By Dan Butler
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
Your relationship with Jesus Christ requires constant nourishment and attention. Your personal devotions, including prayer and bible study, continually strengthen your walk with Jesus Christ. Christian fruit results from a strong relationship with Him.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
As seen in the last lesson, you must constantly maintain your valuable relationship with God. All of man’s problems result from his broken relationship with God, and therefore the solutions needed to find an “abundant life” (John 10: 10) you will discover in your relationship with God.
Sin produces greater relational ramifications than theological. Man’s breached relationship with his God produced consequences felt in all of man’s relationships: God and man (theological), man and other men (sociological), man and himself (psychological), and man and nature (ecological). Man’s theological relational gap with God resulted when man elected to befriend Satan and evil. The resultant sinful nature provoked man to treat others spitefully creating inner guilt and conflict. Often guilt drives man to abuse nature, thus altering earth’s ecological equilibrium.
Because of mankind’s relational catastrophes, he attempts to resolve the dilemmas through his own strategies and efforts. Man realizes his problems and works to develop positive alternatives. Hence, ecologically speaking, various movements have emerged to protect the earth from man, and heal man’s breached ecological relationship.
Psychologically speaking, hospitals, mental health experts, and doctors attempt to restore man’s relationship with himself through dealing with guilt, frustration, and inner unbalance and pain. However, man’s psychological imbalances continually increase with hospitals filled with mentally and emotionally disturbed people.
Sociologically speaking, man passes laws and invokes punishment on the violators in the attempt to protect man from others. However, crime and sociological abuses continually increase.
Theologically speaking, man builds and promotes his religions designed to find God and heal the lost relationship. However, humanism and communism fulfill the roles of the multitude of false religions demonstrating that man’s theological attempts are futile. Every religious attempt by man forces man to see his inability to heal his relationship with God; instead, man must come to the only true God, and God must heal the broken relationship.
When you properly approach God and allow Him to re-establish your broken relationship, you find that all other relationships experience healing also. Sociologically, psychologically, and ecologically, God heals man. Ecological distress, psychological stress, and sociological conflict disintegrate as God heals man’s heart with a theological relationship.
For a healthy and peaceful life, observe the things that please God and perform those acts that enhance your spiritual relationship: Bible reading and prayer. In Bible reading, God speaks to you, and in prayer, you speak to God.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. (Hebrews 12:1, 2 Good News Bible)
Remember, in reality, Isaac was no better than Ishmael, Jacob than Esau, David than Saul, or Peter than Judas. God did not reward Isaac, Jacob, David or Peter for their goodness, for each conducted similar atrocities as their colleagues. However, God rewarded each man based upon his relationship with Him. Every success story in the Bible revolves around a person maintaining his relationship with God.
Fix your eyes upon Jesus, and carefully maintain your relationship with Him. He can hear your cries, deliver you from all kinds of dilemmas, heal your sick body, and save your soul. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
In maintaining your relationship with Jesus, you should include prayer as a vital activity. Prayer denotes conversing with almighty God and serves mankind as a vehicle that carries him to God. Prayer connects the terrestrial with the celestial, humanity with deity, mankind with divinity.
Prayer evolves from your relationship with Jesus Christ. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Abiding in Christ signifies a deep relationship where Jesus becomes the reason and means of your existence. As the nutrients and resources flow through the vine to the branch, so should all of our nutrition flow from the Lord Jesus. You can maintain your spiritual attachment through prayer, and prayer also results with you asking what you will.
God desires for you to pray. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17); “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Through Jeremiah, God says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Jesus specifically requested, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). He also instructed His followers to “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7), and then He affirmed, “For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8).
The book of Revelation reveals that prayer is the closest thing to God; closer than the sea of glass or even the church, prayer enters the nostril of God:
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).
The Prerequisites Of Prayer
With your affections set on things above (Colossians 3:2) and thinking on true, honest, just, pure, and lovely things (Philippians 4:8), you maintain a pure heart and holy attitude. As you abide in Jesus with a growing relationship, your pure God honors your pure motives and answers your prayers. James explains, “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2b,3 Good News Bible). Conversely, with pure motives, your requests align with God’s kingdom, and God responds to your petitions.
Before you can obtain God’s attention in prayer, you must also forgive others. Jesus said:
If you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God. (Matthew 5:23, 24 Good News Bible)
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. (Psalm 24:3, 4)
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. (Psalm 66:18)
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
Jesus further impacted the following statement at the close of the Lord’s prayer, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14, 15). “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28).
Jesus’ personal example included prayer to the extent that the disciples requested for Him to teach them to pray. Jesus often refreshed His life with prayer, and He prayed the more as He experienced greater demands on His ministry. “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).
Peter indicated that an improper relationship to God-given authorities and responsibilities will hinder your prayer relationship: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
The ABC’s Of Prayer
A: Ask. Ask with a pure heart with right motives. Asking involves more than making one single, one-time request to God. True prayer denotes seeking and knocking with a craving desire to find the answer or resolution to any situation. The phrase “whosoever asketh” could be rendered, “whosoever continues to ask” or “whosoever craves.” Prayer results from a hunger to see God’s work accomplished and His kingdom enhanced. The scripture further promises that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6), and “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Jesus said, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14: 13, 14), and “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
B: Believe. When you ask, the scripture instructs for you to also believe: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). “But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all” (James 1:6 Good News Bible).
Faith activates God providing the believer with all of the assets of salvation. Every benevolent act of God comes to you through faith.
C: Confess. In prayer, you can confess the scripture, and lay hold to God’s promises. God promised that His word would not return void, and when you speak the word of God, you engage the powers that created the world. You may obtain a list of scriptures that relate to your specific needs, and pray the scriptures in faith.
As discovered in the last lesson, Jesus confessed scripture to Satan and defeated him. In the medium of prayer, you can speak the scripture, embrace Biblical promises, and engage in victorious spiritual warfare.
The Prayer Pattern
The disciples observed the prayerful life of Jesus Christ, and they requested Him to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). To this request Jesus gave a beautiful pattern to follow in prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.
As an overview, you may see the Lord’s prayer as a Prayer Sandwich. Prayer should begin and end with praise: “hallowed by thy name,” and “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:9, 13). As an act of faith, praise grasps God’s attention and moves Him.
By praying the Lord’s Prayer pattern, you may develop a strong prayer life that grows as your Christian maturity develops. The pattern consists of seven steps (Matthew 6:9-15):
1. “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name”. Considering almighty God as your father, you may understand the wonderful caring, powerful, protective, providing attributes of God. Father denotes His role and title, but His holy and hallowed name holds all of the power of the universe (Matthew 28:18). Salvation, healing, deliverance, boldness, courage, power, and victory is available in Jesus’ name. Always pray in Jesus’ name.
2. “Thy kingdom come.” Yes, you can pray for God’s kingdom to be built and enhanced in your life, family, community, and church. Praying for God’s kingdom to come invokes healing and power. This statement generates positive combat in spiritual warfare.
3. “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” In this verse, “earth” denotes the earthen vessels of clay – humanity. The clay in the Master’s hand must conform to the shape that the Master chooses. As a potter, He makes the submitted clay according to His will. Through complete submission, God dissolves our pride, arrogance, selfish ambitions, and impure motives, and He shapes us into a vessel that is more like Jesus.
4. “Give us this day our daily bread.” With your will and emotions shaped into God’s image, you can request for God to meet your daily needs. Pure motives provide the base for God to grant your petitions.
5. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” After you enter God’s presence, you can truthfully purge your heart of resentment, bitterness, and offense. Often, these negative attitudes remain hidden from you, and you can only discover your spiritual deficiencies through in-depth prayer.
6. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God gives the grace, the power, to accomplish His will in your life. Therefore, you should ask God to strengthen you so that you can live a victorious life.
7. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Every spiritual accomplishment belongs to God. Since His power produces every accomplishment, He deserves the glory: it’s His power that produces every victory for His kingdom. To God be all of the glory.
The Old Testament Tabernacle plan offers a similar pattern for prayer.
1. Enter God’s city with thanksgiving and enter into His presence with praise.
2. Go to the altar and submit your will and motives to the fire of God’s spirit.
3. Allow the regenerating touch of God’s spirit to wash your inner being.
4. At the lampstand, allow God to trim your wick (cutting away the burnout), and replenish the oil.
5. Obtain inner strength and courage through the bread of life (John 6).
6. Offer praise unto God at the altar of incense.
7. Enter the Holiest of Holies and claim the blood of Jesus for yourself, your family, and others.
Levels Of Prayer
Paul revealed levels of prayer to Timothy: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (I Timothy 2: 1).
Praise Prayer. Maintaining the attitude of prayer, you can approach God anytime in praise. King David continuously interrupted his life to bring praise to God (see Psalm 136).
I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness. (Psalm 145: 1-6)
The scripture instructs for us to offer prayer of thanksgiving before we eat: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4, 5). Early morning and nighttime prayers of praise delight our God, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
Petition Prayer. As exemplified in the Lord’s prayer and repetitively promised by the scripture, petitions brought to God produce results: “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 14-16)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Power Prayer. Power prayer involves supplications that go beyond yourself. The scripture instructs us to pray for one another; intercessory prayer means that we step out of our estate into the experiences of another. We step from “our shoes” into “the shoes” of others and pray as if we are that person. In intercessory prayer, we feel the pain, rejection, and anxieties of people needing prayer, and make relevant petitions to God.
The Bible states, “Pray one for another” (James 5: 16), and “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).
In intercessory prayer, we pray for lost people, sick people, habitually bound people, hurting people; we pray as if we are them. In some levels of prayer, you cannot know the details for which to pray, so God allows you to pray in a prayer language: your spirit and emotions understand, but your mind does not comprehend the details. The scripture affirms,
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27)
In powerful intercessory prayer, you can enter into spiritual warfare, in which you fight and overcome evil as Jesus did.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6: 11, 12)
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;). (II Corinthians 10:3, 4)
When the disciples asked Jesus why they lacked the power to cast a demon from a lunatic son, Jesus told them, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Power prayer often involves fasting because fasting humbles the flesh and allows God to operate in greater manifestations.
When To Pray
The scripture instructs us to pray all of the time, in essence, maintain an attitude of prayer. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always” (Luke 21:36). Jesus gave a parable that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18: 1). “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
Accompanying the prayerful attitude, believers should schedule regular prayer times. Before your day starts, you should ask God to keep and guide you through it. At certain intervals of your day, you should regularly find a time to pray. “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1).
The Results Of Prayer
Prayer changes things! When men pray, God responds. Prayer invokes the powers of the universe to your disposal, and results will occur.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14)
This article “Relationship With God: Prayer” by Dan Butler is excerpted from his lessons That You Bear Much F.R.U.I.T., 1998.