Thursday, January 24, 2008

Study on Prayer

This is the first of a 3-part series on Prayer - specifically, what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

I taught this series in our Wednesday night services. This particular study is comprised of the text I taught from, and a handout that I gave to use during the week.

This is the first time I’ve ever posted a study like this on this blog - so we’ll see how it goes. Please feel free to e-mail (bnprayerlogue@cs.com) me with comments or questions.

I hope you enjoy it.

Betty

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Week one - introduction

I have heard it said that “Nothing intimidates Christians more than prayer.” We all know we should do it, but none of us, I think, are quite sure about just how to do it…

I know for myself, it has been a life-long struggle. Let me ask you this… how many of you struggle with prayer? What are some of the things you struggle with? Praying enough - how much is enough? What to say? How to listen? How to be effective? How to know when the answer is no?

Me, too… I used to think I was the only person who struggled with how to pray; and not only how, but sometimes even “why” to pray.

A search on prayer on Christianbook.com (where I order a lot of my books) turned up a list for 6,764 different books or resources on prayer… I believe it’s the number one concern of Christians.

I’m sure that as we go through this next few weeks, you will hear me say things that you’ve heard me say before because for more than 30 years as I’ve taught, written, and preached, prayer is probably the number one subject that I’ve dealt with…

You may even hear me say things that you’ve read in other places, or heard other preachers and teachers say. The reason is - I’m not that smart. I just have good resources, and I listen a lot. And I want to share what helps me - as you’ve also heard me say before, I’m just one beggar telling other beggars where I’ve found bread!

For the past 3-4 years or so I’ve done my studies on my laptop, but I also have a big manila envelope with copies of nearly all the talks and sermons that I’ve done for 25 years or so before that. And going through that envelope, the one thing that amazes me is how many times the topic is prayer. As much as I love the Old Testament, you would think that something from the OT would be the most frequent. Or perhaps the parables - lay speakers love the parables, but no, I’ve spent more time and study on prayer than any other area, and I still have struggles with it!

Like I said, I thought I was the only Christian with this problem; enough so that I was almost ashamed to talk about it, or admit it.

But what I’ve come to understand is - if you’re not struggling with prayer, then you’re not praying enough!

Let me say that again, if you’re not struggling with prayer, then you are not praying enough! Only someone who spends much time in prayer knows that they don’t know how to pray, as they ought; and not only that, but as one commentator put it, “Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience.” In other words, it doesn’t get any easier either!

Did you ever notice that the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them, was to pray? They never asked Him to teach them how to witness. They never asked Him to teach them how to heal. They never asked Him to teach them how to preach. The only thing they ever asked Him to teach them - was how to pray.

There are probably as many “methods” for prayer as there are writers who write about it. For instance, one that is making the e-mail circuit is the “Five Finger Prayer.” (Let me know if you’d like a copy of this.)

Another method for praying is to use the acronym A.C.T.S. - this stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

A variation on that is F.A.C.T.S. Hank Hanegraaff in his book, “The Prayer of Jesus” gives this as standing for Faith, and then Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

Yet another was the acronym P.R.A.Y. This stands for Praise, Repentance, Asking for others, and praying for Yourself.

To use either of these methods, you spend time praying, using these “topics” as “prompts” to guide your prayer.

Other methods include praying the scriptures; praying the Psalms, specifically; praying the Names of God or the Names of Jesus; and one I love, praying hymns - a lot of the words to the old hymns are simply prayers set to music…

But the most important thing to know about prayer, we can find in the Nike slogan… Just do it!

For this study I encourage you to get a folder so that you can keep the handouts and any notes you take. I also encourage you to get a notebook or something so that you can keep a prayer list and especially so that you can keep answers to prayers… It is so exciting to go back and read of answers to prayers…

This is going to be a relatively short study on prayer - only a few weeks - so we won’t have time to study much about prayers in the Bible, but I’ll be giving you some scripture references that you can read during your own prayer time. Reading prayers, before you begin to pray, really begins to focus your mind on God - it gets you into the “groove” or “posture” of prayer…

For these last few minutes of tonight’s study, we’re going to look at - “What about this prayer that Jesus gave…”

Let us begin with prayer….

[Father, as I taught this study, and now as I’m posting it on the World Wide Web via a medium known as a blog, I can’t help but be amazed at Your hand in all this technological communication. No matter how advanced “man” becomes - You are still God! And You are still in control!

Father, I pray for everyone who will read or copy this study. I pray, Lord, that in some way, You will use this to benefit someone. You have blessed me with a passion to study and to write - and so Lord, I pray that you will use me for Your Glory and Honor.
In Jesus’ Name - Amen.]

Our scripture text for these first 3 studies will be from Luke 11, plus we will also compare this version of Jesus’ model prayer with the version from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.

If you have your Bible, turn to Luke 11. As I said earlier, the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them, was to pray. They never asked Him to teach them how to witness. They never asked Him to teach them how to heal. They never asked Him to teach them how to preach. The only thing they ever asked Him to teach them - was how to pray.

(Read Luke 11:1)

Luke 11:1a:
“while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished…”

Luke gives us more instances of Jesus praying than any other Gospel. Luke 3:21 At His Baptism; Luke 5:16 in the wilderness; Luke 6:12 at the appointment of the apostles; Luke 9:18 when He asked “Who do men say that I am; Luke 9:28-29 at His transfiguration; Luke 11:1 here and; Luke 22:39-45 in the garden of Gethsemane.

I have said many times before that instead of praying in between teaching, ministering and healing, Jesus taught, ministered, and healed in between prayers! It has more to do with attitude than action!

The disciples had walked with Jesus nearly 3 years by now, they had watched Him go from being extremely popular, to extremely unpopular. Many commentators believe that this takes place while Jesus is in Peraea. If that is true, He is less than 6 months away from the Crucifixion…

The disciples are not blind, nor are they stupid. They can see what is happening. And so as they once again watch Him praying, when He finishes one of them (I suspect, Peter) steps up and says:

Luke 11:1b “Lord, teach us to pray…”

I have often said that one of the drawbacks to reading scripture is that we can’t determine “tone of voice.” It’s hard to know what one really means without tone of voice or body language. It’s like reading an e-mail when someone means something sarcastically, but it comes across as mean and hard. If you don’t know how they meant it - it can read entirely different.

But I was wrong. We do have a way to know “tone of voice” in the Bible. That is by studying the original languages. I mentioned in my last sermon that I have desires in my heart today that I didn’t put there - that 5 years ago would have never crossed my mind? Well… I want to learn Greek. In the original Greek there are tenses and moods in the language that tell us exactly what the tone of voice was, and exactly what it meant.

Here the phrase reads, “Lord, teach us to pray…” but in the Greek, the verb “teach” is in the “imperative” which makes it really say, “Lord, teach us NOW to pray!”

Why now? After 3 years, why now? (Why do you think they asked now?)

Several commentators said that they didn’t think Jesus would have ever verbalized this prayer if they hadn’t asked. He did, of course, give a version of it in His Sermon on the Mount, but that was within the course of a sermon when He was teaching on attitudes of prayer.

Matthew Henry says: “Lord, teach us to pray", is itself a good prayer, and a very needful one, for it is a hard thing to pray well and it is Jesus Christ only that can teach us, by his word and Spirit, how to pray. “Lord, teach me what it is to pray; Lord, excite and quicken me to the duty; Lord, direct me what to pray for; Lord, give me praying graces, that I may serve God acceptably in prayer; Lord, teach me to pray in proper words; give me a mouth and wisdom in prayer, that I may speak as I ought; teach me what I shall say.”

And when you couple that with “Teach us now to pray” it adds a sense of urgency to its importance.

Next, verse one says:
Luke 11:1c “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”

We usually think of John the Baptist as a prophet and martyr, and yet Jesus’ disciples remembered him as a man of prayer.

Having just come off the Advent season, we remember John as the “miracle baby” of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born, and yet he had to pray.

John was given the privilege of introducing the Messiah to Israel, and yet he had to pray. In Luke 7:28, Jesus said that John was the greatest of the prophets, and yet John had to depend on prayer. If prayer was that vital to a man who had these many advantages, how much more important it ought to be to us who do not have these advantages!

At least a couple of Jesus’ disciples were first, disciples of John. In John 1:35-40 we read about Andrew and an unnamed disciple, who we know to be John, following Jesus after John declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…” So we know that they, at least, had first hand knowledge of John’s prayers.

We know that the scribes and Pharisees prayed, but their prayers were mostly ritualized, or were doxologies. The priests prayed the Psalms. But, there was something different about John’s and Jesus’ prayers that made the disciples want to learn how to do it.

Jesus had taught them by precept, or word in the Sermon on the Mount. And He taught them by example time and again, but especially when in Luke 9:29 we read that “While He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming…” But, somehow the example of Jesus on this occasion stirred them to fresh interest in the subject, and to a revival of interest in John’s teachings.

There are those who “say prayers” and those who converse with God. The disciples wanted to converse with God!

Someone has said that many people pray like sailors use their pumps - only when the ship is leaking…

What is prayer? There is an out of print book titled “A Pilgrim’s Guide to Prayer” by Edward C. Briggs (I think it can still be found online, though.) It is one of the very best books on prayer I’ve ever read.

In the introduction, Rev. Briggs says: “Real prayer is like wrestling. It’s a struggle, a sort of work. It’s Jacob beside the Jabbok as a desperate dawn begins to break. It’s Christ in Gethsemane. It’s Paul in Romans 7 bemoaning the hold of sin on his life. It’s Moses saying, ‘Blot me out of Your Book, O Lord, if I can’t save this nation!’ (Ex.32:32)

Prayer is for the souls what food is for bodies, gasoline for cars, money for retirement, film for cameras. In other words, it makes life work, and without it things grind to a halt.

Prayer isn’t tame. Anything that’s tame or loose or half-hearted can’t be called prayer. Prayer sweats, cries and gripes. It shouts, but never yawns. Nothing that yawns can be called prayer…

That strange and wonderful Baptist, John Bunyan had it right. He said, ‘When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words, than thy words without heart!’”

And I fully agree.

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We closed the study with comments and questions, then prayer. And again, I urge you to e-mail me with your comments and questions.

The following is a the handout that we wrote to go with this study. I encourage you to read the scriptures, ponder the questions, and spend time in prayer and meditation with your Heavenly Father. He loves you SO much that He gave His Son to die for your sins!

To God be the Glory!
Amen

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Study of Prayer - Week One Handout:
“Lord, Teach Us Now To Pray”

Key statement(s): “Jesus knew that His disciples would never properly understand examples of prayer without first understanding principles of prayer.”

“The Secret to Prayer is secret prayer.”

Scriptures to read this week:
2 Chronicles 1: 6-13
Matthew 6: 9-13
Luke 11:1-4
Luke 18:9-14
2 Samuel 7:18-29

When King David goes before God in 2 Samuel 7:18, many commentators believe that when it says he “sat before the Lord” it indicates that he sat there for some time meditating on what to say before he began praying. How much time do we spend “listening” to, or just thinking about, God before we begin praying, or even while we’re praying?

In this passage of scripture, when David says, “Who am I, O Lord God,” the Hebrew word for “God” is one we’re familiar with - “Jehovah”. But the word for “Lord” is “Adonai” which means “My Lord” and is a more personal confession than simply saying “God.” It is more as we will be studying in these lessons, a familiarity as intimate as saying “Our Father…” but it means much more - it means “Lord”, “Master”, even “Owner”. Before we can fall on our knees before God, we must bow to Him as Adonai, our Lord and Master. Acknowledging Him as Lord has to be something more than mere words. It’s a relationship, and how can you develop a relationship with someone other than spending time alone with them?


Questions to ponder this week:
(*Hint* Take one question a day and “ponder” on it. Jot down your impressions and thoughts to reflect back on them later.)

Is prayer really important to me?


When do I pray?


Why do I pray?


What do I pray about mostly?


Where do I pray?


Do I really spend time “communicating” with God?


Does your prayer life shape your daily life, or does your daily life shape your prayer life?


If you don’t already have one, create a prayer list. It can be a few or a lot of names. If you’ve told anyone that you’d pray for them (or be “thinking” about them) put them on the list. This is one way to pray for them.


Prayer List Prayer

Father, I lift up to You today, Your servants of the Kingdom. I lift up those who are doing battle - those who are fighting the good fight; those who are running the race, who are staying the course.
I lift up those who are striving on to perfection, those who are children in the faith, and those who are unaware, or worse, uncaring.

I lift them up by name:
(Look at your list. Read off the names, remembering and praying for each person’s need as you know it.)

I lift them up by occupation:
(As you’re looking at your list, pray for others of their occupation. For instance, if someone on your list is a nurse, lift up other nurses, members of the medical field, and those for whom they will be caring this day. If someone is a teacher, lift up teachers of all kinds and their students, etc.)

I lift them up by affliction:
(If someone is sick, lift up others with the same sickness. If someone is traveling, lift up others who are traveling for business or pleasure. If someone is an unbeliever, lift up other unbelievers.)

Father, as I see faces with each name, I know that you see hearts, spirits and souls. Touch them I pray. Speak to their hearts and meet their needs. Strengthen their spirits, and comfort their souls. May they hear Your call and come to know the Joy of the Lord.
Father, I pray that in all we say and in all that we do, Your Name may be praised and glorified.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Next time: The Lord’s Prayer - “P’s in a Pod” Part One - Things we need to give God.

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1 Comments:

Blogger jim israel said...

may the lord GOD ALMIGHTY bless you more thanks for this.

12:09 AM  

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