As a kid I was taught to pray at bedtime and at the table. So, I knew “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and “Come Lord Jesus be our guest…” and perhaps another one or two table prayers. It seems that each of the four of us around the dinner table had our “own” prayer to say and we said the same prayer every day. When the whole family gathered at Thanksgiving or Christmas it was usually my Dad or Uncle that prayed. But one year my uncle asked one of my cousins to pray. To this day neither of us knows why. We were clear down at the end of the kids table, so my cousin bowed his head reverently and with a dramatic flair prayed…good food, good meat. Yea God let’s eat. He had no more than said amen and we could feel the heat of my uncle’s wrath from across the room. We kids knew better than to laugh but it nearly killed us to keep straight faces. And I do not remember any of us ever being asked to pray again!
Some of us still pray the same prayers that we learned as kids. They are not bad prayers, but prayer is really talking to our heavenly Father, and He wants to hear what we are thinking, feeling, hoping and enduring. Prayer isn’t just a laundry list of things we want or need. Prayer is about building a relationship with God over time. If you think about your relationship with God like you would with your best friend, how do they compare? Perhaps we go days without talking to God. We get busy and we forget. We think we will pray later and later never comes. When we build a relationship with God through prayer, it is built on faith and trust. And it takes time and persistence.
God knows what is on our hearts and minds long before we ever speak with Him, but He loves to hear from us. We may ask for help or guidance. Maybe we are just checking in to say thank you. But every prayer draws us just a bit closer to Him. When we look at scripture, we see that people 3,000 years ago were praying about the same things we pray about: anger, fear, worry, doubt, uncertainty. And when we look at scripture, we see there are many verses about anger, fear, worry, doubt, and uncertainty. There are also verses about hope and peace, grace and mercy…and love. There are many verses, even whole chapters about love. But there is no stronger connection to God than in prayer.
There are times when we pray that it seems like God is not present, that He is not listening and sometimes it feels like He no longer cares. But God always listens. He always hears. He just answers on His time and not ours. One of the hardest things for us is this; we go to God in prayer and give Him our cares and burdens, and we leave feeling pretty good. But if God doesn’t answer right away, and in the way in which we have instructed Him to answer, then we take back the load of worry we have given Him, and we try to fix things ourselves. This NEVER ends well.
Many of us have heard the verse Jeremiah 29:11… "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you.” But listen to the next verse, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you.” It isn’t that we need to wait for things to get bad to come to the Lord in prayer. We can come to Him with the things of our everyday lives… good, bad and indifferent. Prayer is our direct hotline to Him.
Every Rabbi in Judea had students. And every Rabbi taught their students to pray in a certain way. Some of Jesus disciples had been disciples of John the Baptist first and one day they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. This is where we receive what we now call The Lord’s Prayer. You can find this prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. The first three petitions address God and the other four are related to human needs. We as Christians are united with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world in this prayer.
Allow me to leave you with a few more verses about prayer. This is just a smattering of verses. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” The good news is we can leave all our worries, cares, hurts, frustrations and anger with God and He will replace them with His peace. And from the Gospel of Luke, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” None of this is easy and we cannot do it by ourselves. That is why we go to the Lord in prayer. But even our worst enemies deserve the love of God. And it is in the power of prayer that this can occur. We not only ask for our strength but for the strength to forgive those who have wronged us.
Paul tells us this in 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.” This is not always easy either but the thing that will get us through challenges is the second thing in Paul’s list… pray without ceasing. Prayer is not just for bedtime and at the table. We can pray anytime and anyplace. And we should. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have. When we pray about situations or people or challenges, we are taking those things to the highest power anywhere. However, we must remember that while we may pray for people or situations to change, God might change us instead.
There are 367 specific Bible verses about prayer in the NIV Bible. I have listed but a very few. Today when challenges come your way, take time to talk to the Lord. When good things happen, take time to thank the Lord. You can be mad as all get out at the Lord, but never, ever stop talking to Him.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W