Preparing Ourselves for Prayer
Proper preparation is the key to success in many areas of life. The student who spends time in study will do better on exams than one would have done had they not reviewed and thought about the material on the exam.
It is no different with prayer. Preparation before our time of prayer will make us less susceptible to distraction, more focused and more spiritually prepared for communion with God. As we prepare to pray it is essential to carefully consider any attitudes or actions that might become hindrances, such as unconfessed sin or an unforgiving heart. Searching our hearts in all these areas will cause us to see how far we are from being the kind of people God wants us to be.
The Bible can be a mirror in which we see ourselves. It will reveal our imperfections and self-deceptions. The Bible will also provide us with material we can use to bring focus to our prayer time. All of these actions work together to cause us to meditate on the state of our own hearts, our needs and God’s graciousness and promise that He is the answer to our prayers.
The Comfort of Prayer
Countless times in my own life I have felt the burdens of life crowding around me. Sometimes I have wondered if I could continue to bear up underneath it all. It is in these times of pain that prayer has proven to be the one thing that could keep me going, that could steady my vision, that could bring peace to my heart even while the storms of life swirled around me.
Truly, one of the great things about prayer is the comfort it can bring. It reminds us that God is with us in the midst of all pain and trials. Just knowing that we can go to Him when no one else can help us or truly understand our pain gives us strength in our time of need. Casting all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you, 1 Peter 5:7. The care He offers and the comfort He gives is so real and uplifting.
Growing Through Prayer
You might ask the question what is the point of making a request when God already knows all things, including what we need. It’s to remind us and make us aware that God loves us and wants to supply our needs. We do belong to a King and His storehouse is never empty.
We, as individuals, need to be aware of treasures from Heaven. Prayer not only changes things, it also changes us. It is an integral part of God’s plan for our spiritual growth. It can be said with absolute certainty that Christians who pray are Christians who experience spiritual growth. We become what we are called to be by praying.
Hindrances to Prayer
If we know Christ on a personal basis, prayer can become one of the most exciting adventures of our lives. Only the blood of the Lamb can take away our sins and provide us access to the throne of God, for without a personal knowledge with God, prayer has no real meaning.
A hindrance to effective prayer is sin.
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
When we come into His presence we will always behold one outstanding characteristic of His nature, His holiness. There is not a blemish in God and if we are to have fellowship with a holy and pure God, then we must be clean before him. David asked:
3Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Not hands washed in water like Pilate’s, but washed in the blood. We cannot ascend to Him with the lie of a deceitful motive in our heart. Holiness is something that has to do with the heart and without holiness no man shall see God. It is when the seed of the Kingdom falls into an honest heart that it brings forth fruit. One’s soul must be humble. When vanity or spiritual pride gets into the soul, then there is an end of growth in grace.
Another obstacle to effective praying is pride.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
God hates pride.
Luke 18:9-14 (Jesus speaking, verses 10-14)
9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This represents two classes of worshipers. In the preceding parable Jesus taught that men ought to always pray, and not to faint. But here He shows clearly that while all men ought to pray, everything depends on the spirit and motives which constrain us to pray. The Pharisee goes up to the temple to pray. He goes regularly to his place of worship. He has a great respect for religion. As for himself, he can always pray like a perfect Christian, for he is not like other men.
He glories in what he is, in what he does, in what he gives. His every sentence begins with a capital “I.” He trusts in himself, not in God, so he worships a god of his own making. In his own eyes others have so many faults and imperfections that his self-righteous soul cannot bear them. Here we see the sinner as he stands afar off. He realizes that there is a great distance between God’s character and his own. He smote upon his breast. He stands before God a self-condemned man, so overwhelmed with shame that he could not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven.
He pleads the atoning blood. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man went down to his house justified and redeemed. The self-exalted man went down to his house condemned. No man can lift himself up into the favor of God by his own works.
True prayer draws our attention to the nature and character of God and our capacity to love will be broadened and deepened.
Another hindrance to prayer is busyness. Paul writes in
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
If we have a schedule that is too busy for God, then it is too busy. True prayer demands effort. The truth is that many of us wait to feel inspired or spiritually at peace before we are ready to pray. We forget that it is when we are confused, frustrated, angry or disappointed that we most need to seek God’s presence. For the Christian, prayer is not an optional activity. It is not just one of many items on our agenda of religious actions that we can choose to perform if we are obedient to God’s Word. Instead, it is the duty of every true Christian believer to pray.
If prayer is the natural outflow of our relationship with God, it should be among our greatest joys.
Another impediment to prayer is selfishness.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The windows of Heaven are open only to prayer that is initiated and centered in the will of God, rather than the will of man. Jesus is our model in prayer. He made a remarkable statement that provides insight into the reason for His powerful prayer. He said,
John 5:30 (Jesus speaking)
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
To Jesus, prayer was not giving the Father a list of the things He wanted. Prayer was quietly listening to the command of the Father. Jesus then believed and trusted in the Father to give Him the power and resources to accomplish His will. As a result, God’s power was released. The lame walked; the blind could see; the dead was raised and the captives were set free. The Son was in harmony with the Father.
Let us lay aside every obstacle that would keep us from the same harmony with the Father. There are souls to be saved, hearts to be healed. Let us say with the author of
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
In other words, we set our eyes on Jesus, the author of faith and perfection. We must live what we pray. The words from our lips should be mirrored by our actions, for God desires more from us than empty talk. It is through the act of praying that our hearts and minds are refocused. New priorities arise from our times of prayer and calls for changes, not only in our actions, but also in our attitudes and character.
Through prayer we are changed and transformed and that transformation will make us into different people than we were when we first knelt.
God, as Creator, formed man to be a vessel in which He could show forth His power and goodness. We were created to know and love God. Without daily communion with Him it is impossible to serve Him effectively. Man does not find purpose, power and direction for his life in himself. He finds everything that he needs in God through Jesus Christ.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
If we are to come into the presence of God we must learn the art of waiting upon God. There is no hustle and bustle in the presence of God. We live in an “instant” generation. We have instant potatoes, instant grits, instant coffee. We cannot rush in and out of God’s presence. Prayer takes time. There are two important aspects to communion with God:
1. We must understand that we only have access to communion with the Father through Jesus, and
2. We must learn to wait upon the Lord and meditate on His Word.
Read this beautiful promise:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.