The Pattern for a Prayer Life

The Pattern for a Prayer Life
By Andy Burns

What is your opinion of prayer?  Not your public opinion, the answer that we are to give during Bible class or to our fellow brethren.  The opinion I am speaking of is the one that you have when you are in deep prayer to God over an issue that causes great anxiety and consternation. How do your actions project your opinion of prayer then?

While crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain’s request he spoke on “Answered Prayer.” An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, “What did you think of Dr. Meyer’s sermon?” He answered, “I didn’t believe a word of it.” That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear “what the babbler had to say.” 
Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.” “Your father? Surely your father can’t be still alive!” “Praise God,” she replied, “He is very much alive.” “What do you mean?” pressed the agnostic. She explained, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!” The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ. (Our Daily Bread, www.sermonillustrations.com)

Often it is helpful for us to operate in our prayer lives based upon a pattern or a guide.  The Holy Spirit provides five passages that lead us to a clear understanding of a pattern for effective and powerful prayer.  First, Jesus begins this practice of prayer as he teaches his followers the overall attitude and mindset of prayer (Matt. 6:5f).  This pattern begins with adoration to God as Father and continues with a community of aid with the audience of Heaven. As we begin our prayers by viewing and interpreting our Heavenly Father with adoration and humility, our prayers will no doubt begin both with confidence and a relationship.
Second, the Holy Spirit guides James in giving us just such a pattern for our prayers.  James shares that when we need wisdom and Heavenly advice, we should ask God for such wisdom (Jms 1:5-8).  Our prayers must (the word the Holy Spirit uses) begin and continue without doubting (a negative way of saying “be faithful” {Robertson Word Pictures}).  This lack of doubting involves a growing belief in God’s presence/ability and a constant trust in his power to care for our needs. Do you trust God to care for your daily and challenging needs?  Do you believe that God will give you an orange when you need it…even from unlikely sources?  We must realize that we are not talking to the wall – but to the All-Knowing God of creation who loves us eternally.
Third, Luke details that we should ask God for aid with patience and consistency (Luke 18:1f).  This parable begins by the Holy Spirit telling his readers “that they should always pray and not give up.”  This word for “not give up” means to be weak or to fail.  God is telling us how to pray patiently with strength and endurance.  Luke tells of a woman who submits a need to an “unjust judge” that neither cares for men nor loves God.  This woman continues to plead her case (vs 3) to this unjust judge.  Finally, because she continued to bother him, he gave in to her request.  The Spirit’s teaching is that God will come to our aid because we are His beloved, blood-bought children.  He is always listening and will therefore consistently come to our aid; but we must be patience.  Aid will come according to God’s Will.
Fourth, Paul shares another pattern of prayer that deals with peace and thanks (Phil. 4:6,7). He begins this teaching by telling what not to do as it relates to prayer.  “Do not be anxious about anything…”  The Spirit begins with a prohibition toward anxiety and a strong inclusion of prayer and requests.  We are called to pray with peace.  We should take more time thinking about God’s care, than the challenges before us.  We are encouraged to pray with prayer & petition to God.  This prayer involves both worship & request to God.  We are persuaded to pray with pleasure.  Our prayers need to include thanks and praise to God.  This thanks to God is not a one-time-action; it is active and constant.  We are told to pray to God with presentation.  We are encouraged to gladly and freely give our needs to God.  This giving will provide prosperity and quietness that excels our comprehension.
Fifth, returning to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, we find that prayer is to be done with sincerity before God.  Jesus first teaches that prayer has exclusions.  We are not to pray with a fake heart (Matt 21:22; Psa 5:2) or with empty words (Eccl 5:2).   Our prayer pattern should be with a genuine heart seeking God’s guidance.  Prayer is also to be expected.  God expects us to see our need for prayer (Dan 6:10).  In addition, prayer is to be exclusive.  This conversation with God is an intimate worship with Him from each individual, even when in public.  He teaches that it is not for public praise; it is not for eloquence; not is it for preaching or teaching. Instead, prayer is an understanding of our needs, God’s power and a surrendered heart.  Finally, prayer is to be a genuine exchange between God and His children.  God does not desire us to perform before an audience for their pleasure.  Prayer is an opening of the heart to the designer of the heart for known and unknown needs. Prayer is not to inform God of a need; prayer is to inquire that God nurture our needs.
In conclusion, this pattern of prayer instructs us that prayer is not a time of “shooting the breeze, talking about the weather or sharing odd thoughts.”  Prayer is a process of 1) adoration of God, 2) patience within our spirit, 3) belief in God’s power and perfect will, 4) recognition of peace and appreciation and 5) a sincere relationship.  Does this describe your prayer life before God?  Are you too casual with God in your prayer life?  What type of pattern describes your prayer life today?  Let God hear your heart and care for your needs today.
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The Place of a Prayer Life

The Place of a Prayer Life
 By Andrew Burns
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”
Is there any grass on your path?  Jesus has many paths that we worn to the dirt daily (Luke 6:12).  Imagine praying all night.  Jesus did.  In this set of articles, we want to consider five areas of prayer: the place, the priority, the pattern, the problems and the promises of prayer.
In this first article, we want to consider the place of prayer. Where is prayer in your life in terms of priority?  When you have a problem, challenge, joy or dilemma, who do you turn to first, second or third?  Does the Lord come in second, or maybe fourth?  With Jesus, the Father was number one easily.  Where is He with you?
The Place of Prayer – A Priority
            In order for prayer to be important in my life it must first be a priority. As Luke states, Jesus prayed often and many times all night.  Especially we see this on the eve before He chooses His apostles; those men He would mentor and tutor to do His great commission.  He directly addressed the Father about this decision so that the Father could guide Jesus in His thinking.  Now imagine, if Jesus (God on earth, John 1:14) needed the Father’s guidance toward a major decision, surely we can vividly see our need.
            If find that when prayer is a priority, my life is consciously full of joy and serenity.  Luke states a story in chapter eighteen about a woman who prays to a man who has no regard for people or for God.  The story begins by Jesus stating, “…that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)  Jesus tells this parable so that we would pray to God instead of becoming distraught and weary from our challenges.  Prayer must be a priority.
            The Psalmist succinctly says that God will save me when I call out to Him in prayer (Psalm 55:16).  Here is a promise from God that must keep us courageous and full of praise to Him that He listens, cares and will attend to our needs. The Psalmist also states that he will “…cry to God all day long.” (Psalm 86:3-6)  This psalmist not only shares his needs, but also his whole soul to God in prayer.   He states that God is good, ready to forgive and ready to give mercy toward the prayer.  At the end of the prayer, he states with confidence that he calls upon God because God will answer.
            From the New Testament writers, prayer is not just a part of our spiritual armor from God (Eph. 6:18), but also an assumed priority in Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 6:5).  The Bible clearly teaches how important prayer is for the Christian in decision making, in daily delights of the heart, in dark moments of great challenge and in dire straits with dark forces of evil (Eph. 6:11,12; 2 Cor. 10:4-6).  Prayer is needed and a necessity for each of these and many more occasions.  John Bunyun stated, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  May we see God in the morning and remain with Him for the duration for day.
The Place of Prayer – A Prerequisite
            Oftentimes, when we come to and are overcome by challenges in life, we too often think of parents, best friends or in-laws to call and confer with concerning proper directions.  While conferring with these groups is not at all bad or ill-advised, we must recognize as God’s people that God desires to be consulted first and foremost.  We must have His perfect Sovereign counsel before we explore any options.
            When the early church dealt with a serious issue with Peter and John they immediately consulted with God in prayer about which direction to take.  They could have been afraid or angry.  Instead, they directed their energy immediately in prayer to God (Acts 4:23f).  In fact, their prayer was not for safety or revenge, their prayer was for courage to continue God’s commission to them of preaching Jesus’ Name to the Jews.  Prayer for the early church was a prerequisite before any other option was even considered.
            On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, denial and death prayer was a major factor from the very beginning.  He prayed before, during His agony preceding His arrest.  He tells Peter that He has prayed for him that Satan will not prevail in this spiritual battle (Luke 22:32).  When He Himself went to pray and His disciples followed Him, He pleaded with them to pray that they would be victorious during the night of great spiritual challenge (Luke 22:40).  Then, He goes to battle Satan in prayer with the Father by His side (Luke 22:41, 44).  Prayer, then, was not a part of a religious ritual to Jesus that would count Him as a faithful follower of God.  Prayer was a powerful, integral instrument of strength and victory that enabled Jesus to be focused on the goal of man’s salvation.  Without prayer it is possible that Jesus’ human side becomes stronger than the spiritual side.  With prayer Jesus remains inseparably locked to God’s purpose and plan to redeem man to God.  To Jesus, prayer was a prerequisite.
The Place of Prayer – A Practice
            Finally, for prayer to be a successful priority and prerequisite, it must daily be practiced by Jesus’ followers.  We may think highly of prayer and believe in its holy place in terms of Christian actions; but unless it is practiced daily (1 Thess. 5:17) it cannot be helpful to the Christian.  Prayer is much like a hammer to a builder.  The hammer has great potential and ability.  However, if we fail to pick it up with the nail, properly swing it and apply its abilities to the work it is of no use to our needs.  As we build our spiritual house of God (Eph. 2:19-22) prayer must be a critical part and have its crucial place in this house; or the house will come crashing down around us (Matt. 7:24, 25).  God teaches us to:
1.      Pray faithfully at all times.  Rom 12:12
2.      Pray constantly about all things.  1 Thess 5:17
3.      Trust Him and pour our needs out to Him – at all times.  Psalm 62:8
4.      To the early church, prayer was essential to their daily success.  Acts 12:5
E.M. Bounds stated, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use–men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.”  Prayer must be practiced daily for its potential to be realized.  On a scale of 1 – 10, what is the condition of your prayer life?