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Why Should I Make Prayer a Priority?

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In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has said to his people, “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.(Jeremiah 29:12-14a) 

This is one of many examples of God imploring us to seek relationship with him. Prayer is so important because it allows us to call upon the attentive ear of God, knowing that he will always be there to listen to our thoughts, concerns, and rejoice in our success!

If we think about prayer as being a tool for fostering healthy relationship with God, then it is natural that we would then want to pray everyday. This is similar to how we grow relationships with friends or a spouse through regular honest communication.

Prayer is powerful! When troubles arise, we are quick to offer our prayers to those in need, but we can do so much more when we are intentional about prayer. It is no small thing that we can call upon the name of God at any time. When we have a strong relationship with God supported through constant communication, it bears fruit when we go to him with incessant bold prayers.

What does making prayer a priority in my life look like?

Pray First!

We set aside time each day where we will pray for specific things, upcoming events, thanks for past blessings, forgiveness for past shortcomings, loved ones. We pray for guidance. We pray for peace. We pray that his will be done in all things and that our hearts could accept it. We must be bold in our prayers! For some people, this time will be in the morning, others in the afternoon, whenever we are most likely to follow through (maybe set a reminder the first few times).

We should also remember that we are beginners, and therefore should not set hard-line expectations that we are unlikely to meet (i.e. I must pray ___ long; If I forget I am a fool). In the same way that communications with our spouse will ebb and flow depending on the situation, time spent during this designated period should be determined by the content of our prayers and not the time we are trying to fit our prayers into.

Pray Throughout!

Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This passage makes it clear that we should touch base with God through each day. One way of doing this is by means of quick rapid-fire prayers. Praying continuously keeps in our minds what we have already prayed for and keeps us focused on carrying out his will. Also, as we begin to look for them, we will find many things to be thankful for each day.

The point is, prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. If he is important to us, then prayer should be also.

Tools for a Successful Prayer Life

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As a church we are entering into a season of prayer. There is arguably nothing more central to the life of a Christian and to the life of a church than prayer.

In the Gospels, Jesus models prayer and emphasizes it with his disciples. He makes prayer a central part of his life. Not just when times were tough, but on a consistent and regular basis. I believe we will discover some of the reasons why it was so central to Jesus as we look at some of the resources we have for prayer. It is my hope that when you finish reading this you will walk away feeling empowered and confident that a meaningful and significant prayer life can be yours. So let me discuss a few resources from various authors (none of these ideas are original to me) that I’ve found helpful in my prayer life. Maybe they can help you too.

PLAN.

A fruitful and vibrant prayer life does not happen by accident. It will not just appear for you one day at random. Prayer must be accounted for in your daily schedule. There must be a time that is carved out and protected in your day for prayer. I know it sounds really simple but in reality it becomes very hard. It becomes a value issue. Since our time is limited, we only schedule those things that we value most. Scheduling an exclusive block of time for prayer in our day is showing God that we value him, that we are willing to spend what limited time we have talking to him. Too often in my own life, I drift away from prayer just because I haven’t done the work to schedule it. Normal life just takes over. You can fight that trend by scheduling a block of time for prayer. If you are newer in your relationship with Jesus, it’s okay to start small and schedule 15 or 20 minutes to talk with him. If you have been following Jesus for some time, perhaps you are ready for a more extended period of prayer. Whatever time you are able and willing to devote to prayer, SCHEDULE IT, or it won’t happen.

KEEP A PRAYER LIST.

As you spend time in prayer you will come to realize that there are limitless people, organizations, churches, and things you can and should pray for. Creating a prayer list is very practical way to remember some of those things that you want to pray for on a regular basis. You can list people, such as family members, church members and pastors, friends, co-workers, and that person (or people) who really annoy you or tick you off (because let’s face it, God put them in your life for a reason, so pray for them!). You can list some of the churches that you have been a part of in the past. You can list just about any organization that is doing the work making Jesus known.

Some people prefer to make a few categories for their lists. One such way to break up the categories is to make a more permanent list of people or things that won’t change. This list would include parents, spouses, family and people very close to you.

Then you could make a more temporary list that includes short range requests or concerns. These would include some significant life choices that are approaching, short range needs, or goals you are pursuing. By their temporary nature, they don’t make it on your permanent list. But here is a really important point that you shouldn’t miss.

Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time. And PLEASE do not throw these lists away. Going over these lists with your grandchildren one day will be a testament and a legacy to pass on to them.

“Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time."

ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE.

We have the tremendous privilege of being called children of God. As such, God passionately wants to hear from us. He lovingly and whole heartedly wants us to find satisfaction in him and him alone. He is most interested in being your Father and having a relationship with you.

If you are anything like me, you have a horrible tendency to talk to God a lot like a teenager talks to his father: I want…, I want…, I want…, I need…., I need. Rather than a burning desire to spend time with my Father and reconnect with him every day and seek his will for my life, I turn to him like my genie in a bottle who will grant me a couple of wishes if I ask nicely. God wants so much more than this from me.

Yes, God wants to answer your prayers and his promise to us is that when we ask, we will answer. But perhaps a helpful question to ask is, “What does God want me to pray for? What are the things that God is waiting to say ‘yes’ to in my life?” There is nothing wrong with asking God for things or for stuff.

But when I really spend time growing close to God, I begin to realize that what he wants to give me is so much more important that stuff or things. He wants to transform my heart and my life and he wants to transform the world through me. And that has very little to do with the size house that I live in, the car I drive, how full my bank account is, the clothing I wear, or the amount of devices connected to my home network. God wants to answer your prayers so make them worthy of his glory.

GET A PRAYER PARTNER.

Spending time alone in prayer is critical. However, finding another Christian or a small group of believers with whom you can get together regularly to pray can bring much growth and fruit to your prayer life.

If you are married, your spouse is probably the ideal partner. It will foster intimacy and growth in your marriage and with God. If you are married and you have a prayer partner besides your spouse, ensure that it is someone of the same sex/gender as you. Prayer leads to closeness and you must guard your marriage. But finding the right partner will give you a level accountability and someone to help you reflect on the question posed in the previous point (what does God want me to pray for?).

If you are a newer believer, try to seek out someone who is more mature in the faith than you. You will have the opportunity to pray with and learn from them. It is Christian discipleship at its best. If you are the more mature follower of Jesus, then seek out someone who might be able to learn from you. We are made to be in connection with other believers and prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ with strength that connection. It is worth finding a reliable and trustworthy prayer partner.

These are just four of the many practical suggestions for prayer that I’ve encountered. These points came mostly from Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson but there are many more great books out there and I would encourage you to explore some of them.

But don’t let reading about prayer be a substitute for prayer!

Start praying, develop a disciplined prayer life and then begin to read and learn more to make it deeper.

The Power of a Humble Prayer

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

(Matthew 6:5-6)

 

There’s a difference between praying for show and praying for real.

When someone prays for show, he is essentially holding a big glowing billboard, saying, “Look at me! Look at how holy I am.” God sees right through that. He knows that the person isn’t trying to talk to the Holy of Holies with pure intentions. Rather, he is being fake, serving his own self-interests. It has little, if anything, to do with God.

Jesus tells us that the person in that example has earned his reward. He has the people’s respect, he got what he came for, and, when all is said and done, he didn’t really care whether or not that prayer was pleasing to God.

This is not the type of prayer that Jesus encourages his followers to pray.

What Jesus is searching for is the humble prayer, whispered in the privacy of the person’s home. He’s looking for the prayers of those who are willing to depend on God, who are willing to put away their own self-interests in search of something bigger, stronger, and more valuable than the admiration of men.

He’s looking for the prayers that are real and honest and authentic.

Through those prayers, He can change the lives of His followers and then change the lives of the entire world. However, if the prayers are fake and superficial, the only change that will show itself will be the withered, rotten fruit that comes from dead religion.

Jesus has said that when you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22) How amazing is that?! 

Today, find a private place, get down on your knees, and pray to the Lord who created the Universe. Your prayer doesn’t have to be fancy or long. It just has to be sincere. Show that you are humble enough to depend on God, and open yourself up to being changed by who He is. You will be amazed at the results.

 

What is Prayer?

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The best way to establish, develop, and maintain any relationship is through conversation. Relationships must be centered on trust. It is upon trust that intimacy is built. How do we establish trust and build intimacy? Through conversation. 

Prayer is conversation with God. Through conversation we build a relationship with him.

If, upon meeting someone for the first time, the conversation ended after an exchanged “hello”, the relationship would not go beyond the introductory level. A relationship can’t continue to grow without extended conversation. The conversation needs to eventually move from the basics of getting to know each other, to sharing thoughts and feelings on a personal and emotional level. That’s the level of intimacy we can have with God the Father.

 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:1-2)

He already knows the thoughts and feelings of our innermost places, but when we willingly share those with him in prayer, an intimate bond with him develops in our own hearts.

Another failed technique in relationship building is to dominate the conversation. It’s hard to be friends with a person who only talks about themselves – THEIR problems, THEIR successes, THEIR families, THEIR jobs, THEIR drama. God is so much more tolerant of the kind of conversation than a human friend would be. The thing is, WE are missing so many benefits of having a relationship with the Lord when we don’t stop to listen to what he has to say to us!

These handy acronyms offer a couple of ways to guide our conversation with God:

From Bible study leader, Priscilla Shirer:

P – Praise God for who he is and what he’s done.

R – Repent for any areas of your life where you’re resisting what God wants to do in you.

A – Ask for God’s help and guidance in your life or the lives of others.

Y – Yes! Confirm God’s truth and promises to you by praying His own words from Scripture.

Or similar to PRAY, practice ACTS:

A – Adoration

C – Confession

T – Thanksgiving

S – Supplication (Praying for the needs of others and yourself)

Get to know your Lord and Savior. Reading your Bible and prayer (conversation) are the best ways to grow in your relationship with him. He longs for you to willingly share every part of your life experience with him. We can do that through prayer.

Is God in Your Goals?

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Is GOD in Your Goals?

As the new year begins, many of us dust off our goals for last year with the intent of revisiting them next year. Typically, we think of taking care of ourselves: eating better, exercising, being a better person, learning a new language and reigning in debt.

These are admirable goals, however, as Jesus followers, we are asked to be different from the world, to be in the world, but not of the world (John 15:19). Romans 12:2 tells us how, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The psalmist said, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) This probably explains why we set goals every year and then are never quite able to meet them – we think we are strong enough to do things our way. As believers, we are strong in God and should seek his will before starting any new project, New Year’s Resolutions included.

The Bible contains stories of ordinary people who set goals to be used by God and who accomplished extraordinary things. David v. Goliath, Moses v. the Red Sea, Daniel v. the Lion, and Noah v. the Flood. God can do anything you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! (Ephesians 3:20)

So, for the new year, let’s change things up a bit. Let us seek to align our goals with God’s purpose for us. Let us also seek his wisdom and guidance for our personal goals that his will be done.

It might help to focus on what Jesus said were the two greatest commands: Love God with all your being, and love others as yourself. Here's what it could look like:

Love God 

Put Him first. He has forgiven you and he has sent his son to be a sacrifice for you, so you could be closer to him. Love him with everything thing you have; your mind, your heart, your soul. Think of him constantly, meditate on his word, and talk with him daily.

Love Others

Be the light of God to them. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. That is an ongoing goal. As a young man in high school, I ministered to others in my class and recently spoke to one of my classmates. Thirty years later he contacted me and thanked me for sharing the gospel with him. He is now a believer. It may not take 30 years for your love to impact someone like that, it could be 30 minutes or 30 days, the point is that we need to love on others as Christ loved us.

Love Yourself

Some people struggle with loving themselves--their thoughts are filled with self-loathing or extreme self-criticism. This year, Remember who you are...or more importantly, whose you are! If you have a relationship with Jesus, you are a child of God. A prince or princess of the Most High King who was pursued passionately.  You are forgiven, you are healed, and you are set free. You are loved. Don’t beat up on yourself if you make a mistake, ask God for forgiveness and move on.

Forgive Yourself  (Romans 8:1) 

Grow in grace. Feed your spirit self. In the physical world we tend to want to eat healthy. The same needs to happen in the spiritual world. I have personally turned off the news because I only see division, I see separation, which I think is the opposite of what God wants. What you read, what you watch, what you listen to, and who you spend time with affects you.

Speak Life 

We have a natural tendency to lean towards negative thoughts and words, however, I have seen significant improvement in my personal life just by speaking positively and reminding myself that: I am a child of God. I am a friend of God, I am created in His image, and I am blessed and highly favored. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.

Part of loving God and others is to pray for them daily. We should pray for our leaders that they will seek God’s wisdom as well. Pray for missionaries and their families who are under threat in the Middle East and other areas. Pray for folks without heat or shelter this winter, ask God how you can help them. Pray for police officers and protestors, school administrators, children in need, missing children, people with dementia. There are so many needs; we need to address them.

It is important to set goals that align with what God wants. As you set goals for yourself in the new year, ask God for his guidance, and thank him for the outcome in advance.

Here's how you could focus on these principles each week of each month:

Week 1 Focus on Loving God:
  • Give him praise, give him thanks, honor Him daily
  • Seek his will in the word
  • Pray daily
  • Give tithes and offerings for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Week 2 Focus on Loving Others
  • Be a light to pre-Christians
  • Be a friend to others
  • Share God's love with others
  • Encourage other believers
  • Smile – it’s contagious
  • Serve where ever God shows you a need
Week 3 Focus on Loving Yourself
  • Be a friend to yourself – take care of you
  • Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)
  • Feed your spirit self (2 Peter 3:18)
  • Slow down and take time to do the things that make you happy and bring you closer to God
Week 4 Speak Life Every Day
  • Speak these verses:
    • I am a friend of God (James 2:23)
    • Praise him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)
    • Feed your spirit self (2 Peter 3:18)
  • Find other verses to say and memorize
  • Speak kindly to the people around you
  • Share an encouragement with someone
  • Tell the people you love how much you love them

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