Chapter 12, Prayer: Making Prayer Personal
It’s hard to believe it’s only been a little over a year since War Room came out (the picture above is when we rented out a movie theater on Aug. 30, 2015) and then the DVD was released on Dec. 22, 2015. So much has happened in the past year. Since then, we’ve taught “The Battle Plan of Prayer Bible Study” several times with nearly one hundred who have gone through the course. I have sensed a growth in our church in regards to prayer: our Wednesday night prayer attendance is up, as is our men’s prayer time on Thursday. There is a sense of spiritual strength in our church and I believe it is because of prayer.
But we can always grow in our prayers, not as a duty, not to get what we want, not to even seek God’s blessings...We need to pray because prayer is a personal communication with our God who loves us. This Sunday we will study Prayer and in the Spring, I plan to have five different Discipleship tracks for us to study what I believe are the five essentials to Christian ministry. Those five areas are:
Prayer & Worship
OutReach & Evangelism
InReach & Fellowship
Need-meeting & Missions
Teaching & Discipleship
Please pray for these five key essentials in our church. This is week 12 in our BELIEVE series. Prayer is a vital action in our foundation of beliefs. If you wrote down your prayer requests when this blog was first published on Aug. 25, 2016, review your prayer list and see how God has answered your prayers.
The following devotional is from Zondervan.
KEY QUESTION: How do I grow by communicating with God?
Our God is a personal God who desires a real relationship with us. He is not a distant, cosmic being, but a good father who longs to interact with his children. Prayer is a conversation between God and his people. We serve a God who is not threatened by our questions and doubts. We don’t have to put on a false persona to please him. He permits us to be honest about our fears, our feelings of isolation and our disappointments. When we rehearse our story before him, we see his good involvement in our lives.
Because we are God’s most prized creation, he wants to know the desires of our hearts. Scripture encourages us to, without hesitation, lay our requests before him. For example, see Gen. 18:20-31 for a conversation between Abraham and God that displays the freedom we have to talk honestly with him.
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:18–20)
I pray to God to know him, to find direction for my life and to lay my requests before him.
KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live?
We pray to align our lives with God’s will and story. We pray to lay our burdens before God to find peace. We pray to avoid making any major decision without seeking God. We pray for others.
Let me share a story with you. Our son David was born without a left hand. Prayer was a key spiritual practice to not only help me process this difficult event in our lives but also to move the reality of my identity, and my son’s identity, in Christ from my head to my heart.
During this time, I began by praying psalms of lament to the Lord: Why, Lord, did you let this happen to me? I serve you as a pastor of a church — not perfectly, but wholeheartedly. Why could you not pass this burden on to someone who doesn’t even believe in you? Have I done something wrong to deserve this?
I never sensed God was angry with me for speaking to him with such honesty. Actually, I felt as though he were whispering to me, Go ahead, I can handle this. I love you. Keep talking honestly to me, and we will get to the bottom of this. I will show you something I have wanted you to see for a long time.
In many extended moments of silence, when I didn’t know what else to say or how to pray, God began speaking back to me — not in an audible voice, but directly to my spirit. “Randy, my son, I have nothing in my being that seeks to harm you. The darkness and pain of the world are caused by sin, not by me. I have come to redeem the pain caused by sin. Randy, my son, I will use this situation to show you — and your son — who I really am. If you capture this, it will be more valuable than having three hands. Randy, my son, I have given your son everything he needs to be and do everything I am calling him to be and do. Randy, my son, it is time to shift your sense of worth from your performance to your position. You are my son. You do not have to perform to be a somebody; you already are a somebody in my eyes.
“Randy, my son, you need to teach this to your son. He will learn this from how you live, not by your words alone. You have four years before he realizes he is missing a hand. This gives you four years to learn to place your identity in your position as my son. Randy, my son, if you get this truth embedded into your heart, you will be free — free from the exhausting life of trying to gain and sustain status in the world. This is a great gift to give to all your children.”
Prayer is a conversation with God. We lay our honest requests before God, our need for daily bread. Yet, we clarify, as Jesus did, that we want God’s will to be done over our will, trusting his way to be good and right. As we rest in the presence of God, he will speak and show us his will in his perfect timing.
What do you learn about prayer from David’s psalms? (You’ll find some ideas in Psalm 77:1-20.)