“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” –Oswald Chambers
Keep three things in mind as we explore this catalog:
First, prayer is a conversation, that is, a two-way communication. But we are like babies and tend to babble on as though we are the only ones worth hearing. So do not do that. Learn to listen when conversing with Father.
Second, Father is much greater than we are. “Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor. So do not be surprised by the difficulty of understanding when and how He speaks. It will take time. But trust Him because He is a loving Father.
Third, anticipate opposition to developing a prayer-life. Not all spirits are from God and there will be those who will not want you to communicate with Father (Ephesians 2:1-2; 6:12). Yes, He has power over them, but part of our learning to converse is learning to tell the difference between His and “other” voices, and another part is learning to trust Him even when the “other” voices appear to make sense in the moment. Adam and Eve missed it on this one.
The Catalog of Prayer
1) We begin with Praise. This is simply the recognition of how wonderful and magnificent Father is, how different He is from us, how great, powerful, merciful, and gentle He is. Praise is distinct from Thanksgiving, in that Thanx is for what He has done; Praise is for who He is. Think of looking at a marvelous sunrise. You do not thank the sunrise for being beautiful; you simply admire it; you are moved by its colors or beams in the clouds, It is awesome so you simply stand in awe of the beauty before you and think, “How wonderful!” In the same way, when we approach the Creator, we should recognize that we are in the presence of the ultimate Good, “the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And we begin here, because of His promise to “dwell in the praises” of His people (Psalm 22:3 Amplified Bible).
2) Then there is Thanksgiving. This is clear enough, just too often overlooked in our prayers, as in our lives. I recall an invalid who had worked all his life at manual labor; his wife and children had endured hardships many of us could not imagine. Yet in speaking to a small group of college students he said, “I only hope God blesses you as much as He has blessed me and my family. He is so good to us all the time!” There are always bad things happening around us, and often to us, but Father has promised to be with us in every situation, even when death comes calling. Paul knew how to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18) as he had suffered in prison and been beaten, and still gave thanx to God. My friend, Cheri, says “If you count your blessings instead of sheep, you may not get to sleep, but you’ll feel better about being up!”
3) Next in our catalog is Requests. This is where most of us spend the most of our time in prayer to an inappropriate degree, never listening, with too little praise or thanx preceding, but always chattering away like babies that we are. But there is an appropriate place for requests in our prayers. The motive of our hearts must be evaluated when we ask, however, so that we can receive what He wants to give, and His gifts are always good (James 4:2-3; 1:17). Why would a God who knows everything need to hear our requests? Well, go back to my first blog and read “Pass The Salt.” (January 4, 2015) He does not need us to ask for healing for our sister, or provision for our friends, or blessing on our enemies, but He invites us to participate in what He is wanting to do. And there are clearly times He waits for our requests! (Luke 18:1-6). “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9).
4) Intercession takes us into a new level of conversation with Father. To intercede means “to act in behalf of someone in difficulty.” This often overlaps with “prayer in the Spirit,” (I Corinthians 14:14-15) as we begin to get a sense of what He is saying needs to be done. It is much more than simple requests, but investment of our spirits with the Spirit of God to pray for what He wants to accomplish in the lives and world around us. Due to its deeper character, it is essential to be in the two-way conversation with Father to see answers to intercession; this is never selfish requests, but always focused on others’ needs, but most of all on God’s intentions. Intercession becomes one of the most rewarding areas of prayer to those who are willing to spend the time and effort to develop in this prayer-life, as you begin to experience what God Himself sees happening around you, as you begin to feel what moves His heart. It is here that we can learn the most about loving our enemies, about caring for others, about fighting spiritual warfare, not with arms or guns, but with prayers FOR our enemies, not against them (Ephesian 6:10-17).
5) Spirit-Prayer is that level of conversing with Father that allows Him to speak through us. This may involve “speaking in tongues” about which Paul taught extensively to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 12-14) as well as mentioned to the Romans, Ephesians and Galatians, (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Galatians 4:6), and which Jude also recommended as a way to persevere when struggling (Jude 1:20). Or it may be “wordless groans” (Romans 8:26) or it can occur with our understanding, praying in our known language (I Corinthians 14:15), but in any case, it becomes a conversation in which He is leading how and what we pray. As always in spiritual matters, be aware there is an “enemy” who will try to deceive (I John 4:1), but be careful not be disobedient to direct instruction of Scripture by forbidding the speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:39).
6) Debate may have surprised you if you read the previous blog and noted that this would be in our Catalog of Prayer. But God created us in His image, i.e. with mind, emotion, and will. As free-will as God is, so are we. We can choose to obey or disobey; we can choose to trust or to disbelieve; we can choose to pray or not to pray. And this free will allows for discussion in this two way communication with Father that reflects a difference of wishes even within His sovereign allowance. Consider when Moses was leading Israel and the people rebelled against God while Moses was in the Mountain of the LORD. The Creator was going to destroy the nation, but Moses debated with God and God spared the nation! (Exodus 32). It appeared God had no intention of giving Hannah a child until she earnestly debated with God and received the blessing of a son (I Samuel 1:1-20). Hezekiah, one of Israel’s better kings, was told he was going to die . . . until he debated God’s announcement and received a blessing of 15 added years to his life on earth (II Kings 20:1-6). In Jesus interactions, a Syro-Phoenician woman debated with Him about healing her daughter, and He responded, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:24-30). She had won the debate!
So start a conversation, or rather respond to His invitations already calling you to talk with Him, to listen to Him, to learn from Him. Just pray. “Just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.” Max Lucado
We’ve talked a little about prayer, and I encourage you to begin, but next week, March 15, 2015, I’ll share some thoughts on: How to Get Ready to Pray.