I was recently given the opportunity to speak to a group of high school students at a local church. I was asked to speak on the topic of prayer. This would be the first time I spent time putting together a bible study on the topic of prayer. In my preparation, I became overwhelmed with the myriad of ways one could approach this topic. I wanted to go in so many different directions, and was trying to narrow down my ideas through the religious “funnel” in order to best reach the youth I’d be standing in front of. Oops! Did you hear what I said, “I” became overwhelmed. “I” wanted… “I”… “I”… That was my first and greatest mistake. I immediately started to use my own wisdom. WRONG! I had to stop, calm my heart, my mind, and give this whole process over to the Lord! It needed to be HIS words, HIS direction, HIS wisdom that would speak to these kids, not mine. In my time of prayer before my Lord, He made it extremely clear what He wanted to say. It went something like this:
PERSISTENCE in prayer. With all the distractions in life, we need to commit to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Let me know if any of these sound familiar to you: distress, worry, anxiety, fear, nervousness, uncertainty, sickness, disaster, or even death. We may find it “easier” to get down on our knees and pray when things aren’t going our way. Abraham Lincoln spent plenty of time on his knees in everything that he was dealing with during his time in office (Civil War, the death of his son):
“When everyone seemed panic-stricken, I went into my room and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed. Soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into His own hands.”
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for that day.”
However, do we get down on our knees and pray when the roses are blooming?! Do we praise His name when all cylinders are clicking? Regardless of your circumstances, we are to pray always. (Luke 21:36, Ephesians 6:18)
REVERENCE in prayer. Our all-powerful, all-knowing Father in heaven, Creator of the heavens and the earth, King of Kings, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, deserves all glory and honor…period. (Psalm 89:6-8, Hebrews 12:28) We are to come before Him with all reverence, respect, admiration, honor, and love for who He is and what He’s done for us. When Abraham spoke with God, he fell on his face in humility and fear (Genesis 17:3). Moses was called by the Lord to free his people, and Moses hid his face from the glory of the Lord (Exodus 3:5,6). We are to come before our King with humility of spirit and praise Him for who He is (Psalm 150)!
ASK in prayer. Simply stated, God tells us that we need to bring our requests before Him. What do you do when you want something? Ask for it! But the key is that we do not seek our own selfish desires. God will grant us the desires of our heart in His will, in His time, that will honor Him. Do you want to be used by God? Ask. Do you desire more wisdom and discernment? Ask. Do you want His will to be done in your life? Ask.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” ~ Matthew 7:7
“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son [italics mine]. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” ~ John 14:13-14
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” ~ John 15:16
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full…In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you…” ~ John 16:23-24, 26
YIELD in prayer. In driving terms, to yield is to succumb to the flow of oncoming traffic. One of my biggest pet peeves as a driver is when people take their sweet time getting on the freeway. Excuse me, but there is a big rig barreling down the freeway and I’m thinking he’ll win the battle. Huh?! What say you?! Should you speed up and fall in line with the flow of traffic? I think so. Thus in our prayer life, we are to yield to our Heavenly Father. Who are we to dictate the flow of traffic. It’s not our world. It’s not our life. We are His. Proverbs 21:1 states, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” As stated above, if you desire to know God’s will for your life, then you need to be ready to yield to HIS will, HIS direction, HIS plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” ~ Jeremiah 17:8-9
ENGAGE in prayer. You are not talking to the unknown. You are not talking to yourself. You are in conversation with God. As a teacher, there were many times I’d ask my students to “engage”. Get involved. Participate in the conversation. Be ready to learn! Engaging in prayer is the willingness, anticipation, and expectation that you will hear from the Lord. He will answer you. He will teach you all you need to know. But you need to be ready to hear from Him. You need to be quiet so you can hear His voice. Psalm 46:10 states very clearly, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” If you have reverence for Almighty God, you will be humble enough to be still, quiet, and ready to hear from Him.
“…to be an imitator of God, requires that we come to terms with the value of quietness, slowing down, coming apart from the noise and speed of today’s pace, and broadening our lives with a view of the eternal reach of time. It means saying no to more and more activities that increase the speed of our squirrel cage. Knowing God requires that we ‘be still’”. ~ Charles Swindoll
REVEALED in prayer. This works both ways. In order to know God, we need to communicate with Him. We need to tell Him everything about us. We need to reveal our deepest, darkest hurts, pains, sins, hopes, and desires. “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” (Proverbs 27:19) So what does this look like? Francois Fenelon, a Roman Catholic Frenchman said this of prayer:
“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pain, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.”
Does He already know what they are, sure. However, in expressing those to Him, you are opening up and readying yourself for Him to do a wonderful work in your life. In so doing, God will reveal Himself to you. He will reveal who He is and what He’s done (Job 38-39), and what He wants from you and for you. He doesn’t want you to be ashamed. He wants you to be perfected in righteousness. (Philippians 3:9, 1 Timothy 6:11, Titus 2:12)
So as you continue on in your own prayer life, consider these things. God wants you to be PERSISTENT in seeking Him at all times. To have REVERENCE for Him and His glorious works. To ASK Him for the desires of your heart. To YIELD to His plan for your life. To ENGAGE in the righteous conversation for the development of your relationship with Him. To be willing to REVEAL yourself to Him and be ready to have Him reveal Himself to you. That my friends is effective P.R.A.Y.E.R.