Thursday, January 24, 2019

What is Prayer?

What is Prayer?

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.

Father, unto thee I pray,
Thou hast guarded me all day;
Safe I am while in thy sight,
Safely let me sleep tonight.
Bless my friends, the whole world bless;
Help me to learn helpfulness;
Keep me every in thy sight;
So to all I say good night.

Most of us have heard that prayer, or part of that prayer, at some point in our lives whether it be from our parents, in a movie or from Sunday School. Prayer can take many forms. It can be a prewritten prayer like this one above. It can be a quick "Lord, help me." It can even be in the form of Scripture being read back to God.

One thing is for sure: Prayer is how we talk to, and hear from, God. Yes. There are ALWAYS two parts: Speaking and Listening. If you are like most people, you have the first part down pat! In fact, I would even venture to say that 90% of people have prayed to God at some point in their lives like this. The real challenge however is the second part.

Listening for an answer is simple yet for many, not easy. Why? It involves being quiet. Not necessarily literally quiet but being quiet in your heart knowing that when you speak to God, He WILL answer you. 

Some of you are doubting that last statement. "I have prayed to God so many times but He NEVER answers!" There are typically three possible reasons for this: 
  • You aren't listening.
  • You don't like the answer you heard so you dismiss it.
  • You stopped praying.
Let's look at each of these...

You aren't listening

Many people don't know how to listen for God's answer. Listening for the Lord to speak is somewhat of an art, although not complicated. One thing you must remember is that as a follower of Jesus, when you pray, God will ALWAYS listen and He will ALWAYS answer.

You're probably thinking "No. I have prayed so many times but He hasn't answered." God can speak in innumerable ways. It can be through someone else, something you read, something you hear on the radio or even through someone you don't know. For me, God often speaks to my conscience. I'll pray about something and 99% of the time, He speaks to my heart immediately. If you make a concentrated effort to hear God's voice, you will, at some point begin to hear Him and trust what you are hearing.

Note that this doesn't mean you will be right all the time. That is where grace and wisdom come in. 

You don't like the answer

This happens more often than you can imagine. I often second guess what I believe I heard God say if the answer isn't what I wanted to hear. (I can see you nodding your head now. You can't fool me. 😆)

Part of following God's will is obeying his answer. Ignoring what you are hearing, truthfully, is simple disobedience. Here's the neat thing: Even though you may not like the answer, following through on that answer is a FANTASTIC way to exercise your faith. Faith isn't moving forward when you know the outcome, it is moving forward into the unknown trusting God with the results.

You stopped praying

When you have a need, it's not enough to pray once and stop. After all, Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 5:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It's not that you are nagging God but instead putting your needs out there for Him and showing, in my mind at least, what is important to you. Before you say, "Yeah, well isn't that selfish?" No. Here's why: Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When you focus your attention on the Lord, His desires will become your desires. When that happens and you pray, you are letting God know that your desires match His. Is it still possible to pray selfish prayers? Absolutely. This is why it's important to stay grounded in Scripture and abide in His presence. 

In my next post, I'll talk more about hearing God in prayer. If you have questions or comments, feel free to post them below. I love hearing from y'all!

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