We have stated that the goal of this series is that we become more like God, more godly, more Christlike - this would be the character of the new spiritual you. Another question is, "Why this goal or purpose?"
The answer is that it fulfills the purpose of our lives (Why am I here?)
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
- II Corinthians 4:7-11
We are studying disciplines that help us in this spiritual transformation:
- Intimacy - consciously drawing near to God.
- Simplicity - uncluttering our lives
- Silence and solitude - quietly listening to and for God
- Surrender - letting go the responsibility for our transformation to God.
In this session we will look at the 6th step/discipline which is prayer. In other words, understanding how to communicate with God when we do speak to Him.
What is prayer?
Each person complete in their own mind the following sentence: "For me prayer is ___________________. "
1. Prayer is not bargaining.
In this type of exchange a person attempts to change God's mind, or offer Him something in order to move Him to take action in our favor. (If you heal me, I will be good, I will come to church.)
2. Prayer is not a get-rich scheme.
Prayer does not automatically result in abundance of blessings. Sometimes God lets people die, or remain in suffering or difficulty.
3. Prayer is not a wish list.
We do not use God as a rubber stamp for getting all we want. Some think that prayer is just the expression of our desires before God.
4. Prayer is not a ritual or a charm.
For example, if you say a certain number of prayers, or say them in a certain way, or on a particular day or order - they will be effective. This is the basis of magic and the occult, not of mature spirituality.
What prayer needs to be
In order to be effective in the development of a godly character, prayer needs to be the following:
1. A calling out to God
Prayer is a personal conversation with God that includes praise, thanksgiving, request, repentance... to name a few elements. In prayer we call out to God to know His will concerning the matters we have put before Him.
2. Prayer needs to be a priority
1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
- I Timothy 2:1-2
3. Prayer needs to become our remedy... for worry
Jesus reveals the truth about the value of worry is zero.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
- Matthew 6:7
Godly mature Christians replace worry with prayer in their lives. We seek God's solutions for our troubles through prayer instead of more worry.
4. Prayer needs to be constant
Paul says, "Pray without ceasing" in Philippians 4:4-7. Worry about nothing, pray about everything. Why? you ask - Because trouble and stress are always there, so prayer must also be there each day.
As human beings we naturally are concerned about illness and trials, but concern is different than worry. Concern treats matters seriously, relying on God to provide what is needed through prayer. Worry is choosing to fret and review the problem without giving it to God in prayer. The problem with worry is that it has no faith attached to it so it is a nonspiritual action that has no effect on the situation other than weakening the individual.
The perils and promises of prayer
Here, then, are a few tips for those ready to devote more time and energy to prayer. Remember:
1. Prayer is not a substitute for human responsibility.
Pray and work and serve and seek and persevere. Yes, pray for success on the exam, but do not forget to study!
2. Pray to the true God.
The true God is not your grandfather, or your buddy, or a faraway judge... He is the creator of everything and an all-powerful being for whom nothing is impossible - trust in that when you pray.
3. God answers prayers in His way, not yours.
God always hears the prayers of the saints but His answers fulfill His will and purpose. Paul's prayer in II Corinthians 12.
7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- II Corinthians 12:7-10
Note that God gave Paul what he needed (humility) and not what he wanted (healing). God wanted to be glorified through Paul's weakness rather than by his strength.
4. No matter what - God is with you!
Regardless of the answer or time frame, because you are praying - God is with you. In the end, being with God is what brings peace and joy - not having your prayers answered.
- Share with the group a prayer of yours that was answered/not answered and how that affected your faith?
- In your opinion, what is the greatest misconception people have about prayer? Why?
- What is the greatest hindrance in your prayer life? How has this affected you?
- How would you encourage someone who has given up on prayer? What would you say or do to revive their prayer life?
- If you had the time or opportunity to offer only one prayer, share with the group what that prayer would be.