March 1, 2014

Saying prayers vs. praying

Many Christians confess that they know how to say prayers, but they don’t know how to pray.

I don’t want this to be true in my life. I’ve finished the devotional series on “No idols” and today begin a new one called, “Building a More Effective Prayer Life” by Selwyn Hughes.

Other studies have convinced me that the measure of maturity is not lofty prayers, full ministry, pious talk, or any outward behavior. Instead, it is reliance upon Jesus. This reliance is about faith, but also about prayer. Prayer is my connection to God and all spiritual resources. Without prayer, I cannot know His specific will, much less enjoy His grace and power to do whatever He asks of me.

Prayer is also my spiritual battleground against the evil forces in this world. For that, I’m told to put on the whole armor of God because the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the schemes of the devil and his cohorts. The armor is my protection, the Word of God is my weapon, and the battle scene is prayer. For this I am to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . .” (Ephesians 6:18)

The Bible is replete with examples of prayer with the prayer life of Jesus. His instruction about prayer is particularly significant. For instance, He prayed often, withdrawing to desolate places to be alone with His Father. (Luke 5:16, 9:18).

He warned Christians “not to pray like the hypocrites who loved to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.” Such praying might earn recognition from others, but prayer in secret is far more apt to be rewarded by God. He also said that wordiness didn’t cut it. God is not impressed with our vocabulary but our sincerity. (Matthew 6:5-8)

The model prayer He gave to the disciples is often repeated at weddings, funerals, church services, and was once used in many school classrooms. However, the intent is to show us how to pray, not put words in our mouths. For instance, it reads, “Our Father in heaven” indicating who we pray to, our relationship with Him and where He is. All this can be expressed in many ways. When we read, “hallowed be your name,” we understand that praise plays an important part of prayer. His exact words are not so much to recite, but are truths that shape our thoughts as we pray.

This morning I quickly read through Jesus’ prayer in John 17. If placed beside the prayer model in Matthew 6, Jesus is following His own example of honoring God and asking that His will be done. He also prays for the disciples and their walk with Him, that they be protected and delivered.

The Bible describes many aspects of prayer, from what to say, when and where to pray, our posture in prayer, and even the emotions in our conversations with God. I’m excited about this devotional study and am looking forward to how God will use it toward building in me a more effective prayer life. I don’t want to just say prayers when I could be praying.

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