Lessons On Prayer
By David J. Stewart
Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
I have learned many lessons about prayer during my lifetime that I would like to share with you...
- When you cannot see the HAND of God, trust the HEART of God. Just because you don't see God moving doesn't mean that He's not working. In the Old Testament book of Esther, God is not mentioned even once, yet we see God's hand of providence, wisdom and power beautifully at work behind the scenes.
- Our duty is not to pray to receive answers to prayer; but rather, to pray because God commanded us to do so without ceasing (1st Thessalonians 5:17). Just pray about everything and then trust the Lord to do what He knows is best (Philippians 4:6-7).
- God's hand is not seen working in weeks, months or even years, but in DECADES. Although the future today is uncharted territory, hindsight is always 20/20. We have God's promise to guide us as believers.
- Jesus said in Luke 18:1, “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The very fact that He mentions fainting, that is, quitting, is evidence that God normally does NOT answer our prayers in visible, detectable, testable ways. If He did, people would pray night and day to get things from God. They would pray out of greed and not obedience.
The parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 is plain Scriptural evidence that God typically DOESN'T answer our prayers in visible, detectable and testable ways in order to TEST our faith. Only faith pleases God according to Hebrews 11:6, so it makes perfect sense in view of Luke 18:1-8 why God doesn't answer our prayers right away the way we expect. It greatly pleases the Lord when we keep asking in spite of not receiving an immediate answer to our prayers. This is how prayer works. God DOES answer, but He does so in ways that we cannot detect nor understand, and He does so over long periods of time, so that only in hindsight years later can we truly see what God was doing all along.
- God rewards individual believers for their labours. 1st Corinthians 3:7-8, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” No one else can stake claim in Heaven to our own rewards. Each Christian believer must earn their own rewards.
Yet, when we continue the work of those who have faithfully gone before us in service to Christ and are now in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven, we are also earning them rewards. Please listen to this life-changing MP3 sermon by Pastor Jack Hyles titled, “IMPERFECT PEOPLE IN HEAVEN” (we owe it to those gone before us into Heaven to continue their work). Notice that the apostle Paul said in 2nd Timothy 4:7, “...I have finished my course...” Notice that Paul didn't say he had finished the work. Paul finished his course, doing what he was supposed to do, but the work continues. We still have much work to do.
Jesus taught that having even the smallest amount of faith as a grain of mustard seed (one of the smallest seeds in the world which grows into one of the tallest plants), WILL MOVE MOUNTAINS (Matthew 17:20). What mountains are there in your life, that is, those seemingly impossible obstacles and situations to overcome? My friend, God can do anything except fail!
Faith is not measured by how long you pray, but by how consistently you pray. Keep on praying!
God Wants Us To Pray Mostly For OTHERS
Note in our text verse above from Colossians 4:12 that the apostle Paul mentions “LABOURING fervently for you in prayer.” Prayer is often only thought of in selfish terms, praying for ourselves. Prayer is sadly viewed these days as a means of satisfying personal ambitions, lusts and desires. However, we read in Colossians 4:12 that Epaphras was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ who laboured intensely in prayer for OTHERS (“for you”). There are NO coincidences in the Bible. Everything is written the way it is for specific reasons, whether we know what those reasons are or not. God doesn't make mistakes.
Having said that, I want to bring your attention to Matthew 6:7-8 and Luke 12:5-13...
Matthew 6:7-8, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Notice in the preceding Scripture passage that God tells us NOT to pray long prayers, thinking that we are earning an answer to prayer or impressing God. God already knows exactly what we need before we even begin to pray. The reason why God wants us to pray is so that WE KNOW that we need Him. James 4:6 teaches that God resists THE PROUD who don't pray, but God gives GRACE to the humble. In 2nd Chronicles 7:13-15 God tells His people to humble themselves, pray, seek His face (His approval) and turn from their wicked ways so that God will forgive their sins and heal the land. Notice that humility precedes prayer. Proud people don't pray. God turns His face against the wicked, which includes those who don't pray.
So we learn from Matthew 6:7-8 that we don't have to pray lengthy prayers to receive answers from God. The Lord just wants us to pray, evidencing that we trust upon the Lord and need His help, provisions and guidance in life. Now notice the convicting Scripture passage in Luke 11:5-13 which teaches us to PRAY LONG PRAYERS FOR OTHERS...
Luke 11:5-13, “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
How many of us spend most of our prayer time praying FOR OTHERS verses our self? The Lord thought about OTHERS while living on earth, and you can be assured that He still thinks about OTHERS today. Hebrews 13:8 proclaims “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” The same Lord Who cared about OTHERS, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” still CARES about OTHERS today. Here is a precious poem written by the faithful man of God, Pastor Jack Hyles...
Lord, let me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for others.
Others, Lord, yes, others;
Let this my motto be.
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee.
Pray Without Ceasing
The Bible, God's Word, commands Christians to PRAY WITHOUT CEASING. In today's fast-pace, high-pressure, hustle-and-bustle world, it's very easy for Christians to forget to pray. It's tragic. We are spoiled in America, having an over-abundance of food, clothing, and toys to consume our time. There is generally a direct relation between our blessings and the amount to time we spend praying, i.e., as God blesses us, we forget about Him.
In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, Moses warned the Israelites about this... "And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." Have you forgotten God in your busy life? Do you take time to pray? When's the last time you poured out your heart to God, and wept over the sinful condition of America?
I believe that the reason God tells us to pray without ceasing is because He understands that it's difficult to spend large amounts of time in prayer for a busy mother or a working father. I know, I know, there's the old saying that goes, “If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy.” But I know from my own experiences that once I begin to pray, I think of more things and people that need to be prayed over, and a few minutes can easily become a few hours. We don't always have the privilege of spending hours in prayer.
And quite frankly, PRAYER IS WORK. Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” I love that Scriptures. Genuine prayer set aside as an activity by itself is work my friend. That's why most people don't pray. Notice that that the Apostle Paul was praying for OTHERS. In Luke 11:2-4 we find the Lord's Prayer (which is really the disciple's prayer because Jesus was teaching them how to pray), we are given a pattern to follow. Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7 not to pray long prayers, because God already knows our needs.
Oh, that men would all trust the Lord, for He is worthy of our trust, love, worship and praise. We worship God for WHO He is; and we praise God for WHAT He does; and we pray because of what God CAN DO. Prayer shows our dependence upon God day and night. Unbelief sees problems, but faith sees solution in Christ.
Persevering Prayer & Answers To Prayer
Carefully notice in Luke 11:5-10 Jesus taught about persevering prayer where we pray for OTHERS. This is where we ought to spend the greater lengths of time, because there are many people to pray for, and many spiritual as well as physical needs. Literally, God wants us to stop thinking about ourselves all the time. In Philippians 2:5 we are told to have the mind of Christ, and in Philippians 2:4 (the Verse before) we are told that Jesus thought on the things of others. Philippians 2:4-5, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus was concerned about OTHERS, not Himself. Oh, that we would learn this truth as God's children!
So when you go to pray, spend a few minutes on yourself and then spend some quality time praying for OTHERS in your life. Prayer makes a difference! If we don't care about others, then how can we reasonably expect God to cater to our selfishness. Most people pray for themselves, and that's it. Then they wonder why God doesn't answer. It's a total lack of faith. If God openly answered your prayers, then where is faith?
No, the way God works is behind the scenes, in ways unseen as Romans 1:20 teaches. It is the invisible things of God at work that we cannot see, such as the angels, God's power and the Godhead. When we pray we are looking to see God's eternal power, but the Bible says it is invisible, seen only by the things which are made. Pray my friend, and trust what you see around you as evidence that there is a God and He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Since God sees what we cannot see, then we must trust Him, understanding that our prayers will often produce very different results that what we had intended. Trust the Lord, for He cares for you (1st Peter 5:7) and has promised to guide us (Proverbs 3:5-7). Do you know that the Bible never says God will answer all our prayers? Rather, the Bible teaches that if we acknowledge God in all our ways, then He will direct our steps. Psalms 34:7, “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”
Prayer Made Simple
Carefully study 2nd Chronicles 7:14,15... "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place." Notice the progression:
- Humble yourself
- Seek God's face
- Turn from sin
This is God's divine order. This is what America needs today to get right with God. It all begins with humility. Tragically, America is a sinfully proud and stubborn nation. We are in desperate need of a spanking as a nation, because we are out-of-control brats in this country. The greatest blessing God could give America today would be harsh judgment, to drive us to our knees! We have flaunted our sins in God's face, even naming one of our cities... SIN CITY!
To Whom Do You Pray?
Unfortunately, of those people who do pray, few people genuinely pray to the God of the Bible. When most people go to pray, they recite the Rosary, a damnable doctrine of Roman Catholicism. God hates the Rosary because it is a manmade tradition that violates the Scriptures. Jesus forbade anyone from praying with vain repetitions.
God wants us to pray from our hearts, not from a prayer book. God hates prayer books! Do you think God is impressed when the President of the United States publicly reads a prayer that someone else wrote for him? No way! Prayer books are FORMALIZED religion, which quenches the work of the Holy Spirit of God. You can't mechanicalize the Christian life. God didn't intend for us to recite chants like dead robots. Listen for yourself.
Freemasons pray to the Great Architect, which is Satan in disguise. To whom do you pray? If we believe the Bible, then we must pray to the God of the Bible. There is NO other God (Isaiah 45:22). James 2:19 tells us that believing there is a God is not enough to get a person to Heaven. Yet, John 3:16 tells us that believing on Jesus Christ is enough to get us to Heaven.
Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham, "...believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Thus, the only Biblical conclusion is that Jesus is the "LORD" which Abraham believed upon in Genesis 15:6. When we pray, we must always realize that Jesus Christ came to this earth as the manifestation of God, i.e., the Godhead, in the flesh (1st Timothy 3:16). This is why the Scriptures direct us to pray "in Jesus' name." This simply signifies our acknowledgment that it is Jesus' blood which gives us a right to approach God's throne of grace (Hebrews 4:15,16).
It is foolish for any believer not to exercise their right to the throne of grace, when God is offering to... give us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer is Trusting God
Oh! that Christians would learn to trust God--and that's what prayer really is... TRUSTING GOD. King David prayed in Psalm 56:1-4... "Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me." David didn't allow himself to become overwhelmed with worry; but rather, cast his burdens upon the Lord (1st Peter 5:7), trusting God to protect and deliver him. Please read, Don't Worry, Be Prayerful!
A U.S. study was done showing that prayer doesn't work. What ingrates! We disobey God, toss the Bible and prayer out of our public schools, teach our kids that there is no Creator, worship Santa and the Easter Bunny instead of God's Son, and then put God on trial for not answering our prayers. What is wrong with us? I'll tell you in one word... SIN. American's deserve nothing good from God; yet in His divine mercy He patiently waits for us to repent... "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God is incredibly patient, but we are provoking His anger in America.
Shame on those who use prayer books, Rosaries, and recited prayers. If you can't pray from your heart at the drop-of-a-hat, then you aren't praying enough in your own personal life. Prayer is not a recital, or a speech. Prayer is not a religious ceremony. Prayer is when we reach out to our Creator from the sincerity of our heart. Prayer is asking God for His help, strength, and guidance in every area of our life. Proverbs 3:5-7 states, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." Prayer is trusting God, by placing our worries, burdens, and concerns upon Him. The heathens are turning to Oprah Winfrey, John Edward, Char Margolis, Dr. Phil, Miss Cleo, James Van Praagh, and other demonically inspired imposters for guidance, who are leading the masses away from the God of the Bible. If you want guidance, then seek the God of the Bible, through the Bible.
There is an Omnipotent God in Heaven!
Oh! That believers would learn to pray continually! Do you know why people don't pray? It's because they don't get the immediate answers they want. This is due largely to the greedy televangelists today who have mislead people about God and prayer. Imposters like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar have reduced God to a genie in a bottle, who guarantee us health, wealth, and prosperity in this sinful world. Tell that to the martyrs in Hebrews 11:36-38.
Tell that to Lazarus, the beggar in Luke 16. Tell that to Paul, who suffered often... "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2nd Corinthians 11:24-27). Are you sure you want to follow Jesus Christ?
Today's apostate religious world promises health, wealth, and success; but this is all of the Devil. 2nd Timothy 3:12 states... "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2nd Timothy 4:3 warns... "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." The Bible is so accurate, and perfectly describes these imposters who call themselves ministers of righteousness. They are ministers of covetousness!!!
We need to get back to the old-time religion in America, when Christians still believed that the Bible was God's inspired, infallible, inerrant, and preserved Word! I believe that to be the King James Bible (NOT the New King James Bible either, which is corrupt). Most people today view prayer as a "therapy" or a form of "meditation." Shame on us! Prayer at The White House has been diminished to a mere formal speech, prepared in advance for the President to recite. This is wickedness. Listen folks... THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN!
Praying According to God's Will
Prayer is asking. God wants to answer our prayers, but we need to ask according to HIS WILL... "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us" (1st John 5:14). Most people pray for the blessings of God, while deliberately disobeyed the commands of God. Does that seem reasonable, or fair, to you? Why should God answer the prayers of a nation that murders babies?
Have you spoken out against abortion? Have you spoken out against homosexuality? Are you contending for the faith? Are you are soulwinner? Do you care? Jesus said in Matthew 11:29,30... "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
A "yoke" is a device placed upon two animals, to enable them to share the workload together. Jesus wants us to take His burden upon us, i.e., soulwinning. Then, and only then, can we truly begin to learn of Him. Many people have churchianity, but they have no desire to win souls to Christ. There is something very wrong with a devout religious person who has no desire to win lost souls to Jesus Christ.
Christians, now more than ever, need to pray without ceasing to God in Heaven. We ought to pray throughout the day, as we go about our busy schedule. Jesus Christ, while in the flesh, prayed often, setting a precedent for us to follow. Jesus often went up into the mountains, to pray all night. When's the last time you prayed ALL NIGHT? I don't think this is what pop singer, Lionel Richie, meant in his song All Night Long. Oh! That believers would learn to pray continually!
Do you know my friend that God loves you so much that He chose to LIVE INSIDE EVERY BELIEVER as the Holy Spirit the moment we are saved and for the rest of eternity (Romans 8:9)! Literally, God wanted to live inside me and you if you are saved. If you're not a Christian, then God very much wants you to become His child (2nd Peter 3:9). It warms my soul to know that God lives in me and loves me, and has sealed me with His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).
Everything that God does is right my friend! God can do anything but fail. Oh, that men would all trust the Lord, for He is worthy of our trust, love, worship and praise. We worship God for WHO He is; and we praise God for WHAT He does; and we pray because of what God CAN DO. Prayer shows our dependence upon God day and night. Unbelief sees problems, but faith sees solution in Christ.
Prayer is not a mere religious exercise or requirement; but rather, casting our every burden, care and concern upon our omnipotent, all-capable, caring and trustworthy God in Heaven. To not pray is pride, and God resisteth the proud (James 4:6). I firmly believe that nearly every believer's biggest regret one day in eternity will be all the wonderful things that they forfeited by not simply praying to God on a regular basis about everything.
“Pray without ceasing.” —1st Thessalonians 5:17
"And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." —Luke 6:12
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