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What is Prayer?

What is prayer?  It is communication with God, not Mary, not Baal, not a Prophet nor with Jesus.  But with God.  Thus, we address God the Father.  Jesus intercedes for us, so prayer can't happen without Jesus; that's why we pray in His Name.  Prayer is done in private or in public.  There is little difference between private and public prayer.  Private prayer is for ourselves, between us and God only and public prayer is on behalf of the congregation.  That's why we never use the pronoun 'I' in public prayer.

 Christ is our example when it comes to prayer.  Christ was the busiest man on earth, yet He always found time to pray - sometimes all night long (Luke 6:12).  He was emphatically "the man of prayer".  He prayed (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28-29, John 11:41, John 17:1, Matt 26:36-39 and Heb 5:7-9)  these are the only recorded prayers, but we know that He was in constant fellowship with the Father.  His whole life was one long, unbroken intercession.  He said, "Let this mind be in you" and "Pray without ceasing".

What about the power of prayer?  Here are some conditions of power in prayer:

1) THE WILL OF GOD: I John 5:14-15 says that if we ask anything according to His will, He will hear us.  The supreme source of all power in prayer belongs to God.

2)  THE NAME OF JESUS:  John 14:13-14 tells us that whatever we ask in His Name, that He will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  His "Name" stands for everything that Jesus Christ is in the eyes of the Father.  When praying in His Name, think of His character and work, not worldly, frivolous things.  John 6:44 reminds us that no one can come to Him unless the Father who sent Him draws him; and He will raise him up on the last day.  John 15:7 says that if we abide in Him, and His words abide is us, we can ask what we wish, and it will be done for us.

3)  THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:  Romans 8:26 tells us that when we don't know how to pray as we ought, the Holy Spirit Himself makes intercessions for us.  When we cannot frame our words to express the deep yearnings of the soul, the Holy Spirit, who is the discerner of the thoughts of the heart (Heb 4:12) helps our infirmities by making intercession for us.

4)  THE FAITH OF THE HEART:  We are told that with the heart man believes (Rom 10:10) and James 1:5-6 reminds us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to us.  But we must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  It is the desire of the heart that is to be made known to God (Mark 11:24), and the Word of God must be trusted.  Asking in faith means receiving in joy (John 16:24)

Thus we have the four-fold secret of power in prayer.

What are some hindrances to effectual prayer?  Although there are many, we list a few of the more common ones here:

1)  SELFISHNESS:  James 4:3 says we ask amiss and do not receive, because we ask with the wrong motives, so that we may spend it on our pleasures.  We ask amiss when we ask for anything for the honor and exaltation of self.  God will not give His glory to another (Isa 42:8).  To many this is a subtle but powerful temptation.

2)  SECRET SIN:  Ps 66:18  If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear. Let us see that first of all, our own souls are "cleansed from secret faults" (Ps 19:12).  Let us remember the wandering, searching eyes of the Lord God (II Chron 16:9)

3)  UNBELIEF:  Heb 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.  James 1:6-7 reminds us that the man who wavers in his trust needs not to think that he will receive anything from God.

4)  FORMALITY:  Jesus said, "If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it." (John 14:14).  We may end our prayers with, "for Christ's sake, Amen".  But there has been nothing for Christ's sake in the prayer.  This holy and almighty Name is often used in heartless flippancy.  This was the condemnation of the Pharisees.  Let us remember that the Angel's prayers ascend and descend upon the Son of Man.

5)  AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT:  Mark 11:25-26 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."  Thus there is no use praying if you are harboring a grudge against anyone.  We must forgive one another, as Christ forgave us (Col 3:13).

6)  IMPATIENCE:  Heb 11:6 KJV  "He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him...".  the reward may be lost for lack of perseverance.  Abraham prevailed because he did not waver in unbelief (Rom 4:20).  Jacob prevailed because he would not let go.  Elijah prevailed at Mount Caramel because he continued in prayer when there was no sign of rain, saying, "Go again seven times."  The widow prevailed with the unjust judge because of her importunity (Luke 18:1-7); and Jesus added: "...will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them (Luke 1:7)

So, then, what should our prayers include?  Address it to the Father and talk to the Father.  The Holy Spirit and Jesus will intercede for you (Heb 11:6).  Pray in the Name of Jesus (John 14:6).  Pray in the Spirit (Eph 6:18).  Pray according to the will of God (I John 5:14-15).  Pray in faith (Eph 3:20, James 1:6).  Pray earnestly (Luke 6:12).  Pray without display or hypocrisy (Matt 6:5).

How do I construct a prayer?  What elements should I include?

1)  Adoration of God

2)  Thanksgiving to God

3)  Confession of one's sins (private prayers only, not public prayers)

4)  Petitions (praying for one's own needs - private prayers only)

5)  Intercession (pray for the needs of others - both private and public prayers)

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