Make A Difference - Pray!
Some days it seems that life is filled with frustration,
angst, anxiety, trouble, sorrow, fear and other unpopular emotions. We can encounter these emotions everyday,
whether it is in the workplace, our homes or our social settings. Sometimes we even stumble upon these feelings
when we are alone. The evening news
programs or the daily newspaper can drag these emotions right into where we
live. Very seldom are we treated to good
news; the reason is that bad news or sensationalism sells newspapers. Good news typically does not.
If we take the time to look around us, we see all kinds of
problems in the world. There is war in
the Middle East, nuclear proliferation around the world, famine in Africa, the
bird flu literally flying from nation to nation, rising gas prices at the pump,
strained international relations throughout the globe, bombings and continued terrorist
threats, and unrest in Israel
along with many other issues. It is no
wonder that the use of anti-depression medication is on the rise.
If we sit down and think about it, despair can creep
in. We experience a feeling of
helplessness brought on by our apparent inability to do anything to stem the
tide of trials, tribulations and evil in the world. We think that any efforts that we might make
would be ineffectual in the great scheme of things simply because we are really
powerless to bring about needed change. Is
that really true?
5 Let your moderation
be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:5-7(KJV)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the topic of “prayer”
seems to be a major topic of discussion in the Bible, especially with Jesus. There are sixty-eight instances in the New
Testament where the word “pray” is used and there are thirty-one instances in
which the word “prayer” is used.
As indicated hereinabove, there are not just certain issues
that are appropriate for prayer. Rather,
we should take everything to God in prayer. Every possible request should be “made known”
to God. To be honest, He already knows
it but the idea is that we are to take these requests to God, in faith, for a
specific purpose. That purpose behind
this idea of taking everything to Him in prayer is to gain the peace of
God. The peace of God is the sense of
contentment knowing that all things are in His hands and as our Father, He has
our best interest at heart.
Many seem to skip over one specific provision in this verse,
that being “with thanksgiving.” We are
to take all of our requests, no matter how small or how large, to God but we
need to do it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
That attitude of thanksgiving flows from the knowledge that He loves us
and He is in control. This is not a
“Polly Anna” attitude where you are unrealistically optimistic about the
realities of life. This is an attitude
that allows you to reside or rest in the knowledge that God the Father holds
you in the palm of His hand and He will comfort and keep you secure throughout
life’s trials and tribulations.
That doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out the
way you think it should; it means that everything will work out according to
God’s will and His purpose. There is an
immutable truth that is the foundation for the preceding statement: God
is much more concerned about your spiritual condition than He is your physical
condition. The reason is that
your physical condition is temporal while your spiritual condition is eternal. Does this mean that God is unconcerned about
your physical well-being? No; it simply
means that in the great scheme of things and when it comes to what is really
important, the eternal outweighs the temporal and God’s divine purposes take
precedence over man’s ambitions.
That having been said, I am afraid that we have forgotten
the power of and the need for prayer today.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Creator of all, didn’t
just suggest that we should pray; He commanded it. In fact, when asked by His disciples about
the appropriate manner in which to pray, He said:
9 After this manner
therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and
the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matt. 6:9-13 (KJV)
Additionally, Christ addressed how we are and how we are not
to pray. Prayer is not supposed to be a
public spectacle. It is not a
demonstration to show how holy or righteous we are. It is a very personal time for communicating
with the God of the universe. Jesus also
emphasized the point that you don’t have to keep repeating yourself. God knows; He gets it; He understands. He knew before you even thought the thought
or voiced the prayer.
5 And when thou
prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray
standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be
seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.6 But thou, when
thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to
thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly.7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen
do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matt.
There are a number of reasons for praying contained within
the scriptures. While the reasons for
offering prayer to God are wide and varied and it is clear that we should take
everything, without limitation, to God, one of these reasons is to overcome the
weakness of the flesh. The reason that
we are to pray is not because we want to sin bur rather because our nature is
weak and we succumb to our weakness.
41 Watch and pray,
that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh
is weak. Matt. 26:41 (KJV)
Prayer is also an important component in our spiritual
battles against the powers of darkness. In
conjunction with arming ourselves for spiritual warfare, we are admonished to pray,
not just for ourselves but for all the saints.
18 Praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with
all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Eph. 6:18 (KJV)
While there are other reasons to pray, one that seems
particularly difficult is set forth in Chapter 5 of Matthew.
44 But I say unto you,
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matt.
Are we really to pray for those who abuse us? Why would Christ command us to do such a
thing? Doesn’t He understand how
difficult that would be? The answer, of
course, is that, yes, we are to pray for those who abuse us and that can be a
difficult thing to do. The reason is not
necessarily because we should expect others to change (although that is
probably what we are actually praying for) but instead it is with the
expectation that we will be changed ourselves.
That change comes in a change of attitude when we pray for the abuser. In all honesty the prayer for those who
despitefully use us may be a prayer offered up grudgingly but it is a prayer
that should still be consistently offered.
The reality is that it is very difficult to remain angry with a person
you are praying for.
While the issue has been raised about the efficacy of
prayer, i.e. whether prayer has any effect, the Bible is clear that prayer is
not only powerful and but extremely valuable.
Prayer counts; it makes a difference.
22 And all things,
whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matt. 21:22 (KJV)
This is not “name it, claim it” theology as some might have
you believe. It is a simple statement
made by Jesus Christ that anything you ask in prayer, believing it will be
done, i.e. as an exercise of faith, will be done according to the will of God. (Cf. Matt. 6:10).
Similarly, we are to pray for each other when it comes to
physical ailments and to our sins. In
that regard, James wrote:
13 Is any among you
afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.14 Is any sick among
you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:15 And
the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and
if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.16 Confess your faults
one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual
fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:13-16(KJV)
Healing can be physical or it may be spiritual. The most important healing can be for the
soul, not just for the body. However,
when it comes to physical healing, medical studies now show that prayer makes a
The next issue concerns how often we should pray. Should prayer be offered up with each
meal? Should it be something we attend
to each morning and at night? The answer
is that our prayer life should be continuous.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the
word. Acts 6:4
12 Rejoicing in hope;
patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Rom. 12:12 (KJV)
7 Pray without
ceasing. 1 Thess. 5:17 (KJV)
For some, this is a confusing idea. A story that illustrates the idea of “praying
without ceasing” goes something like
Once there was a gathering of
religious leaders who were debating the idea of “praying without ceasing” and
what that really meant. This discussion
continued late into the evening around a large conference table when the
cleaning woman entered the room to empty the trash cans. Overhearing the discussion that seemed to
drag on and on without agreement, the woman cleared her throat and quietly
asked if she could say something. The
chairman of this committee answered, “Certainly.” The woman said, “What you are talking about
is simple. I pray all the time. When I get up in the morning, I thank God for
giving me the health to get out of bed.
When I come to work, I thank Him for such a beautiful day and for giving
me the ability to make a living. I ask
Him to help me out during the day when I have problems. I thank Him for the people I see each day and
I ask Him to look out for each of them, if it’s not too much trouble. When I think about my family, I ask Him to
watch over them and love them because I know He does. And when I go home at night, I thank Him for
seeing me through another day. That’s
what it means to pray all the time. He’s
just in your thoughts as you go about your day.”
This idea was encapsulated in an advertising slogan once
used as a theme for a movie. That slogan
was “Think God.” Keeping God first and
foremost in mind as we go through our day lends purpose and direction to our
lives. Praying continuously fosters that
purpose and direction.
Lastly, the importance of prayer does not diminish as we
march toward the end of this age. While
no one knows when Christ will call His church, i.e. the body of believers,
home, the Bible places emphasis on the critical nature of prayer during the end
7 But the end of all
things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 1 Peter 4:7 (KJV)
33 Take ye heed, watch
and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
Mark 13:33 (KJV)
36 Watch ye therefore,
and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things
that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:36 (KJV)
Prayer is an honor and a privilege and with the rending of
the curtain leading into the Holy of Holies at the time of the crucifixion of
Jesus Christ, we received the ability to bring our petitions directly before
our almighty Father in heaven. We should
follow the example of Christ; prayer was a primary focus and integral part of
His life ending with His heartfelt, wrenching prayer offered up in the Garden
of Gethsemane and while He was on the cross.
Prayer should not merely be a sporadic activity that we engage in when
it is convenient or when we encounter the troubles of life; it should be our
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