How to Pray Acceptably
Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual life. It should be as natural as the urge to breathe, but its use is often neglected. God wants his children to talk to him in prayer. There are at least 650 definite prayers in the Bible. 450 of these have recorded answers. God's throne is one of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We must humble ourselves in his sight (I Peter 5:6). Prayers should express praise (Exodus 15); ask for help in time of peril (Exodus 17); express needs (Exodus 22:22-24); request mercy (Exodus 32); intercede in behalf of others (Exodus 32:7-14). Prayer is the best benediction (Numbers 6: 24-27). Prayer is the greatest weapon to dispel discouragement (Numbers 11: 10-35). Prayer and thanksgiving go together (I Thessalonians 5:18). Prayer and patience should ascend together. God's answer can be yes, no, or wait, but the Lord wants our prayers to be continual (I Thessalonians 5:17) and in a spirit of repentance (Luke 15:18-21). Obedience- is a necessary ingredient. God answers prayers of those who know, obey, and keep his commands. "If you ask, keep my commandments" (John 14:14,15; I John 3:22). Christ, himself, is an example of this (John 8:29). Without faith we cannot acceptably approach God in prayer (Mark 11:22-24; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6).
An unforgiving spirit can erase the power of prayer (Matthew 6:14,15). Though not commanded as essential, fasting is often associated with prayer (Psalms 35: 13; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 9:15; Acts 10:30; 13:3; 14:23; I Corinthians 7:5). Jesus told us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 11:5-10). The same thought is in the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). Perseverence in prayer is also needed (Ephesians 6:18). We must pray on and on, wrestling like Jacob, panting like David, hoping like Elijah, persistent like Bartemaeus, crying with tears like Jesus.
Privacy is an advantage for our individual prayers (Matthew 6: 6). Showing off with prayer is condemned (Matthew 6: 5). Vain repetitions or mechanical praying is strongly denounced (Mark 12: 40). What is commonly called the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 is never so called in the Bible. This was a model prayer given by Jesus for his disciples to pray. Christ never prayed this prayer for himself, as is shown by the words, "forgive us our sins" - Jesus was sinless. Also, the words "thy kingdom come" were given in a setting that preceded the coming of the church or the kingdom (Matthew 16: 18,19). The kingdom for which they were taught to pray did come in their lifetime (Mark 9: 1).
We must always pray in accordance with God's revealed will (I John 5: 14,15). We must live in union with him (John 15: 7). The entire godhead is involved in our prayers. Our petitions are to the Father (Matthew 6: 9), through the name of Christ, who is our mediator (I Timothy 2: 5; Acts 4: 12), and with the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 26). Just as baptism is in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so expressing in Jesus name would indicate unity of godhead (Matthew 8: 19).
Prayer should never take the place of our spiritual efforts to get things done. We should pray as if all depended on God and work as if all depended on us. The emphasis is on work and pray, or watch and pray.
We should never pray selfishly (James 4: 3). Again, we are taught to put the Lord's business first in prayer (Matthew 9: 37,39). Lack of unity can hinder prayer (I Peter 3: 7). We should pray one for another. Paul often speaks of mentioning names in prayer. What a lengthy list he must have had!
The prayer of all prayers is found in John 17, the Lord's prayer, when he prayed for his disciples that they might all be one. This is the real Lord's prayer. Jesus is our great high priest who intercedes for us. This great spiritual privilege of prayer makes Christians the salt of the earth, as they pray for civil leaders (Romans 13: 1ff). God's prayer warriors are to be at their posts constantly as a great deterrent to evil in this present world.
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