Growing in Prayer

Growing in Prayer

I would like to talk to you today about Prayer. This is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I am very passionate about prayer and the importance it has in each of our lives.

I realize that this is a very broad subject that take many different avenues, but today I would like to talk about the basics of prayer. I am hoping the message today will be both informational and more importantly that it will be inspirational.

When I was in elementary school ( Just in case you do not realize it, that was a LONG time ago), I remember being taught a lesson on journalism that taught us that in order to be a good journalist we needed to cover the following areas:

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

Hopefully I will do that today.

I would like to start off with the “Who.” I think that part is pretty clear. Prayer needs to be between each of us and God.

So that brings us to “What”. Prayer is the act of communicating with God. That’s it……just you and me talking to God like we would talk to our best friend.

Next “When” should we pray? There is a story that was shared by Gregg Barbour in a Sermon on Prayer.

There was a man who was drafted to go to war. His wife was distressed. She knew that her husband could possibly lose his life, and that she may never see him again. As he left, he told her that he would miss her terribly. She sent him a letter every day that he was gone. She waited by the mailbox every day when the mail was supposed to come hoping to receive a letter from him. The first day….no letter. The second day….no letter. She waited and waited for weeks and weeks, and still no letter. After about 6 weeks, she received a letter, and it read, “Thanks for the food.” She was perplexed…..she wrote him every day, and poured herself into each word she wrote, and all he could respond with was, “Thanks for the food.”????

How is this like us? We get this amazing letter from God, which He has poured His whole heart into, and the only response he gets from us is…

“God is Great, God is Good, Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.”

Now do not get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this prayer. When I was growing up as a child we said that prayer at our meal times. It was one of the first exposures I had as a child of a way to communicate my thanks to God. It was brief, it was easy and I clearly, even as a small child, understood what it meant. But as we mature as Christians, God wants us to grow in wisdom and in truth. He wants us to get to know him on a more intimate level. He wants us to respond to His letter. The way we respond is through Prayer, communicating with God. He wants to become close to us and He wants to hear from us more often than just at mealtimes.

So why don’t we take time to pray more often to God? Here is a list of some possible reasons. Listen and see if any of these sound familiar.

  1. We are just too busy.
  2. We have this idea that prayer has to be formal and we need to use big fancy words when we pray.
  3. We don’t realize the importance of prayer.
  4. We just don’t think about it.
  5. Things are going OK for us right now so why not wait until we really need to pray?
  6. We don’t think God really wants to hear from us.

This list of reasons of why we don’t pray is full of misconceptions. Let’s look at what God tells us about when and where to pray.

Matthew 6:5-8

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

So what can we get from this scripture?

Verse 5 says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Prayer is not a show for others, it is a form of communication with God.

Verse 7 says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. “

So does that mean that it’s ok for our prayers to be short?

For years my husband and I were able to ride together to work almost every day because our work places were just a few blocks from each other. I remember one cold, dark, gray winter morning. As we traveled on our way to work I remember thinking about how dismal and gray the day seemed to be. The trees had lost most of their leaves and, had I not known better, I would have thought they were truly dead. But as we drove up the Holly Mountain that cold, dark winter morning began to transform. As we reached the top of the mountain the sun peeped through and the mountain became a scene of absolute beauty. Every dead looking tree, every broken branch, every dead weed took on a new life as it was encased in a thin layer of ice. It was absolutely breathtaking.

I immediately said, “’Thank you God for blessing us with this moment.” It was a short prayer, but there was never a more heartfelt prayer. It was as though God was revealing to us the marvelous, incredible way he can transform our lives if we will just ask him to come and live in our hearts. I needed to stop and thank God for the wonderful gift He had just blessed us with.

So yes, it is ok for our prayers to be short.

Verse 8 “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

So the question is, if God knows what I need even before I ask, then why ask?

The purpose of our prayers is not only to ask God for what we need, it is for us to communicate to God a little part of who we are. Granted, God already knows all about us, but it’s still good for us to express things to God about ourselves. Things like, how we are feeling, what we want, what our desires are, any concerns we have, even about the little things, and about our lives in general.

Please believe me when I say, God wants to hear from us.

So, why pray?

Because God wants to communicate with us. Think back to the wife that sent her husband letters every day. Do you think she knew her husband loved her? I totally believe she knew he loved her. Did she still want to hear from him and actually hear him tell her how much he loved her?

Absolutely! God desires the same from us. He wants to hear how much we love Him, how much we need Him, how important He is to us.

Listen to these words from Paul in Philippians 4:6-7.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Imagine never being anxious about anything. It seems like an impossibility. But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers.

When our boys were young one year our church offered a summer day camp to the children in our community for a week. As a part of the weeks activities we had various guests come to talk to the children. On the day we invited the local fire company to come they parked a fire truck and an ambulance nearby that the kids could tour. An EMT talked to the children about what the various items were used for and safety tips. He told them if they ever caught on fire they should remember this saying, “STOP, DROP, & ROLL.”

That phrase was short and easy to remember and given the circumstance it had the power to be life saving.

Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! When you start to worry, “STOP, DROP TO YOUR KNEES, & PRAY.”

This phase also has the power to be life saving.

We have learned today that God is a very personal God and he wants an intimate relationship with us, but HOW do we pray?

First of all, you need to find a place to pray. Find a spot that is comfortable and quiet, a place free of distractions. This can be anywhere. I once asked my elementary age Sunday school class where their favorite place to pray was and one young boy said, on a big branch in a tree near their house. For him, that was his quiet place, a place where he could be alone with God.

I love to sit outside in the early morning just as the world is starting to wake up. I love to hear the birds as they first start singing their morning songs. When the weather makes it uncomfortable to spend my quiet time with God outdoors, I retreat to my living room. I come equipped with a note pad, a pen, a devotional book, my Bible, and my first cup of coffee for the day.

Secondly, set aside a time to pray. Praying early in the morning works best for me. For some of you praying in the afternoon or the evening works best. The time of the day does not matter. What matters is setting aside a time to pray. It is sort of like when you have an appointment. You write down that appointment because you don’t want to miss it. You are making the time of the appointment a priority. We need to make spending a special time with God a priority.

The last thing I would like to share with you this morning is the method that I use for my prayer time each day. If you go to the internet and do a search of guides on how to pray you will find scores of suggestions of various ways to pray.

I use the ACTS Method of prayer. This is the method that works best for me. If you go to crosswalk.com there is an excellent article titled, “What is the ACTS Prayer Method and How Do You Pray It?” I will briefly explain to you some of my own thoughts as well as share some of the information found on that site.

ACTS is an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

I start my prayer time each day with “A” – Adoration. Adoration is just what it sounds like. I am adoring God.

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus taught His followers to start their prayers with adoration, when He prayed, “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.” You can start your prayers with adoration for God by recounting His many characteristics in the form of praise.

I start by telling God how wonderful, incredible, marvelous, awesome, amazing and powerful he is. I tell him how very much I love Him. Remember, He wants to hear how much we love Him.

“C” – Confession. Confess your sins. We are all human, and we all sin, no matter how hard we try not to. We need to ask God to forgive us of those sins and help us to become more like the children of God he has created us to be.

1John 1:9

“ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

“T” – Thanksgiving. Now here for me is one of the most challenging parts of my prayer. Yes, it is easy to thank God for all the wonderful blessings in my life, But scripture is very clear on the command to be grateful. First Thessalonians 5:18 instructs: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice the verse doesn’t say “In good times give thanks” or “in the pleasantries of life, give thanks.” Rather, it commands us to be thankful in everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is not an easy thing to do. That means I am to be thankful for those ugly things in my life that stress me out each day, for the physical pain I might be having, for those annoying interruptions in my life that make it difficult for me to control m temper. But, by being thankful for those things, I am living out “the will of God for me in Christ Jesus” as the verse states.

“S” – Supplication. Supplication is the act of going to God in prayer and humbly asking him for the desires of heart for both ourselves and others. Some people say they feel selfish asking God for anything for themselves, so they only pray for others to be blessed. Yet, Scripture tells us if we as parents who are sinful by nature know how to give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

In Review:

Find a place to pray.

Set aside a specific time to pray each day and make it a Priority.

Use the method of prayer that works best for you. Remember praying is nothing more than talking to God just as you would talk to a close friend.

Get ready to Grow and be Blessed in your Daily walk with God!

Amen.

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