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Posts Tagged ‘Prayerlessness

Like the Persistent Asking of a Desperate Beggar

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

– Luke 11:1-8

Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need.  I know I do.  My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues.  There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith.  Then there are times of prayerlessness.

In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.  He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13.  The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match.  Most Greek texts do not have these additions.  I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again.  The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer.  Prayer is not just reciting words.  Prayer is not just reading prayers.  Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries.  The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray.  It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them.  Not His miracles.  Not His teaching style.  Not His leadership style.  It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.

I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray.   They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually.  They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24).  Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God.  I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds.  I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone.  I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield.  Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer.  Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray.  Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.

Where are the men of prayer today?  In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women.  I praise God for them.  I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14.  These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God.  But where are the men who pray?  Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?

Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8).  The ESV translates the word as “impudence.”  I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.”  The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:

It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.

I like that image.  Beggars tend to just ask and then move along.  They don’t tend to be very persistent.  Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying.  It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us.  In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying.  Our Father hears us and He knows our needs.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him.  If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?

The balance is to pray the will of God.  The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in.  As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).  Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38).  Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will.  Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).

As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God.  We want to do His will.  Prayer prepares us to do that will.  When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him.  This is not about us.  This isn’t praying about foolish things.  This is about praying for the glory and honor God.  This is gospel-centered praying.  Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward.  This is not about finding bread.  This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.

Finally, a word about praying.  I don’t want condemnation to come over you.  I have lived before under condemnation about prayer.  When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen.  I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day.  I was a failure to say the least.  My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours.  At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying.  I was hitting the clock.  I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.”  I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life.  I look back now with sadness on those times.  My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord.  They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).

I long to just walk with God now.  I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father.  My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them.  They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run.  If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you?  Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.”  No!  I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them.  The same is true of God our Father.

Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now.  My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life.  He was perfect in every single way.  He bore my sins including my prayerlessness.  I am not advocating laziness in prayer.  Luke 11:1-8 shatters that.  There is a persistence in prayer lives.  In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:

11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us?  Of course not!  Our Father is good and He is loving and kind.  The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).

The gospel enables us to pray.  We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness.  We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14).  Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.

I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers!  May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).

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Prayerlessness and Giving Into Sin

I have written before on prayerlessness and I have written before on liberalism and prayer but I want to address the issue as it relates to those who turn away from the faith.  Over my years as a disciple of Jesus (since 1992), I have seen so many people turn away from Jesus.  Some have never came back while others have eventually settled into typical evangelical churches while the fire they once knew is but a distant (and to many an embarrassing) memory.  Gone were the nights of prayer.  Gone were the days of fasting.  Gone was heading out onto the streets on a Friday night to pass out tracts or to preach the gospel.  Gone were the days of sitting for hours and talking about God and His Word.  Gone were the days of memorizing Psalm 91 (in one case) to help you pray.

I use to hang out in college with a group of folks who prayed together every Friday night (and sometimes more).  We would meet in a living room of a man and we would cry out to God.  Someone would bring a guitar and we would sing songs of praise.  We would pray, worship, seek Jesus, rebuke, exhort, and weep.  We would typically start praying about 9 PM and would end around 2 AM.  All of this would be full of the Spirit of God, a passion for Jesus, and a longing to do something great for Jesus.  We were so thankful in those days for the Lord and His salvation.

And then someone would stop coming.  Sometimes it would be because they met a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Others begin to work long hours at work.  The lack of prayer would often lead them to stop reading their Bibles.  When they stopped coming to prayer, some of them began to dabble in sin.  Some began to fool around with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  At least one of them went off into a homosexual lifestyle.

Salvation, of course, is not prayer.  Salvation is Jesus.  Yet prayer often demonstrates our faith unlike any other discipline.  Prayer shows our trust in God and in His Word.  Prayer casts us fully before God, open to His correct, open to others around us weeping and crying out to Jesus.  When we fail to pray, we demonstrate that “we have this” or we don’t trust God nor His Word.  Jesus said that His disciples would pray (Matthew 6:5).  If we don’t pray, can we be His disciples?  I doubt it.  You can’t prove it from the Word.  Prayer demonstrates that we long for God unlike any other discipline that we do.  One can read their Bible and be hungry for knowledge or even to try to disprove God but one cannot truly pray and not want more of Jesus in their lives.

I have watched people wander into sin and the first thing to go is prayer.  Some still read their Bibles from time to time but as they continue in sin, they will stop that as well.  Prayer, however, is cut off quickly when a person begins to live in sin because prayer exposes us before God.  In prayer, we lay ourselves in the presence of Jesus and we want Him to search us (Psalm 139:1).  In prayer, I want God to search me and to help me to be holy (Psalm 17:3).  I long for God and His Word and in prayer this is clearly shown.  In prayer, I give God permission to have His way in me, convict me, transform me, wash me, do whatever it takes to help me to be holy as He is holy (Psalm 19:14).

To me, the first step of the backsliding person is prayerlessness.  Those of you who have fallen away and perhaps have come back to Christ, do you remember days of intercession while you lived in sin?  I remember talking to a liberal Lutheran pastor once and I asked him, “How much time you spend in prayer?”  He commented, “Well, we have prayer at our church every service and I pray during those times.”  I said, “No, I mean when was the last time you got on your face and just sought God for who He is?”  He could give no answer and in fact looked at me like I lost my mind.  Why?  Because he probably had never prayed that way nor does he pray that way now.

Prayer shows our faith.  Leonard Ravenhill called prayer, “the acid test of devotion.”   Is there any wonder then that prayer is the most neglected discipline in the church in many cases?  Paul said we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and he wrote in Colossians 4:2 that we are to devote ourselves to prayer.  Jesus said that we ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).  Romans 12:12 says likewise that we are to be constant in prayer.  Jesus said that we are to have faith in God and then He taught on prayer (Mark 11:22-24).  Truly, the person who is not praying is straying.

How is your prayer life?  Are you days marked by prayer or is it that you can’t remember the last time you got on your face and just cried out for Jesus.  He will draw near to you as you draw near to Him (James 4:7-8).  Prayerlessness is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23) and I urge you to not forsake prayer.  When you ride in your car, pray.  When you go for a walk, pray.  All day long, have God near to your mind and heart by praying to Him.  He sees our minds (Psalm 139:2) so we can’t hide from His holy presence.  I urge you fight sin through prayer (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I urge you to not forsake prayer.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/27/2013 at 3:20 PM

How Much Do You Pray?

Leonard Ravenhill use to ask those around him, “I don’t want to know how many Scriptures you have memorized.  I don’t want to hear about how many sermons you have preached.  I want to know the answer to one question, how is your prayer life?  How much time do you spend on your knees praying to Christ?”

I ask the same of you and me.  Are we found on our knees?  Are we found praying for the lost to be saved as Paul taught in Romans 10:1 and 1 Timothy 2:1-6?  Are we found crying out to God for Him to heal the sick for His glory?  Are we found praying against the wicked forces of evil at work in our world (Ephesians 6:12)?  Are we found crying out for workers of the harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38)?  Are we found seeking Jesus simply because He said for us to always (Luke 18:1)?  Can it be said of you or me that we are like Charles Spurgeon and a prayer always be found on our lips (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?  May it be said of us what it was said of John Wesley who left this world with the words, “And best of all – God is with us!”

Oh may we pray!  Oh may we labor in prayer!  The work of God doesn’t begin after we pray.  Prayer is the work!  Prayer is the path to power through faith in Christ.  Prayer is what opens hearts to the gospel.  Prayer is what opens doors that no man can close and closes doors no man can open (Revelation 3:8).  The prayer closet allows for no showing off.  Who we are in prayer is who we are.  You can be a fake Christian in the pulpit.  You can’t be a fake Christian in prayer.  Is this why so few pray?  Is it because the Spirit of God exposes our ugliness to us in prayer?  We see our lack of power.  We see our lack of urgency.  We sense our deep sinfulness.  In prayer, God opens our eyes to His holiness and we see just how tainted we have become.  Thankfully He is merciful and He cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7) but in prayer God exposes us for who we truly are and not who we think we are.

I urge you today to pray.  Turn off your radio in your car and pray.  Turn off your television and pray in your prayer closet (Matthew 6:6).  Stop talking merely about God and start actually talking to God.  It is possible to know much about God and yet still not know God.  Jesus said this of the Pharisees of His day (see John 5:39-40).  To know God is to seek God and to hear His voice (John 8:47).  Oh saints of God seek God’s face today!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/16/2013 at 11:32 AM

Posted in Prayer

Tagged with , ,

Learning to Pray Requires Praying

Reading a book on prayer is not the same as praying.  We all agree with that.  Reading a book on evangelism is not the same as sharing your faith.  Reading a book on preaching is not the same as preaching.  Reading a book on how to be a better husband or wife is not the same as actually being a better spouse.  James 2:14-26 applies to all these: to merely hear the Word is not enough.  We must do what it says.  Jesus said that those who obey Him are His own (Luke 11:27-28).  Jesus said that the redeemed are those who do what He says (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:3-6).

Prayer is not meant to be dissected.  We can surely learn from great men and women of God about prayer.  I have read and love to read the works of great praying saints such as E.M. Bounds, John Hyde, Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, and many more.  They have taught me much about prayer from a biblical viewpoint.  However, if all I do is read Bounds or Wesley or Ravenhill on prayer then I have not done anything really at all.  Prayer is not meant to be studied as much as it must be applied.  I could sit and give you quote after quote from Samuel Chadwick on prayer but I have not done what his book is trying to teach and that is to pray.  Prayer is not a practice of the intellect wherein I read and study various passages of Scriptures on prayer only to sit and meditate upon them without applying them.  Prayer is act of the will, an act of obedience to the Lordship of Christ since He said that His disciples would pray (Matthew 6:5).  Far be it from us to be sinning by not praying (1 Samuel 12:23).

I learned early on that prayer is not something that is taught as much as caught.  Two older saints of the Lord (now both with Jesus in glory) taught me to pray.  Brother Stewart and Brother Bush.  Two godly men.  Two men who loved Jesus with all their hearts.  Two men who worked hard their entire lives and had hands of steel to prove it but two men who feared God and had no problem bowing their knees to pray.  Both of these brothers would stand up during our Sunday night testimony times and basically preach a message and the message was always the same: we need to pray for revival.  These saints of God would go into our church’s prayer room and would spend much time before the throne of God.  They taught me how to cry out, how to enter into the holy presence of God, how to respect the presence of God, how to intercede for the lost, for revival, for the Church.  They would weep and wail and cry out with loud groaning.  These were not men who prayed silently but with loud cries, they cried out to the Lord (Hebrews 5:7).  These brothers knew how to touch God because they had been touched by God.  God had wonderfully saved them years before and here I was, a young 18 years old, learning to pray from them.  And I learned to pray.

Jesus did the same.  Certainly He taught on prayer (Luke 11:2-13) but He did so because the disciples saw His prayer life (Luke 11:1).  This was not abstract teaching.  The disciples saw the prayer life of Jesus and they wanted to learn to pray from Him.  Scripture says that He often withdrew to pray (Luke 5:16).  The disciples saw this and wanted to learn to touch the heart of the Father like Jesus did.

The sad reality is that many of us are educated beyond our level of obedience.  We know the commandments to prayer.  We know from memory many passages of Scripture on prayer.  But do we pray?  We read books on prayer.  Hear sermons on prayer.  Blog on prayer.  Talk about prayer.  But do we pray?  It is not enough to hear sermons, read books, and discuss prayer on blogs.  We must pray!  Prayer is an act of submission.  Leonard Ravenhill called prayer, “The acid test of devotion.”  Preaching, said Ravenhill, allows one to show your talents off before others but prayer does not.  Prayer is to be done in secret and only God knows the cries of our hearts and whether we truly pray.  God knows whether we spend more time blogging on prayer or reading about prayer than actually praying.  We cannot hide our prayerlessness before Him.  We can hide our prayerlessness before others easily and we can even deceive people into thinking we are a person of prayer but God knows whether we are seeking His face.  He knows whether we are lying about our prayer lives (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/28/2013 at 11:51 AM

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