Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Thoughts (2 of 2)

The first post this week related the importance of prayer and revealed that it was expected. Here, two other aspects of prayer are discussed with points of application at the end. The first aspect today is that prayer is learned. By praying! If you never pray, you never will. The more you pray, the more comfortable it is to pray. So how can prayer be learned?
  1. Pray with others. Listen to their prayers, emulate but not necessarily mimic. (Proverbs 13.20)
  2. Read how others pray. This can serve as a guide, but you still have to actually pray. You can read how to ride a bike, but until you get on one, you don't know if you really can.
  3. Read about the people who prayed – not just prayer. What did God do in their life? Some examples are Muller, Murray, the Puritans, etc.
  4. Prayer is learned by meditating. Psalmist prayed that God would hear his meditations (Psalm 5.1). David wanted his meditations to be pleasing to God (Psalm 19.14).
The last major point is that prayer is answered. Read Matthew 7.7-8. One of the great pray-ers, Andrew Murray, commented on these verses as follows: “'Ask and you shall receive: everyone that asks receives.' This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer. Hold on; let the Word and Spirit teach you to pray aright,...”

Our prayers are answered when we pray:
  • in God's will.
  • that God is glorified.
  • “in Jesus' name.” Read John 14.13-14 and John 15.7.
Two things before we move toward the conclusion of this message.
  1. If we pray in God's will, that He is glorified, and in Jesus' name, our prayers may still be answered differently than we expect.
  2. “In Jesus' name is not a tag line. It is about His character.
I mentioned above that we should learn from others. But to mimic others prayers is not effective praying. It is no more effective than just praying the Lord's Prayer is not effective in, and of, itself. Prayer is more than phrases, it is principles. So look for the principles as others pray, not necessarily the words and phrases they use. Let me give you an example. Read the Lord's prayer from Luke 11.2-4. This is obviously somewhat different than the one many of us memorized from Matthew 6. But the message is the same. It is the principles of prayer, not the specific phrases that matter. Many recite the phrases week after week, and some day after day, and don't even know what they mean. This is NOT what Jesus had in mind.

Again, prayer is learned. Even the disciples had to learn, and fortunately they were not unwilling to ask. Sometimes we are afraid because we think others know how. In no way am I a great pray-er, but I have come a long ways. When I was first married, I would sit waiting for Sunday School to start and our leader would ask someone to pray. Like we all learned in school, I used the angle of being busy looking at something, avoiding eye contact, etc. I did not want to pray publicly. But maybe that was because I didn't pray privately. Again, I have as much or more to learn about prayer as anyone does, but by practicing, I have improved greatly. And by practicing each of us can gain further intimacy with God and improve our prayer life, both publicly and privately.

This week's JOURNEY letter is N for Nurture. I hope this message has encouraged you to pray and given you some ideas for how you might improve – if that is your desire. Usually, nurture has to do with the idea of equipping, and this short two-part post may have done that. But the other part of nurture here is to nurture your relationship to God. And this intimacy with Him is nourished by prayer. As Jesus said, abide in Me.

So what is our next step? Well, let me tweak our question from the past two weeks and make it about prayer.

If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your prayer life, what would be the result?

Again, that question isn't to dwell on the past, but to learn from it, or use it as a model, so we write a better future for ourselves.

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God?

Well, we can build on our previous two steps. We must Begin. And do this Every Day. Now we add the idea of Discern.

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. But even as we each move closer to His image, we are different. So we must each Discern what becoming like God is for each of us. Certainly, that doesn't mean we pick and choose which commands to follow or whether we should read the Bible. No, if we are to become like God in our thoughts, then those issues become non-negotiable. But the person you become and how God uses you will be different than the person I am becoming and how God uses me. We must each Discern the direction that God has for our life, and we do that by reading/studying/meditating on His Word and praying for His guidance.

So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to praying. Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, I will let you discern which of these applies to you, but I will cover a few specifically.

Read some books about prayer or read some of the prayers in the Bible. Begin to practice praying yourself.

Set your minds on things above as you pray. Perhaps, pray the prayers of the Bible with you as the pray-er.

Read the biographies of some of the pray-ers in history. Notice how God used their prayers to sustain and grow their faith. Ask God to do the same for you.

Model prayer for others. Also offer others a chance to pray instead of praying yourself, encouraging them as they do.

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