This is the introduction to a series on prayer. Lord willing, I’ll be teaching about 10 weeks of Sunday school at Berean Baptist Church beginning March 20. I have decided to take on the topic of prayer.
Clearly, there are thousands of facets of prayer that could be investigated, researched and discussed. My focus is not to be exhaustive, but instead, my goal is to be decently thorough at that which I do attempt to expound upon.
Ultimately, I hope to answer a lot of questions about prayer, expose some false beliefs that many of us may have, and help you to improve your prayer life, by helping you to understand how to pray biblically. The goal, of course, is always to glorify God. But obviously, praying prayers that are answered is a great joy in a Christian’s life. Learning how to pray prayers that God will answer (in the conventional sense…technically a NO is an answer) will take time and practice and study and we will never be fully perfect at it in this life.
So how is your prayer life? Think for a moment. Do you pray daily, weekly or multiple times daily? Do you pray as long as you wish you did, that is, if you pray for 10 minutes is there a part of you that thinks you should do 15 minutes?
How do you pray? Do you kneel? Only sometimes or all the time? Do you always say “In Jesus Name?” What if you fall asleep while praying… do you feel guilty? If Jesus said not to pray publicly but to go into your closet to pray…then is all public prayer wrong?
Those are some things to think about. Email me your questions you may have about prayer, and I’ll try to find biblical answers for them.
So to start…let’s discuss why we, as Christians, should pray at all. I assume you already know that we should “pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and that Luke 18:1 ESV [you] ought always to pray and not lose heart.
The simple fact alone that prayer is commanded by God through Christ and the apostle Paul ought to be enough to compel you to pray.
Just counting the times that the gospels depict Jesus going away to pray ought to be enough of an example. Of all the things that were written about Him, the sheer volume of times He is recorded as praying should move you to your knees. (Matthew 14:23, Matthew 26:36, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28, for a few examples).
But sometimes we sinners need more motivation than just pleasing God through obedience. We want to know what’s in it for us? What you need to understand is that not only is there a command by God to pray, an example by Christ and the apostles to pray without ceasing, and the potential for God to provide for us what we request of Him through prayer, but we ought to pray simply because we can. For, you see, it is a great privilege to be able to pray.
Let me explain it this way. There are approximately 7 billion people walking the earth today. A conservative estimate would say that religions such as atheism whereby prayer is meaningless are still generally scarce. So let’s say that only 6 billion people in the world subscribe to some sort of religion, and let’s assume that all of these people believe in “prayer.”
Every major (and minor) religion that I can think of has prayer. Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and AA members all pray. There are Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Baptists…etc, all pray-ers.
Muslims pray 5 times a day in a certain position facing Mecca. Many people pray all day long, to the God of their own understanding.
He listens to none of them. Did you catch that? None. God does not have any concern for the prayer of those who are not “His own.”
Proverbs 28:9 ESV If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Consider this. Not only does God not listen to the prayers of the lost…but He finds their prayers to be an abomination!
Read the contrast: Psalms 4:1,3 ESV Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
Notice the statement is clear that he has set apart the godly for himself! He hears when His people call. That is a sharp contrast to considering someone’s prayers an abomination, indeed!
Even more revealing is the concept that the Lord must “be gracious” to hear our prayers. It is an act of divine grace that He would allow you access to the throne room to make your requests known to Him…nay to be able to approach Him at all, even to praise Him!
Also, prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer are not effective because of the words used. Rather, it is the object to which we make our prayers known that has the power. Consider this beautifully poetic and richly biblical prayer:
DEAR JESUS, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.
How wonderful a thought! How many times I’ve uttered similar prayers, but never with such beautiful language. Well, here’s the sad news. This was the daily prayer uttered by a well known person, Mother Teresa. This blog isn’t about Catholicism, but any good Catholic will tell you that Catholic dogma denies justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. I’ve found BereanBeacon.org to be a good resource for understanding the actual documentable differences between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity.
But the real sad news is that Mother Teresa, despite pious living, religious devotion, and a life of serving and loving others, (by her own writings and obvious affections) did not believe in Christ alone for salvation. Her dedication to Roman Catholicism and compromise with non-Christian idols exposes her as a wonderful person by human standards who falls short of God’s standard. So her prayer is not heard, nor answered. If you take offense to this, please research what Catholicism really is. Your eternity depends upon it. Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and pharisees in order to see the kingdom of Heaven…and that includes the scribes and pharisees of our day, too.
Mat 5:20,48 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Back to Christian prayer, The Lord hears your prayers and responds by an act of grace and mercy and based on your status with Him, which is based solely on Christ’s righteousness or your unrighteousness. No magic words, no special formula.
Finally, consider John 4:22-24 ESV You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
In order to worship God, we must do so in spirit and in truth. Those around us who do not know Christ are not praying to the same God…no matter how many times they say they are. They are praying to a false god…a god who cannot save. Oh these false gods may seem to answer prayer, but they are not sovereign. There is only One who is sovereign!
But if anyone still tends to argue we can supply more evidence, but the nail in the coffin is John 14:6, Jesus said unto him, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me.” For if no one can come to the Father but through Him, to whom are all the nonbelievers praying to? It cannot be the Father. It clearly isn’t Christ. So people everywhere, with sincerity, with real devotion to what they believe and a true faith in their prayers, are offering up prayers to nothing…or worse yet, Satan, in an effort to control their destinies. Even those prayers where men and women pray for god’s will to be done…if they are not praying to the One True God…are they really praying for His will? Of course not, they are deceiving themselves with false humility – willing only to submit to the will of a god they can manufacture in their minds.
So what makes you so special? Or maybe you are reading this as a nonbeliever and thinking, what makes Michael Coughlin so special?
Nothing. Nothing at all about me, that is. But the fact that God has chosen to resurrect my sin-ridden, dead in trespasses life makes me special. Not because of anything in me, but because of Christ in me. And for that reason, I have access to God. So dear Christian, do not take for granted the fact that you have undeserved access to the throne of Heaven. Do not use your grace as a license to live the way you like. Submit to God in prayer and make confession and supplication to Him … not just daily, but always!
So you have been given a great honor and privilege. The God of the universe, who created you, who has the power to destroy you, and who came to save you actually wants to hear from you. This is a stark contrast from those whom He will not even hear! So come to Him. Bring him your heartache, your pain. Bring your praise and your joy and thanksgiving. Confess your sin and beg him to meet your every need! He is able and, frankly, is waiting (in a sense) for you to come to Him!
James 4:2-3,8 ESV You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.