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Monday, July 11, 2011

Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
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 6:6 (NIV)
As I begin this article on prayer, I do so with a strong and unwavering belief in its power.  I have been both an observer and a recipient of answered prayer countless times in my life.  If God did not hear and answer prayer, there would simply be too many unexplainable times of “coincidences” in my life and the lives of others, so I do not ascribe to that belief in the least. 
What is prayer?
One line of a song entitled, “Faith Unlocks the Door”, written by Samuel T. Scott and Robert L. Sands says the following, “Prayer is the key to heaven but faith unlocks the door.” Each of us has the incredible privilege of approaching the God of the Universe by faith and with a firm assurance that He will hear us, commune with us, and act in our best interest.  Therefore, prayer is the act of communicating with God.  We can only do this because Jesus Christ has opened the way.
Why is prayer necessary?
In Luke 11:9, Jesus says the following: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.”   In this scripture, we see three important truths:
We cannot get, until we ask.  We must come before God with humble hearts and make our requests known to Him, even though He already knows what we need.  However, God is not some big Santa Claus in the sky.  He will only do what is in our best interest.  Sometimes we may ask God for certain things and years later find ourselves thanking Him for not giving us what we had asked for.  He sees the big picture and we don’t.   
We cannot find, until we seek.  Seeking God in prayer gives us the assurance that we have a heavenly Father who loves us and cares about every detail of our lives. Through prayer, we are freed from the anxiety and fear of what tomorrow may bring.  Seeking God in prayer unlocks the door to moments of finding that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. 
We cannot enter into fellowship with God until we knock on the door to His heart.   In Romans 10:13, we are told the following: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” God is eagerly waiting to hear from us.  However, He will never force Himself upon us.  We are given two choices—to believe or not believe.  If we choose to believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that He (Jesus) died for our sins, and if we make the choice by faith to accept Him as our Savior and Lord, we are then able to enjoy the freedom to enter into God’s presence and experience prayer, praise, and worship with our heavenly Father.  
What benefits do we derive from prayer?
Through prayer we experience comfort, peace, and a deeper trust in God.  Because we are human, there are times when we tend to grow anxious if we don’t see instant results to our prayers. While we prefer a quick response, God has His own timetable that is spiritual and consistent with what is best for us. Who better to determine how and when to act on our behalf than our heavenly Father? 
Scripture provides comfort during times when we feel that God has forgotten our prayers. Isaiah 49:16 states, “See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Just as God was telling the Israelites that He had not forgotten them, how comforting to know that He remembers us and hears us when we pray. 
God hears our prayers of desperation.  Someone once said that the most sincere prayer offered up to God is the following: “Help me!”  Short, to the point, and desperate!  Surely God loves these kinds of prayers, for it is then when we are stripped of our pride and begin to develop the desire to rely more on Him and less on ourselves.
The Holy Spirit goes to God on our behalf when we can’t.  When we cannot find the words to pray, Romans 8:26 assures us of the following: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” NIV 
How Can We Pray? 
We can pray anytime, anyplace. While it is good to set aside a quiet place and specific time to pray, God is available to us at all times.  Our prayers do not have to be formal recitations.  We need only to come before God with an honest and open heart.  He will listen and act on our behalf in His timing—which by the way is never late!   
One Method of Prayer
How often do we go to God in prayer, only asking for our needs?  I have found that the ACTS method of prayer as shown in the acrostic below, gives me the opportunity to adore, confess, express thankfulness, and bring my requests to God. 
A = Adoration - give adoration to God as your Creator; praise Him for His omnipotence and His omnipresence;
C = Confess – confess specific sins and ask for God’s forgiveness;
T = Thanksgiving – be specific in naming what you are thankful for;
S = Supplication - bring your needs and the needs of others to God.   
There are many people who are in desperate need of our prayers. What a great privilege and responsibility we have to make prayer a top priority in our daily lives. 

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