How Are You Praying?

So here is my latest question: Are you praying for other people, as you would like to have them pray for you?  It is kind of like the Golden Rule, except for praying.  I would imagine that if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that we don’t intercede on behalf of others as sincerely, frequently or deliberately, as we know we should.

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song “Let Us Pray” that illustrates my point:

         I hear you say your heart is aching

         You’ve got trouble in the making

         And you ask if I’ll be praying for you please

         And in keeping with conviction

         I’ll say yes with good intentions

         To pray later, making mention of your needs.

         But since we have this moment

         Here at Heaven’s door

         We should start knocking now,

         What are we waiting for?

This song has always stuck in my head for the simple reason that it is so easy to have the best of intentions to pray for someone only to either forget or just mention the request in passing.  Please watch out for Joe.  Strengthen Sue’s marriage.  Protect my kids at school today.  While this type of conversational prayer is not always bad, it begs the question, “If I was in trouble, how would I want to be prayed for?” 

In just the past week, I can think of a friend who is having very unexpected brain surgery next week, another who lost her father unexpectedly to a heart attack, another who has to leave her family indefinitely for medical treatment, and another who is having marriage problems.  When I imagine myself in their shoes for just a moment it drastically changes the kind of prayers I offer up for them.  Suddenly, the murmurings of “keep her safe” “be with her in her grief” and “protect their family” seem woefully inadequate.  If it were me, I would want to know that someone is on their knees, crying out to Jesus on my behalf.  If I am undergoing surgery, I want someone praying for me, my healing, my nerves, my wife and kids, my doctor, the nurses, and everything in between.

Here is the point.  As Christians, we are called to intercede for others.  Now a part of the benefit of that is for those we are praying for, but perhaps a larger part is for ourselves.  You see, when I am committed to praying for others wholeheartedly, I experience the benefit of fellowship with God.  I enter into that place of intimacy with Him, where He senses my heart and my burden for these people.  As I come before Him in prayer, I must have a clean conscience and be rid of any sin.  Have you ever prayed for something very specific for another person and then seen that prayer answered in precisely the way you prayed it?  That is a pretty amazing feeling and adds to that connection with God.  Finally, when I am interceding on another’s behalf, I cannot help but do it out of love.  And anytime that I love another person so genuinely and completely as in this type of prayer, it can’t help but overflow into my life.

So I would encourage you this week to take just a moment to think about what you are doing when you commit to pray for another.  Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you would want if you were in their place. 

Then pray those things.  

Be specific. Be bold.  Be confident that He will answer.  Approach the Throne of Grace with confidence.  I guarantee that Jesus will meet you there and take your prayers to the Father.

        

 

Leaving it All to the Lord

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

So how exactly do you go about “leaving it all to the Lord?”  The verse above gives us a three-step process in delivering your cares and worries to God.

The first step is to change your attitude.  I call this “giving up your anxious ways.”  When Paul tells us in verse 6 to “be anxious for nothing,” you have to look closely at the four words that precede this command in verse 5.  They say, “The Lord is near.”  Paul almost seems to throw those words in there so subtly that if you aren’t paying attention you will probably miss it.  You see, those four words are key to the rest of the passage.  The reason that we can be anxious for nothing is because our God is near.  He is not far off, on His throne, looking down to see if we can fend for ourselves. 

That is not my God!  My God is right beside me.  He’s got my back.  His nearness should be the end of my anxiousness.  Did you catch that?  Because He is near we don’t have to worry or be afraid.

Think for a minute about a bully.  Maybe he is the biggest kid on the playground that always gets what he wants.  A bully gets away with bullying because there is usually no one around who can or will stand up to him.  On the playground, no bully is going to pound on the smaller kid when the teacher is right there.  This world and all of the worries and cares that it brings on us is like that bully sometimes.  It pushes us around and knocks us down and on our own, we are anxious and worried and fearful and alone.  But the Bible says, “THE LORD IS NEAR!”  All of a sudden we aren’t so easy to bully.  We have Almighty God in our corner.  So the first step is to recognize that the Lord is near and change your attitude accordingly.

The second step is to change your action.  I call this “abandoning your prayer-less ways.”  The second step is to change your action and in order to do this, you need to learn how to pray the way Paul describes in verse 6.  Notice the four key words found here:  prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests.  Prayer is simply quiet, personal communication with God.  A good definition for supplication is “a humble request for help from someone in authority” or more simply “to beg.”  I find it ironic that many of the prayers God hears from us are impersonal cries for help when you have gotten yourself into a bind and need His help to get you out of the jam.  Although Paul commands supplication here, we will see that that is not exactly what he had in mind.  The next word that is important is thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is just what is implied, to give thanks to someone.  We don’t usually give thanks unless someone has done something to deserve it.  In this case we get back to verse 5: the Lord is near.  There are many reasons to give thanks to God, but I believe in this context it is because we realize that God is near and it is His presence that causes us to be thankful.  The fourth key word is requests.  Requests are the desires we present to God when we ask for help.  They are generally heartfelt because we are burdened in some way.  We bring someone a request when we have done everything we can and there is still no resolution.

Here is the point.  As long as we are in good standing with Him (that is, free from sin,) God will hear us when we pray.  But what Paul is instructing the Phillipian church and what I am conveying to you goes deeper than that.  Here is the vital truth to walking in peace:  A Christian who maintains a constant attitude of prayer is able to bring his humble requests for help before the God that he is thankful to know personally with full assurance that God IS near and WILL hear your prayers and DOES ACT in accordance to His good and perfect will.

The person in constant communication with God that I just described is like a person who picks up a cell phone, dials a number, presses send and the phone call goes through.  This is contrasted with the person who gets the cell phone out of a drawer, turns it on but the battery is dead, plugs it into the charger and sees that she has no signal, gets in her car, drives until she has signal, dials the number, presses send, and finally the call goes through.  Now both were able to make the call but the one that stayed connected had much better results.  Which one do you feel like?

So am I saying that if you pray a lot that God will make everything turn out exactly how you want it to?  Absolutely not!  It is not so much about the quantity of your prayers but rather the content and quality of them.  Let me repeat that. Paul says, “In everything” we are to pray.  In Ephesians Paul says to pray, “without ceasing.”  What he means is, God didn’t create us to fly solo.  He wants to hear from us with what we consider to be big things and small things and then to speak back to us.  Perhaps one thing to consider is whether the things that stress us out actually drive us to Him. When we pray, we grow in our relationship with Him.  

Finally, the third step is to change your approach.  I call it “basking in God’s peaceful ways.”  When we have a change in attitude (by giving up our anxious ways) and we add to that a change in action (by abandoning our prayer-less days) we begin to have a change in our approach (as we bask in God’s peaceful ways.)  Do you remember the song you sang as a kid?  “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding way down in the depths of my heart!  As a kid it was fun to sing, but until you become an adult and are desperately searching for peace, you don’t realize the truth of that song.  You see, when we are constantly communicating with the “Lord who is near” it is only natural to give our worries and cares to God and because he knows we are fully relying on Him, He is all too happy to give us His peace.  This is like a bulletproof vest for your hearts and minds, and these are the two places you are most vulnerable for attack.  Paul says this peace “surpasses all comprehension” and when you feel it come over you, you will know exactly what the apostle was talking about.

So in order to deliver all our worries and cares to God, we must change our attitude, change our action and change our approach.  The next post is going to explore that “Rejoicing is a Command.”