WHAT IS PRAYER? 2
Prayer is regular communication between a child of God and his/her loving, trust-worthy, powerful heavenly Father.
Prayer is not just coming to God with a shopping list every time, or only coming to Him in time of trouble. That would be trying to use God unwisely; and that mind-set is unfair to our loving Father God. Imagine having a child who only talks to you when he has a need or when he is hurting! That is most unnatural and only happens if the child is afraid of the father; for instance, if the father is unloving and bullies the child or the child sees him bullying his mother.
Our God is not like that at all! He is not a great big unseen bully waiting up there to descend on us in anger when we sin! The Bible says He is the embodiment of love and seeks to have a close, loving relationship with us. He is patiently waiting for us to invite Him into our hearts so that He can share some wonderful secrets with us so that we can be part of His plans and purposes on earth by praying those plans and purposes into reality. That is the real reason God created us and made us His representatives on earth! Hear these astounding words from Him –
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;… For I know him,…
Thus saith the LORD the maker thereof, the LORD that formed it, to establish it; the LORD is his name; 3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Amazing, isn’t it? But that is our God – mighty and lofty, yet He allows Himself to be vulnerable to us and He lays Himself wide open to us to come and commune with Him. Now, if the President or Prime Minister of our nation allows us that privilege… Wow! I have no doubt that we would make sure we never depart from his side for a moment for any reason at all! This is the response God expects of us as His children re our relationship with Him; more especially since this God is the King of all kings and rulers and He is also our Father, and therefore able to do much more for us and with us than any earthly ruler.
Truth be told, the main challenge we have with God is that we cannot see Him, even though we have all the evidence around us that He does exist and is more real than all the mostly insincere people we can see around us!
Beloved, let us work out this thorny issue of relating to an unseen God together… Now, most of us have never seen President Donald Trump or Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but we do know they exist, right? And for sure their policies affect us in many ways, especially affecting the economy of our countries one way or the other, right? But you say, “Oh, I’ve seen their pictures, both still and in motion, but I have not seen any image of God!” Really? Are you sure about that, Beloved? Not so at all; for we do see the image of God in Christ His Son from the historical accounts of His life in the Bible written by those who saw Him physically. Some historical extra-Biblical accounts were also written by other Jews, notably by Flavius Josephus. But let’s hear what the Bible says…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. ‘
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
In the Biblical accounts of the Lord’s earthly ministry, we clearly see the nature of God in His loving ways, His wisdom, His sacrificial life, His immense power over nature, sickness, demons and even death. We see God’s loving ways in His Son’s relationship with man – He called those who do the will of God His brothers and sisters! (Matt.12:48-50). Look at the tender and wise way He handled the case of the woman caught in adultery! (Jn.8:3-11) Look at the way He honoured Mary Magdalene by appearing to her first after His resurrection! (Jn.20:10-18) Look at the way He wept when He saw Mary weeping at her brother Lazarus’ grave! (Jn.11:33-35). And see the way He handed over His beloved Mother to Apostle John even in His agony on the Cross! (Jn.19:26,27) He did not want her and His siblings to miss the gift of salvation as none of His family members were ever one of His followers up to that point.
No one has seen God [His essence, His divine nature] at any time; the [One and] only begotten God [that is, the unique Son] who is in the intimate presence of the Father, He has explained Him [and interpreted and revealed the awesome wonder of the Father]. ‘
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
These scriptures tell us that the Lord Jesus fully represented God on earth and revealed God to us.
God has also revealed Himself to us in the lives of great men and women of faith over the centuries and millenniums, starting with Enoch who loved God so much and spent so much time with Him that he walked off with Him to heaven one day and was never seen again on earth! What about Moses, Joseph, Daniel and all the men who pleased God as recorded in Scripture? We can clearly see God’s wisdom and governmental skills in these three.
God also reveals Himself to us through the lives and service of the great Saints of the Church through the ages; those who lived selfless, sacrificial lives of service to God and to humanity. Space does not allow us to go down the centuries to mention all their names, but I can’t help mentioning Dr Ida Scudder, an American Missionary’s teenage child, who left everything to move to India to train as a doctor so she could help her doctor father and also train women doctors after watching women in labour die because tradition did not allow male doctors to attend to them! None of these great Christians could ever have been such mirrors of God’s heart without them spending an immense amount of time in His Presence and thereby learned His Ways.
The Lord Jesus also comes to reveal Himself to men and women even now, personally, in dreams and visions; and He has been known to appear to many, physically, when in deep trouble; or to personally convert chronic unbelievers, especially Muslims, just as He did with Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus. See Acts 9:3-6.
My grand-daughter astounded me one day when she was about seven years old, by telling me a dream she had of several demons (she called them Tom and Jerry!) chasing her and her family all over the place. She said the Lord Jesus then appeared on the scene, clapped His hands and the demons fell down and died! The astounding part of it all was that when I asked her “How did you know it was Jesus?” She looked at me in surprise and said “Of course, I know it was Him! I used to see Him sometimes….” and she proceeded to tell me how she had seen Him in different forms, sometimes with white skin and sometimes brown skin, she said… There you have it out of the mouth of a babe! Since God is not a partial Father, I am sure Jesus has visited you too at different times, in various ways, even though you may not perceive it. For sure He has graced me with those visitations many times, blessed be His Holy Name!
Let’s just stop and pray over this right now –
Lord Jesus, please reveal Yourself to me more than ever from this day on, and show me The Father. Teach me to love and trust Him the way You do. Visit me too, I ask, for the sake of Your great Name! Amen.
Now that we have established the premise that our God is a loving Father Whose Presence we can perceive even though we cannot see Him; and that we can know and come to love as others have done in the past and present; how then do we commune with Him continuously in prayer? Is it even possible to commune with God continuously, given the millions of people craving His attention every second? Oh, yes, it is possible, Beloved! We don’t need to worry HOW He does it, we only need to seek to commune with Him continuously and we shall have what we ask because it is His pleasure for us to be in His Presence constantly so He can guide and guard us.
Hear what the Psalmists wrote of their continuous commune with God –
Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
Psa.139:18b, a Psalm of David
… when I awake, I am still with thee.
Awesome! How then do we too achieve that feat?
Steps to Continuous Commune with God
- Knowing God – The first step is to seek earnestly to KNOW GOD, not just KNOW ABOUT HIM which is what Theology seeks to teach us. What is the difference? Well, back to world leaders – we know about them from what we see on TV or read in the news, but only their spouses, families and close friends really know them. They know their likes and dislikes, their favourite colour, favourite food, how they react to issues and such intimate details which can only be known because they have spent a vast amount of quality-time with these leaders. Beloved, it is virtually impossible to have any meaningful deep communion with someone we do not really know – that is basic to our human nature. So, we need to know God and His ways by reading about Him in Scripture and spending time with Him in prayer, especially in the night hours for He promised that whoever seeks Him early will find Him.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. ‘
Phil. 3:10-12 NIV
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Learning to know God to be able to commune with Him in the way the Lord Jesus did, involves sacrifice, as Paul wrote in the above Scripture; but it is worth it, Beloved, for the Bible says God will love us for it! We will have to make time from our pleasurable earthly pursuits (like watching TV!) in fulfilling our desire to know God through Bible study. However, this is for our own good, so that we too may be candidates of heaven; because the more we know God through His Word with the help of His Holy Spirit, the more we shall become partakers of His Holiness. And it is impossible to know God by reading His Word in bits and pieces; we need to read the whole Bible from cover to cover to get the full divine message; for the Scriptures give us the full picture of God’s dealing with man through the ages. And God has not changed since then.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
- Loving God – It is virtually impossible to know God and not love Him! He is the embodiment of TRUE, SACRIFICIAL, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This is called Agape Love. Hear this –
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love…. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.
Wow! What a glorious God! What a wonderful Father! This is the kind of lavish love which our human hearts crave for and we cannot enjoy that love in full without reciprocating and loving God back! However, loving and trusting God must be constant, because we must never lose sight of the fact that He is also a just Judge. We cannot love Him now but withdraw our love when we see this other side of Him. Our Father God is the Judge of the universe and is responsible for keeping law and order in His creation. Would we still love Him when He punishes us? Oh, yes we must, Beloved, for He is only revealing Himself truly as our Father! Hear this –
…My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Underline added)
There you have it in His Own Words – He chastens us so as to build us up as children He can be proud of, responsible children with good character like the Lord Jesus. Which responsible earthly father does not train his children? Paul told us in the Book of Romans that if we accept God’s chastisement as a necessary part of His dealings with us, the Holy Spirit is there, ready to help us to love God even more!
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
- Walking in His ways and being a pleasure unto God – Beloved, it is a fallacy to believe that once we are God’s children and can quote Scriptures and speak in tongues, we can then walk disorderly and God is mandated to hear and do when we pray. No, it does not work that way. We must seek to be in His good books by allowing the Holy Spirit to change our ways from that of the world to that of Christ. That is the main work the Holy Spirit is given to do in us but we must yield to Him. Their Godly character is the singular thing that set apart men like Abraham, Moses, Daniel and caused them to be great men of prayer – they only sought to please God in all they did.
God Himself called Abraham His friend; He said David was a man after His heart; it was said of Daniel that the spirit of God dwelt in him; God called Moses His servant and fought his battles even against his own siblings!
Now, let us walk through the Scriptures and learn the rudiments of how to pray and get answers. We shall go deeper in our further studies on prayer –
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
All these Scriptures combine to tell us that –
- GOD WILL NOT DO ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF HIS REVEALED WILL.
- God’s will is revealed in His Word and in the Lord Jesus who is also called The Word of God in Jn.1:1. Hence, it is imperative to abide in Christ and be familiar with the Word of God which is also known as God’s Will in Heb.9:16 (NIV). The will of God may also be revealed to us in other ways – dreams, visions, prophecy and so on but it must be supported by the Scriptures and never violate the written Word of God.
- Any child of God whose desire is to please God, will first submit to the Holy Spirit of God for help, to be transformed into a child who will always seek the perfect will of God for his/her life. This way, we shall always first PROVE the will of God over any matter before we present it to God in prayer so that we will not ever ask anything against His will. That way, we will get our prayers answered EVERY TIME! Note here quickly that we shall get GOD’S WILL over the matter and it may be different from exactly what we asked for but we shall surely be delighted with the result and be quite grateful for it!
Study the intercession of Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen.18:23-32 to learn how His friend related to Him with all due reverence as the Lord Jesus later did when He interceded for the Church in Jn. Ch 17. Abraham likely knew that it was God’s will to destroy those wicked cities and that there were not up to ten righteous people in them so he stopped at ten! His real intention was to save his nephew Lot and his family of four though he interceded for all the people there. God sent Angels to rescue Lot, his wife and two daughters and He destroyed the cities!
- Faith in God – All the above three steps lead us to the most important aspect of prayer – FAITH IN GOD AS A MERCIFUL, GRACIOUS, POWERFUL, FAITHFUL, ABLE AND WILLING PRAYER-ANSWERING GOD.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
SHALL WE PRAY THEN?
- Let’s first spend time worshipping Him for all these wonderful things we have learnt about Him in this study. He is an awesome loving Father God and has made available for us all the provisions needed for us to come to Him in prayer about ALL that concerns us and ours as well as His creation.
- Let us thank and praise Him for all He has done for us in our personal lives and in our family, enumerating them one by one. Note in Jn.11:41-43 that Jesus first thanked and praised the Father for His past favours before commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave.
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it , that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. ‘
- Let us ask Him, as grateful children, if He has anything we can do for Him in His world today, perchance we too might pay Him back in a small measure. This is one of the secrets of continuous prayer – God will show us things in our lives and in the world which we can pray about from time to time if we are sensitive to His Spirit. He will show us something either physically or in our spirit and we will sometimes think our minds are just wandering… For instance, it used to happen to me that as I drive past in the car, He would show me someone walking past and I would notice that they are sad or worried. I have learnt to pray for those ones, asking God to tough them where they need help. This is where praying in tongues comes in handy. We just need to be sensitive to His Spirit.
- Let us now take our concerns to Him, talking to Him with due reverence like Abraham did, like the Lord Jesus did, remembering always that He IS the King and Judge of the universe, though our Father. Let us study the prayer of the Lord Jesus in Jn.17:1-26 as our example.
Beloved, welcome into the adventure of living a life which is always connected to the Living God, our power-source!
7 June 2012