Foundation in Prayer
Prayer is as old as man, as universal as religion, and as instinctive as breathing. Genesis 4:26b “...At that time people began to call upon the Name of the Lord.”
It is practiced in some form by all people of all faiths. Prayer springs from the heart with a need - a need greater than a the average daily needs of life. A need to encounter the spiritual and supernatural side of life. Prayer is a person’s acknowledgement of a being higher than himself.
Most people try to pray, yet so few know how to connect with God in and through prayer. There appears to be two kinds of prayer: the prayer that does not reach God and the prayer that does reach God. Jesus illustrates this is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican...
Luke 18:9-14 “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. ’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner! ’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Both men went to the same place, at the same time, for the same purpose - to pray.
The Pharisee prayed in his religious pries, expecting God to answer because he thought himself worthy. He informed God of his own goodness, that he was better than others. He boasted of his good works. He said, “I fast, I pay...” This is the kind of prayer that does not reach God. It is self-righteous prayer.
The Publican and his prayer ... He came to God in great humility, conscious of his unworthiness, confessing himself a sinner, and begging for mercy. This is the kind of prayer that does reach God.This is righteous prayer.
It is a rare privilege to pray: because it brings you into close fellowship with God, admitting your need for Him and your utter dependence upon Him.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”
Prayer is asking and receiving; it is talking with God. It is making your request known to Him in faith. The above Scripture is so simple on the surface, that we are in danger of failing to recognize its immensity. Our Lord instructs the believer to ask, seek, and knock; because these three words cover the whole spectrum of prayer.
Prayer is asking and receiving. When we know the will of God regarding a need, whether it be material or spiritual, you can ask and receive. This is prayer according to the revealed will of God.
1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
Prayer is seeking and finding. When we do not know the will of God regarding a need, whether it be material or spiritual, then you are to seek His will in prayer concerning this need until you discover His will. This is prayer for knowledge of the unrevealed will of God in a specific need.
Colossians 3:1 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Prayer is knocking and opening. When you know the will of God, and yet you find a closed door, you are to knock, and keep on knocking until God opens the door. This is tenacious prayer - prayer for mountain-moving faith. Knocking prayer perseveres until the impossible becomes the possible. This is miracle-working prayer.
Matthew 17:14-21 “And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Everything is possible when you ask, seek, and knock.
Luke 18:1 “And he told them a parable to the effect that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.”
Because Jesus says, “at all times (you) ought to pray...” Prayer is imperative. You are commanded to pray...
Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Because prayer is the only way to receive things you need from the hand of God James 4:2 “You do not have because you do not ask.”
Because there is joy in prayer John 16:24 “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Because prayer will help you when you are in trouble Psalm 34:6 “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” Because prayer will help you to know God’s wisdom for your life and situation
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Because prayer helps you to see things from God’s perspective Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Because it is a sin not to pray
1 Samuel 12:23a “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.”
Because people can come to know the Lord when they pray in faith Romans 10: 13 “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Because Jesus, while here in the flesh, prayed often to the Father. Now if Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray, then we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
HOW TO PRAY:
Matthew 6:9-13 ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.”
Our Lord gave us this model prayer after one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
We are to pray to :Our Father who art in Heaven” because He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful. We are instructed to pray in the Name of Jesus (John 14:13-14), depending on the power and present elf the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27)
We are to pray for His will to be done in everything (James 4:5)
We are to pray for the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness (Matthew 25:31-46)
We are to pray for our daily necessities (Luke 11:3)
We are to pray for forgiveness and practice forgiving others (Matthew 18:21-22)
We are to pray for the leading of the Lord, and deliverance from evil (Luke 22:42)
We are to pray in faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
This was never meant to be a prayer that was repeated over and over again ... “as the pagans do”
WHERE TO PRAY:
Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
There was a remarkable change in the prayer life of the disciples after the resurrection of Jesus, and it is noted again after Pentecost. Before the death of Jesus, the disciples slept while Jesus prayed in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46). But after His death and resurrection:
They assembled in the upper room, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and they prayed. We should always pray when gathering together with other believers
Acts 1:13-14 “And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
They prayed as they went from house to house
Acts 2:42-47 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles ' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
They prayed when there was a major need - like Peter being in prison (Acts 12:5-19) They prayed while in prison
Acts 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Here we see Christians praying in the presence of unbelievers, but not to be heard by them. Never pray to please others present; pray only to please God.
The most important place to pray is any place where you can be alone with God
Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
We are instructed to pray in all places at all times
1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.”
It is a great joy to be able to talk with God, any time, any place, under any condition, and to know that He will hear and answer
HINDRANCES TO PRAYER:
1 Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
When prayers are not answered you should examine yourself in the light of God’s Word. If you find anything not pleasing to God, confess it, believing God for forgiveness that your prayers will be answered
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
An unharmonious relationship between husband and wife will hinder prayer (1 Peter 3:1-7)
Selfishness will hinder prayer
James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
An unforgiving spirit will hinder prayer
Matthew 5:22-24 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool! ’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Many believers go without answers to prayer because they have wronged others, or have been wronged and have failed to humble themselves and seek reconciliation.
Unbelief will hinder prayer
James 1:6-7 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Known sin in the heart will hinder prayer
Isaiah 59:1-2 “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
When you pray, go to God in all humility. Ask Him to reveal anything in your life what is not pleasing to Him. Then judge it; confess it; calling it by name and forsake it. Pray in all simplicity and earnestness, believing, and God will hear and answer.
DOES GOD ANSWER ALL PRAYERS?
The Bible is filled with answered prayers from Genesis to Revelation. You are commanded to pray, and God has promised to answer.
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
In John, chapter 15 we read the following:
John 15:1-2 ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
There are two requirements for answers to prayer. First, you are to abide in Him; to continue in Him. It means to remain in His perfect will at all costs.
Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Second, His words are to abide in you; they are to become a vital part of your daily life. You are to be filled with, and guided by, His Words.
Colossians 3:16-17 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Meet these two requirements and see prayers answered.
The answer is sometimes immediate. Peter walked on water to go to Jesus, and as he began to sink, he prayed, “Lord, save me!” The answer was immediate (Matthew 14:22-31)
The answer is sometimes delayed. The delay is according to His will. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The resurrection of Lazarus is a good example of delayed answer to prayer. Lazarus was sick. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come and heal him. But Jesus delayed coming until Lazarus was dead and in the tomb for four days. Then He came and raised Lazarus from the dead. The answer was delayed - but not denied (John 11:1-44)
The answer is sometimes “no.” When God answers with a “no,” He always accompanies the answer with peace and grace
Philippians 4:6-7 “... do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The answer is sometimes different from what you expected. You pray for perseverance and God sends tribulation - because “tribulation brings about perseverance” (Romans 5:3). God answers all your prayers - not according to your wishes, but according to His perfect will.