The Bible tells us we should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians5:17). Unfortunately, for many of us, a few minutes spent in prayer feels like forever. Why do we struggle so much with prayer when we know how vital it is to our relationship with God?
We certainly don’t lack information about how to pray. Christian bookstores are packed with books that explain in great detail the various methods of prayer. But perhaps we need to also direct our attention to our motivation, our attitude, in prayer. The following article, entitled “Focus on the Father” by Rusty Rustenbach(excerpted from Discipleship Journal, Issue 6), explores how our attitude can make prayer an adventure rather than a burden. As you read through the article, underline any portions that stand out to you. Then respond to the questions and exercises.
Privilege of Prayer
Of all the ingredients in discipleship, the area many of us struggle with most is prayer. According to one recently published estimate, a typical Christian layman spends about three and a half minutes each day in prayer. Full-time Christian workers average about seven minutes per day. This pitiful situation must amaze even the Lord Himself, for Isaiah 59:16 records that when no one was found to intercede for His people, God was appalled. Why do we fail to take full advantage of the privilege of prayer? Is it a lack of discipline? Are we too busy? Are we unmotivated?
1. What things make it difficult for you to spend quality time in prayer?
_Too busy or tired
_ Can’t concentrate
_ Don’t know what to pray about
_ Don’t feel like it
_ Feel guilty
_ Not convinced it makes a difference
Perhaps the basic cause of our weakness in prayer relates to how we view God. We may have no genuine awe for the One “who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:13). God seems more like a superhero from a child’s cartoon, whittled down to human size.
If we aren’t captivated by God, prayer is a tedious task. It becomes a discipline that only those with wills of steel can master. I once regarded prayer as “gutting it out” before God. It meant trying to bring reams and reams of petitions before the Lord. The more requests I could bring, the more spiritual I was.
2. What similarities do you see between the author’s approach (bringing “reams and reams of petitions before the Lord”) and Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:7?
Communion or Wrestling Match?
I also misinterpreted statements from godly men about the importance of prayer. Martin Luther’s statement that “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer” implied to me that prayer was a guaranteed formula for success.
Rather than being a dynamic communion with the sovereign Lord of the universe, to me prayer was an exercise meant to wrestle effects into the lives of people and to manipulate God’s hand. Prayer became lifeless
and tedious. It was like castor oil: terrible tasting, but good for me.
4. Which of the following statements describe your general attitude toward prayer? Check all that apply.
_ Prayer is like a marriage—it is hard work but can be very rewarding.
_ I want to like prayer, but I really don’t.
_ Prayer is like writing “thank you” notes—it is an obligation I need to fulfill.
_ I look forward to prayer.
_ I enjoy the time I spend in prayer, but I would like to go deeper.
Yet God reminded me of the truth I was neglecting: He wanted to commune with me. What does this mean? Communion is defined as the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions, and an intimate fellowship, rapport, or communication. This is the kind of relationship God wants with me.
5. How is God’s desire for communion (intimate relationship) with us expressed in the following verses?
6. Summarize in your own words the most significant or meaningful insight you gained from the verses above.
What Is Your Picture of God?
I saw I had become hardened to the excitement of walking in continual awareness of God’s presence. I realized afresh that He desires open communion with me. He has little interest in the petition gymnastics I was trying to perfect in prayer. He wants me to be preoccupied with Himself. Seeing God this way enables us to stand in awe of Him. It stimulates our heart to vital communion and conversation with Him. Seeing God as He is requires faith on our part, but whoever is enamored and thrilled with God is then rightly motivated to pray. Discipline will still be necessary, but prayer won’t be drudgery. I believe that is hat John 4:24 is hinting at: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (emphasis added).
7. Read John 4:4-30, the context of the story of the woman at the well.
a. How did the Samaritan woman’s inaccurate picture of God affect her ability to worship Him “in spirit and in truth”?
b. What aspects of God’s character are hardest for you to grasp (for example, all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, sovereign, holy, righteous, loving, merciful, faithful, and so on)? How might this affect your prayer life?
Someone told me… “I find you kind of weird. You love cute and girly stuff and you listen to heavy metal music.” I smiled at him and said “Well that is how life goes. I am made that way.”
As I wash my clothes later that night, the conversation struck me again. It made me conscious about myself. Being a 19 year old teenager, I can’t help but to feel self-conscious at times. Am I really that weird? Maybe that is why some of my classmates won’t approach me? And the negative thoughts flooded in. Am ugly? Not good enough? Not normal? I sighed and looked into the faint sparkle of the stars.
A verse struck me “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 ) And with that all my self-doubt disappeared. All this ugly thoughts in my mind was washed away with this Holy gladness. I am not ugly, I am not weird and I am very sure that I am more than enough. Because the sovereign Lord created me. I am made to be God’s Chocolate-mint minded princess. He made me chocolate-like, sweet, mellow and comforting but to His delight He put a twist into His creations. He placed mint on the chocolate, one some might find unusual combination but still very well made because God created it. And this difference that I have helped a lot when it comes to helping other teens who are lost and rebellious. By knowing what songs they listen, it is more easily distinguishable on what aspects of their lives they have a hard time coping with. And from there we are able to know how to help them and how we could pray for them and how to bring them closer to God. By this way, I am able to praise God by my own unique way. SO do not be afraid. Embrace the inner you and all the qualities you think that are not desirable. Shake that thought away because you are wonderfully made by the Father.
This warning immediately follows an important passage in 1 Peter, Chapter One that describes how God inspired His prophets to speak and to write the scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
False prophets rose up and challenged
the prophets of God. You may remember the story of Elijah who stood
alone against 400 prophets of Baal. On Mt. Carmel, he challenged them
to prove their god was more than just a stone statue. More than 400
false prophets failed to call fire down from heaven. For six straight
hours they prayed, danced, shouted, and cut themselves to no avail.
When Elijah's turn came, he rebuilt the altar of the Lord, and even
doused the sacrifice with water. God answered by fire. He consumes
the sacrifice, wood stones and all. It was a great victory, but
short lived as the people soon began to follow false prophets and
false gods once again
Jeremiah was challenged by the wicked prophet Hannaniah. God instructed Jeremiah to wear an ox yoke to demonstrate the coming captivity of the people of Judah. Hannaniah had been prophesying a very different and far more popular message. He prophesied peace. He scoffed at the idea the god would judge his chosen people. Hannaniah broke the yoke from Jeremiah's neck defying the warnings of God's spokesman. God instructed Jeremiah to replace his wooden yoke with one made of iron and preach his warning in the temple again the following day. He also predicted Hannaniah's death which took place shortly there after.
Today there are many who deny and defy the Word of the Lord. The Bible is the word of the Lord to His people in the last days. There are false teachers, false religions, even false claims of so called science that deny the truth of the gospel and the very existence of the Creator Himself.
Peter warns that many will follow the destructive, sensual ways of false teachers in the last days. Satan is still up to his old tricks. He promises pleasure, power, riches, fame, love, success and fulfillment. Paul predicted that false teachers would heap up followers with itching ears. Jesus Himself warned that the road to destruction would be wide and many would follow it. Because of these false teachers and their corrupt teaching the way of truth would be spoken against. The message of the cross has been maligned, the virgin birth sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection of our Lord are mocked in the mainstream media, in the classroom, and in some cases even in the pulpits of churches.
In their greed they will use
good-sounding arguments to exploit you. Peter's word are certainly
true today. False prophets and false religions have stockpiles of
money. Their leaders intentionally deceive and exploit people while
those who follow are bilked out of their life savings or worse. One
wonders if Peter could have foreseen the rise of Islam and it's
fanatical followers who's suicide bombing missions terrorize the
Peter says of the false teachers, "They deny the Lord who bought then and bring swift destruction upon themselves." The Gospel is all about the redemption of mankind through the sacrifice of God's Son. The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. So why is the Lord so quick to bring destruction upon these false teachers? Because of their destructive influence. The false religion of Islam, the major cults such as Mormonism and Jehovah's Witness continue to expand their deceptive influence around the world, yet we do not see the swift destruction of these false teachers. Peter assures us, "The verdict against them from long ago is still in force, and their destruction is not asleep."
Let us be faithful to live out the truth of the gospel. Let me remind you of Paul's word of encouragement, ”That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."