray to communicate and build relationship with God. God rewards faithfulness. The more faithful we are in our prayer life, the more readily God responds when we call on His name. Are you not more likely to heed the call of a friend than a stranger?

God is faithful even when we are not. Even though we may not practice prayer regularly like we should or constantly like Scripture instructs we should, God hears our calls and cries in our moments of desperation and frustration. Why? Because God is good and God wants to help us. God is for us, not against us.

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Prayer works.

Scripture demonstrates often how people cry out to God and He responds. When we pray, we are doing something. We are reaching out to the all-powerful, all-mighty Creator of Everything, who is able to do all things, and for whom nothing is impossible. If God can’t solve it, it can’t be solved. And we know there is no mountain too high for God to climb, no problem to great for Him to resolve.

Prayer flourishes through commitment.

But prayer isn’t just something we should reserve for times of trouble, but rather a way of life we must strive to grow in daily. If want to see powerful results from our prayers, than we must be willing to put in the time to become powerful prayer warriors. Warriors aren’t formed after a few sit-ups or a couple of push-ups. Great weapons aren’t forged by a few bangs on a piece of metal or by a few moments in the fire. Rarely do we know how to fully use a tool properly without practice.

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

No matter how long we have exercised prayer,  we continue to grow in it daily. It takes practice. Like the disciples, who had grown up living in a culture that prayed, God can teach us more about prayer. As we communicate and fellowship with Him–something we do through prayer–the Lord instructs us in His ways and teaches us how to do things.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray like they heard him pray, he gave them this model found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 2-4:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Lk 11:2–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Yes, there are other physical things we must do to right the wrongs we see and ease the suffering we witness. Prayer is a launching point and the sustaining bread that fuels us as we seek to impact the world for God’s glory. Prayer is action.