Home > Devotionals, General Posts > Living the Christian Life in 2010, Part Two: The Importance and Power of Prayer

Living the Christian Life in 2010, Part Two: The Importance and Power of Prayer

On New Year’s Eve, you may recall that I recommended you all to begin a daily Bible reading plan this year. You can, of course, begin a Bible reading plan at any time of the year you choose, and unless you want to start in the middle of some books, you may want to personalize a Bible reading plan for yourself. Here are a few practices I would recommend to you if you do not have a current daily Bible reading plan:

  • Choose a book of the Bible and prayerfully read through it. Absorb as much as you can from this book as you read it, taking it as slow as you need to so you can comprehend what is being written because, yes, some books of the Bible are harder to read than others. (Reading through just a book of the Bible and then jumping to another is especially helpful in reading the larger books of the Bible, especially the larger OT books and the Gospels and larger epistles in the NT.)
  • Choose a section of the Bible and prayerfully read through it. Absorb as much as you can from each day’s passage(s) as you read it/them. For example, you may wish to read the Poetry books of the OT (Job through Song of Solomon), or you may wish to read the Pauline epistles (Romans through 2 Thessalonians or Titus, depending upon whether you include the Pastoral Epistles). And you can probably think of more “Book Groups” than these and may even want to customize the books you include in the Book Section you are reading (for example, you may wish to read all the epistles in order, not just the Pauline epistles).
  • You may wish to combine the two and/or alternate between them throughout the year. (This is probably the practice I will begin next year, since I am already using the 4-book Bible Reading Plan for this year.)

Now that I have given those of you without a plan for reading the Bible various options you may consider, I turn to the meat of this post: the importance and power of prayer. Daily Bible reading is certainly important, but prayer is our means of communicating with God. As God uses the Bible to communicate with us, so we pray to communicate to God. Prayer is actually commanded in the Bible—multiple times (1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Ephesians 6:18, among others). But it is not enough that we are to pray, there are certain things that should be true about our prayers. Consider how the Lord taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5-13:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread (or, our bread for tomorrow), and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or, the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen).

Before Jesus actually gives us “the Lord’s Prayer,” he reveals the whole intent of the passage. There are characteristics our prayers should show:

  1. Humility. Unlike the hypocrites, we should pray secretly and not for people’s praise.
  2. Trust in God. We should not be long-winded. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a particularly heartfelt prayer to have no words at all but groanings (Romans 8:23). And when we don’t know the words to pray, the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Jesus, in the Matthew text, says that we shouldn’t use many words because our Father knows what we need before we ask Him. So, if we use words just because we think it will make God hear us, we are expressing disbelief in God. It is certainly okay to be persistent in prayer (in fact, Jesus commands us to “not lose heart” in prayer in Luke 18:1).
  3. Praise. In the actual prayer our Lord models for us, He first praises God, calling him “Father.” “Hallowed be Your name” also means “let Your name be treated with reverence.”
  4. Desire for the Kingdom. As Christians, we should desire the coming of God’s kingdom … and we should pray for it.
  5. Desire for God’s will to be done. As Christians, we should desire to grow in holiness and daily conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:12-13).
  6. Faith that God will provide. “Give us this day our daily bread” can also be translated “give us our bread for tomorrow.” Our prayers should show faith that God will provide for our needs.
  7. Desire for forgiveness. We still sin because of our old sin nature, the flesh, but we have the Holy Spirit within us and have a new, hateful attitude toward sin. We should ask God for forgiveness of specific sins in our lives (1 John 1:8-9). Also, the stipulation “as we also have forgiven our debtors” reveals that we as Christians must forgive others not to achieve our salvation but because we are saved.
  8. Desire for deliverance from temptation. This actually ties in with points 4 and 7, since in God’s eternal kingdom, we will be free from the very presence of sin, and, of course, in being forgiven of sin, God enables us to confront and conquer sin that remains in us.
  9. A final admittance of God’s sovereignty. Our prayers should rightly express our utter and whole dependence upon God concerning everything in our lives.

In summary, our prayers should be humble, expressing our utter dependence upon God for everything. Why? Because prayer is powerful.

Consider James 5:16,

… The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Our prayers have great power! Not because we are righteous but because Christ our Lord is our righteousness! Paul expressed confidence in the power of prayer in Philippians 1:19. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The same Jesus who commanded us to pray to not be delivered into temptation commands us here to pray so that we won’t be led into temptation! Prayer has power! Healing power, even! Power to free apostles from prison (Acts 12)! It has power to heal the sick! In the verses leading up to James 5:16, James had told believers to pray over sick people to heal them … this sounds strange to our modern ears, and we should definitely “have faith in God and take [our] medicine” as Martin Luther advises, but all the same, we should pray and have faith in God that He will heal the sick in accordance with His good and perfect will.

 

I recently preached a sermon on Philippians 1:19-26, and as previously mentioned, this passage deals, in part, with prayer. You can listen to the sermon by following this link and following the on-screen directions. I apologize for any unwanted advertisements that may plague you; Podbean.com was not cooperating that day, so I had to use a third-party website.

I leave you with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

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