Spiritual Discipline of Prayer #1 (10-3-20)
1. Intro to Prayer
I have found that most people are very interested in improving their prayer life. My hope for us for the next two weeks is that you do not feel guilty because your prayer life is not where you want it but that you feel encouraged because you are discovering a great God who loves you and wants you to come to Him regularly in prayer.
If we are going to understand prayer, we must first understand who we are attempting to talk to: God! The God of the Bible is a triune God, which means three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who are one God! For eternity past, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have communicated with each other: That is prayer; it’s communication. We humans are created in God’s image to also communicate with God and have relationship with Him. This is prayer.
Because of our sinful rebellion, we have been separated from a holy God, and so God “the Son” took on flesh and lived the life we did not live without sin, and then He died the death we should die for our sin. He did this to ultimately conquer death and give us a gift we cannot obtain through our own works, which is salvation! In this, we can be restored and reconciled to have an eternal relationship with God.
This is important to understand because the way we communicate with God is by “God the Holy Spirit” coming to live within us. The Holy Spirit then enables and empowers us to pray to God. As each of us grows in Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit teaches us and works through us in activating and communicating to God regularly in prayer!
To clarify, let me say it this way: As Christians, our prayers are Trinitarian, meaning when we pray, our prayers are to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.
You may not really like prayer because you grew up in a religious tradition that taught you to have a formal interaction with God (hold this, say this, face this direction, pray at this time of day, etc.). That is a totally different team. Our team has a loving Father who has gone to the greatest lengths to make us His children. What this means is God hears all Christians’ prayers, no matter who they are: the elderly pastor who prays in an almost angelic chant using words of the ancients, as well as the surf rat who knows five words (epic, rad, gnarly, stoked, and awesome) and uses them all in every sentence.
Hear this: When we pray, we are not depending on our delivery, style, and perfectly executed monologue. We are dependent on the mercy, grace, and love of our heavenly Father, the perfect work of His Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, before we look at how to practice the spiritual discipline of prayer, let’s look at this:
2. How Not to Pray
Matthew 6:5-8 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. 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.”
First, prayer is not telling God something He doesn’t know. God knows! It is not uncommon that I will talk to people and ask them, “Have you talked to God about that?” And they will say, “No, no, no; I do not want to get God in on this one.” Umm—too late! You would be better off to talk to Him. He knows more about the who, what, when, where, and why than you do! You are not bothering Him. Prayer is inviting God to move in and through us in that situation or moment. As a father, I love it when my kids invite me to share in what they are feeling or going through. It is the same with our God; prayer is our linking up with Him to see that thing through in a way that honors Him and brings Him glory and us joy!
Back to verse 5, Jesus says, “Do not pray like religious or irreligious people do.” Irreligious people have no connection with God, and therefore they “heap up empty phrases.” Religious people like to put themselves in public to press their self-righteous ways onto other people. They like to use lots of fancy words and go on and on in an effort to be impressive to God and others. A religious prayer is proud and full of posturing. Gospel prayer is humble and authentic. Gospel prayer is respectful and not bossing God around. There is a reason why we do not pray like other religions and with other religions. It is because we have another God. Every other religion is worshipping counterfeit or little “g” gods. The Bible says that any other things posing to be god are really demons (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).
Here is the point: It is not enough to be spiritual or religious and to pray a lot. You need to know who God is. What we find when Jesus tells us how to pray is He begins by telling us who God is.
3. The Lord’s Prayer
In Matthew 6:9, Jesus says, “Pray then like this …” Don’t miss that. The Lord’s prayer is not Jesus saying, “Pray exactly this,” as if it were a mantra! Within this prayer are elements and understandings that help us understand God and our relationship to Him, and it also give us some balance in our interaction with Him.
These first two words are essential, before we go any further, when trying to understand prayer. First, “our”: It is not just about me; it is about our family—us, the family of God. Our faith is a communal thing; our growth in Christ is a communal thing. We are together!
Our who? OUR FATHER! Fourteen times in the Old Testament, God is referred to as “Father” in the context of His being the father over all of Israel—over all of Creation! In the four Gospels, Jesus speaks to, or about, God as Father 60 times. He is our Father. God is not impersonal; He is personal. He is not hurtful; He is loving. He is not far away; He is close. He is not distracted and busy; He is involved intimately in the moment-by-moment lives of His children.
Our Father in heaven!
Heaven does not mean He is far away. Answer this for me: What are you picturing when you pray? A God far away? That you have to shout to? Heaven, here, means that He is high and exalted! He is sovereign! It means He is the King over all things! How cool is that? There is no one or nothing that is not under His authority!
Now for some of you, this God-is-our-Father language is hard. It is hard in a very real way, because you do not know such a thing as a loving, present, caring, interested Father. This is because you never had one who was around; or when he was, he was distracted, mean, arrogant, or even abusive. Maybe he never cared to spend time with you, or he walked out on your mom, or he won’t return your phone calls. For those of you who relate, I want to encourage you with this: Do not judge God by your earthly father; judge your earthly father by your Heavenly Father. ThePsalms say, God is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 146, 68, 40,etc.). God is the truer and better father! Prayer is talking to your Father in heaven.
Hallowed be your name
Hallowed means high and lifted up. What I love about the Lord’s Prayer is how simple and yet how balanced it is! In the Lord’s Prayer, we see different forms of prayer or areas of prayer covered, four of which I feel are the primary areas of prayer that are good to address. I will cover two in this week’s study and two in next week’s study. The first is the area of praise!
Praise or adoration or exultation: The purest form of prayer because our hearts, restored to our great God, are going to be filled with worship and praise for who He is! Praise prayer is talking to God with total respect and honor. It’s not about us and what we get; it’s about God and how great He is. We don’t get in the way of true royalty and greatness. It is all about Him!
1 Chronicles 29:11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
This is the best way that we can begin to pray. It is not for us, even though it does help us put ourselves into a right place in relationship to God. This is the way we should come to Him each time we pray—humbly approaching His throne! We should be lost for words in the majesty of His presence! Recognize who He is and who we are in relation to Him. Almost all the writings in the Bible begin with some form of praise towards God. Understand and proclaim who He is and what He is doing.
Psalm 66:17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.
Another way we do this is by thanking Him!
Thanksgiving prayer: Express gratitude and thanks to God for what He has done and is doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
Psalm 7:17(NLT) I will thank the Lord because he is just …
Psalm 30:12 … Oh Lord my God I will give you thanks forever!
Psalm 95:2 (NLT) Let us come before him with thanksgiving
Acts 13:48(NLT) they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message
Philippians 4:6(NLT) Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!
For me, when I go to prayer, I love to picture God (my Father who loves me and spent everything to bring me home) in all His majesty—in all His glory! For me, what this does is it causes me to slow down and have the proper awe of who He is. I recognize who it is to whom I am speaking, while feeling totally, 100% invited into His presence to chat, share, and be led forward by His all-powerful grip on everything.
The second, part of a balanced prayer life is repentance! Before we get to the specifics of a repentant prayer, I want us to dig into Jesus’ words in verse 12:
Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Forgiveness is giving up your right to get even and it is forgiving the debt someone has created by hurting or betraying you. The good news, for those who have trusted their lives to Jesus, is He has paid our debt on the cross. It is essential that each one of us understands this: In Christ, you are forgiven!
Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us [transferred us] into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It says that in Christ, we have forgiveness of sins, and we are made new; we are alive in Christ! We have been changed, washed, cleansed, restored, and made holy—a new creation! We are no longer kept from a relationship with a holy God because of our spiritual debt. It has been paid for and is done.
Colossians 2:13-14(NIV) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Our certificate of debt, which brings death, He nailed to the cross. Your new identity in Christ means you are forgiven! So even though we are forgiven, the reality is we still sin, and we are sinned against! So, we sin and need to confess/repent (we’ll get to this in a moment), and when we are sinned against, we forgive others. This is why Jesus emphasizes here “as we forgive our debtors.”
Relational debt is when someone else hurts or betrays you.
Colossians 3:13(NIV) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Forgiveness needs to be something we are constantly doing. We need not be keepers of others’ sin! Freedom in Christ is horribly cheated if we become keepers of others’ sin! Let us forgive others as we have been forgiven!
So, what do we do when we sin after we have been forgiven by God? What Christians should do is repent! Practically, when we sin, we go to God in repentant prayer!
Repentant prayer includes three steps: confess, repent, then thank God for the fact that I am already forgiven. Let’s look at each of these!
Confession is from the root word meaning “to agree together with.” God understands and knows all our sin, but it is key that we fully confess and understand our sin before Him. Confession sets the heart up for true repentance. Confession is simply acknowledging I have sinned: “This was sin. You call it sin; I am calling it sin. I am saying out load to you, God, ‘I sinned!’”
One of the keys to repentant prayer is to sit in silence—to be still and quiet before God. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will reveal to us things we don’t think of—sin that we need to acknowledge.
Psalm 19:12-13(NLT) How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
Confession leads to repentance. So what is repentance exactly? It is commonly used in church circles, but do we really understand what it really is?
Confession is admittance—to agree together with God who knows already what really happened. Repentance is a new direction! It is surrendering your current wrong path to get on the right one.
Luke 15:17(NIV) “When he came to his senses …”
“Came to his senses,” meaning his senses started working again. He gathered himself again. The drunken stupor wore off! He stopped the mad parade and turned a different direction. Repentance starts when you come to your senses. This is not something you do to yourself; it happens to you. It is the hand of God and/or others initiating this.
Sin is an act of running from God. Repentance allows us to return to God’s open arms due to Christ’s substitutionary atonement of our sin.
Understanding Gospel Repentance
2 Corinthians 7:10(NIV) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
What is the motivation for our repentance? Two answers:
1. The sorrow of the consequences of the sin.
This is a mindset based not in being sorry for the sin and how it grieves God’s heart but for the fact that we got caught. True repentance will not happen in this, because without a remorse for what we did and not just that we got caught, we will do that very sin again the moment we think we can have it without getting caught. This is not truly taking a new path; it is just tossing the car in park for a few and waiting for the right opportunity to continue down the same path.
Repentance is a new direction.
2. The sorrow of the fact that we betrayed God and grieved His heart.
True repentance is based in leaving our sin behind because we love God. Legalistic repentance says, “I broke God’s rules.” True repentance says, “I broke God’s heart.” Gospel repentance is huge! The grace of God through Christ’s death for our sin is the only motivation that leads you to hate the sin without hating yourself. Repentance is how you remember who you really are in Christ!
You are a child of the living God—once a sinner who has been set free by grace.
Now after we repent, our final response in prayer is back to a thankful, grateful prayer!
3. Thank God—for the fact that you are already forgiven in Christ.
We are just halfway. Next week we will read more about prayer, and in next week’s study, we will look at the rest of the Lord’s Prayer and the next two parts of a balanced prayer life.
In the meantime, practice this week:
-Praising and thanking God in prayer
-Confessing and Repenting in prayer
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC