Connection through PRAYER
No pastor or church leader I’ve yet spoken with disagrees that we are all called to obey The Great Commission (to go and make disciples). The rub generally comes shortly after this awareness and conviction when the obstacles that are naturally a part of the spiritual battle start assaulting the abundant life God calls us to (Ephesians 6:12).
Last month, we talked about the obstacle of TIME. This month, we’re going to begin the journey of talking through the spiritual functions that, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, help us break through the obstacles, albeit sometimes more slowly than we humanly would like. First, a reminder that Biblically speaking, God gets all the credit for everything we do. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers us to function in ways that facilitate movement (growth) in us and in others as we walk in Him. The Bible says that the devil is also among us, seeking to steal, kill and destroy, which includes – often cunningly and stealthily – within our closest relationships and in our churches. Yet here is no question that God is still at work: through His Word, our circumstances, through others, and through PRAYER.
This function is our topic for June: PRAYER. God’s design for us as disciples is for us to experience His love and express it to others. He brings us into an intense intimacy with Jesus and then uses us to guide others into that same intimacy. As God is the originator of this plan, it is impossible for us to accomplish it on our own. As we pray, WE will be reminded of our dependence on God, and we will feel the need to pray for God’s power to take us on the journey He planned. To say this in another way, we depend on God’s leadership (or guidance) in our lives. We all need regular devotional and prayer times to connect with God in solitude.
One of the ways we seek the will of God is through prayer, and God may use us to battle against the forces of darkness. We pray for ourselves, our family, our community, people in authority over us, the sick, the poor, the crippled, the needy, etc. We show our need for God and our desire to grow our relationship with Him and others when we pray. It is through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that God uses our lives to influence others. And, as others seek Jesus and build relationships with Him, they respect the spiritual authority and guidance of those God has placed in positions of authority and servanthood in their lives to help lead, guide and shepherd them along their journey of faith, and they commit to seeking out our guidance as well. As we pray for others, the spiritual and relational life change that happens is that they begin to pray too, for God’s will to be done in their lives and in the lives of people in their relational worlds. Prayer is the essence of maximum connection with God and guidance by the Holy Spirit in all that we do.
So, why sometimes does it seem so difficult to pray? Why do we wait for others to do the job of prayer for us? As the spiritual warfare distracts us into forgetting the power that is within us, we get caught up in the doing – the forms (formats, programs, content of prayers), and forget that the function (being empowered by the Holy Spirit) is already hard-wired into us…we can’t NOT do it, if we’re submitted to God and in fellowship with Him.
Looking at God’s direction for our prayers, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 & Luke 11:1-4), we see that God invites us into connection with Him with the loving phrase, “Our Father,” and continues with opportunities for us to grow in our understanding of God’s perspective on making His abundant life a practical reality. An integral part of the prayer is the forgiveness of others: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” This is God’s grace to us, and the opportunity to extend His grace to others. If we’re not sincerely engaging in prayer with our loving Father, we’re not able to step onto His bridge to us, follow Him and lead others toward Him.
We also can fall into the trap of relying on others to pray for us, instead of engaging in God’s prompting for each of us to pray. For example, we go to church every Sunday and pray (or listen to our Pastor’s pray). We may say grace before meals, teach our children to say bedtime prayers, pray when someone REALLY needs it (they’re sick or lose a job, etc.), pray when WE really need something fixed, or even talk a lot about praying but fall asleep doing it or forget to do what we say we will. Praise God, He intercedes for us even when we don’t speak to Him. But, in gifting us the Holy Spirit, He wants our hearts and He wants to connect with us constantly (Phil 4:6-7) in whatever form best works for us: on our knees or in our car, up in a tree or looking at stars…Form follows function.
Personal or corporate, formal or conversational, short or long doesn’t matter. Martin Luther said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” All forms are heard by our Father and are answered, in His way and in His timing. In Mark 11:22-25, Jesus says to the disciples, “…Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But, when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.”
If you’ve gotten into a prayer rut, and your confidence in God’s sovereignty in your life has been stolen to the point that your joy is incomplete, ask God to refresh you. Matthew 7:7 reminds us, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Try a new form in praying. I often use my car time to pray for the many people that God brings to mind at all different moments and for all different reasons. I keep a box of tissues in my car when I need to cry out my biggest needs and most difficult struggles to Him, knowing that He is a willing, loving and faithful God. (Psalm 25:10, for one)
One Pastor prays over the empty sanctuary seats before Sunday Services, and often for the people who he knows occupy those seats every week. As he has invited others into praying for those people as well, these prayer warriors have instituted other prayer forms that the Pastor himself doesn’t engage in. The Pastor is supportive of them since all prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). How are we righteous? Through Jesus!
It can also be helpful to revisit the stories of the prayer warriors of the Bible: Moses, Nehemiah, David, Solomon, Paul, Mary, Jesus…just to name a few. They all had different styles of prayer, but ultimately went to Our Father, seeking connection with Him. That’s simply what prayer is (connection), and it’s a spiritual function of the Holy Spirit in us – a gift that we all have by grace.
So, how might the Holy Spirit be drawing you closer to Him through prayer right now? What big or small needs are you feeling called to bring before Him today – for yourself, for others? What new form or discipline might you try to draw closer to Our Father in prayer?
The Lord’s Prayer (NLT)
Our Father in heaven,
May your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
And forgive us our sins,
As we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
And, as you continue to pray, watch for God’s intervention and direction. Again, He is your biggest fan and wants you to experience His abundant love and express His love to others through your life. As long as your prayers originate out of your relationship with Him, you can expect Him to work them out in His way and in His timing.
We at Life Spring Network are praying for you, in Jesus’ name – our brothers and sisters in Christ — so that God’s glory will be seen through His Church – His body – as we approach His throne of grace with confidence and receive more mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Our Father, let us be vessels for You, through prayer…fertile ground that soaks up Your falling rain and bears good crop for You – our farmer – so that You keep Your blessing on us. Help us keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what we hope for will come true. Then, we will not become spiritually dull and indifferent, but be the example of those who are going to inherit Your promises because of our faith and endurance (Hebrews 6). Thank you Father for the gift of connecting with you through prayer. Amen.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2