How To Pray

Prayer Is More Than Asking Favor from God

Foreword to the Prayer Lesson:

When Jesus gave parting instructions to His disciples, He gave two equally important commands: Go, Teach (Matt. 28:19-20). Many followers of the Lord assembled in Antioch, a city in Syria near the Mediterranean Sea.

It is here we are told that “the disciples were called Christians first”. They valued the formation of bible-believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who also graciously spread the gospel as they went about their day.

We call ourselves Shelby Center Church because of where we carry out the great Antioch tradition. Living in unity, fervent in charity, and growing in maturity are shared values here at Shelby that reveal what the gospel truly is: Life-changing. Church done well also produces healthy relationships.

The soul rescued from sin by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ begins their new life in Christ with a great need: Spiritual development. Just like a child needs parents to care well for and teach him or her, the born-again believer needs the local church and mature Christians to help them grow into a mature and fruitful member of God’s family. This process is called discipleship. It is time spent together in the Bible learning to follow Jesus.

To encourage and assist our local church in spending quality family time together and building a compelling community of believers, several series of lessons have been developed. These discipleship lessons are intended to aid the younger believer (student/disciple) and more mature believer (teacher/mentor) in the joy of fellowship and discovery of walking, worshipping, witnessing, and working together in the local church.

All believers, whom we also call disciples, can profit from discipleship as they seek transformation not just information and a place many can truly call home. Enjoy the process of becoming more like Jesus, and growing into a more meaningful, productive member of Shelby Center Church!

Prayer Lesson:

Prayer is as vital to the spiritual life as breathing is to one’s physical life. It is a spiritual discipline that must be developed so that it is as natural as breathing. You cannot “survive” spiritually without it.

Prayer is developmental empowerment, devotional encouragement, disciplined exercise, and direct engagement with the forces of our enemy, the devil, and God who created him.

Prayer is not easy, but it is necessary to healthy spiritual growth. Prayer is like exercise: The more one works at it, the stronger one becomes and the easier it becomes.

Prayer is a relational not religious activity. Being a born-again child of God, the disciple can now communicate and commune with God as a child does with his or her loving and all wise father and friend.

Amazingly, the believer can now speak with God as boldly and intimately as a married man or woman can with their beloved spouse. Both quality communion and good communication are necessary for good relationship.

Prayer is both communion and communication with God that works to develop a good relationship with God.

We speak to God in prayer, then listen. God speaks to us through His indwelling Holy Spirit bearing witness to what is written in His word, the Bible. As we become more familiar with the pages of Scripture, we become more effective in prayer.

Prayer is more than asking favor from God. It is intimate fellowship with God.

Prayer becomes more effective and life changing as it moves from mere asking to more basking! Like a plant that cannot grow without light, the Christian cannot grow without prayer. Lingering in prayer brings light, and therefore, life.

I. Prayer is Communion with God

1. Prayer is Developmental Empowerment

A.   Prayer is Requisite (Psa. 25:1-9). It is indispensable.

  • What relationship can survive without communication, or life without breath? 
  • Even when one doesn’t know what to do or say, he or she can pray to their Heavenly Father who always does (Lk. 11:9-13, Rom. 8:26-27, 31-34, James 1:5).

B.   Prayer is Relational. It is intimate.

  • Prayer is meaningful time spent in God’s presence. There is no required formula or posture that makes prayer special. 
  • Pray as naturally, candidly and personally as one who talks to a trusted friend. Read the Psalms to see prayer that is real.

C.   Prayer is Refreshing. It is invigorating.

  • Prayer leaves one better than he or she came. 
  • It is spiritual sharpening of the saw that sends one back into life with renewed energy and empowerment (Psa. 42:1, 8, 11, 34:4-6, Eph. 3:14-21).

D.   Prayer is Revitalizing. It is investment. Thanksgiving and praise are the fertilizer and nutrients that bring rich fruit from the soil of prayer. They make our prayer life grow better and stronger.

  • Thanksgiving and praise are inseparable from prayer (Phil. 4:6-7, 1 Th. 5:16-19). 
  • Without thanksgiving and praise we are not fully prepared to enter into prayer and the presence of God (Psa. 100, Heb. 13:15, 4:16).

2. Prayer is Devotional Encouragement

A.   Prayer is Thanksgiving and Adoration (Phil. 4:6-7, Psa. 100). It recognizes the goodness, grace, and mercy of God giving us audience and bows the heart in grateful reverence.

B.   Prayer is Confession (1 John 1:6-10). It recognizes the need to remain relationally pure (sanctified) in motives, mind, mouth, and manner of life (Heb. 4:12-13, 14-16).

  • Prayer is a time of transparency with God who already knows all. Be truthful in order to be blessed (Psa. 19:12-14).
  • Purity of heart precedes passion and prevailing in effective prayer (Psa. 24:3-5). Purity in prayer seeks God’s will and God’s glory in all things.

C.   Prayer is Supplication (Matt. 6:5-15, 33, Phil. 4:6-7, Heb. 4:16). It confidently asks God to supply all needs and makes request for things desired. It then trustingly waits for answer.

  • It is alert to the fact that God may substitute what we have set our sights on for what He deems best (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
  • Psa. 131 describes the composure from trusting God. It’s what the “peace that passeth understanding” is like.  As we grow in Christ by placing the things we cannot control before God in prayer we also grow in composure. We learn to rest in “not my will but thine be done.”
  • One of our greatest prayers of supplication is the prayer to “change me” (Psa. 139:23-24)! It seeks after genuine repentance, God-dependent faith, and specific obedience.
  • When I’m sure I’m doing right, according to God’s will and way, and asking according to His will, I can once again be assured as I await His answer (Isa. 32:17).

D.   Prayer is Recognition. One takes a giant step forward in their devotional life of prayer when they recognize prayer is primarily for spiritual, not temporal, attainment (Matt. 6:33).

  • Prayer in its highest form is prayer that surrenders oneself to the will of God no matter what (Matt. 26:38-39). When we trust God like this, we’ve touched the true meaning of devotion. Prayer recognizes the competency of God.
  • Prayer in devotion to God is prayer that intelligently recognizes the character of God. It asks according to His will not our own and in accordance with His word (1 John 5:14-15, Luke 11:1-2, James 4:3, John 15:5-7).

II.Prayer is Communication with God.

1. Prayer is Disciplined Exercise

A.   Prayer is Productive (1 John 5:14-15, Matt. 6:33).

  • Making time to pray according to God’s will helps to enlist all the resources of God on behalf of the Christian. Prayer is productive when it is practiced in accordance with what God has revealed in His word as His will and way.
  • A.C. Dixon affirms, “When we rely on organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely on education, we get what education can do; when we rely on eloquence, we get what eloquence can do; and so on. I am not disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place—BUT when we rely on prayer, we get what God can do.
  • By developing the discipline of prayer, one develops a reflex of reliance upon God, first and foremost. We discipline ourselves in prayer to:
1) Show Gratitude for God’s goodness and grace toward us (1 Th. 5:16-19, Eph. 5:18-21, Phil. 4:6-7). We’re praying with the right spirit when we begin with recognition of the goodness of God (Eph. 5:9, Psa. 69:30, 119:65-72).
2) Spiritually Grow in our understanding of Scripture and its proper application. Maturing into Christlikeness is the goal of getting before God in prayer (Col. 1:9-14). Like breathing, prayer becomes the natural impulse of the mature believer who is walking with God (1 Th. 5:17).
3) Secure Grace to help in our time of need (2 Pet. 1:3, Heb. 4:16). “The will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” His grace is sufficient if we have it – pray for more grace (2 Pet. 3:18, 2 Co. 12:7-10). While God has goals in answer to our prayer, He often uses detours instead of a direct route (Exo. 13:17-18). He does this not to leave us defeated, discouraged or dispirited. He does so to make us dependent, developed, and disciplined (Psa. 102:17, Isa. 41:10).
4) Seek Guidance from God in matters of importance (Eph. 1:15-23, James 1:5). “God leads, but his guidance is available only to those who are 1) Redeemed by the Lord; 2) Ruled by the Lord and yielded to His Spirit; and 3) Resting in the Lord.” Habitual prayer builds one’s ability to perceive God. When one trusts God, they follow Him wherever He leads, and however He answers (Pro. 3:5-6, Psa. 37:3-7).
5) Significantly Gain the spiritual muscle and humble habit needed for prevailing power in life’s tests, temptations, trials & triumphs (Luke 18:1-2, 22:39-40, 46). Additional growth is gained when we underscore our prayer with the spiritual discipline of fasting (Mark 9:28-29).
6) Sacrificially Give to others in their time of need and support of the ministry (2 Th. 3:1-3, Eph. 6:18-20). To pray for others is to give them your most valuable asset: Your time (Eph. 5:16-18, Acts 12:5-12, 13-17).
7) Succeed Greatly in the pursuit of God’s will for our lives and in the ministry of the gospel. In prayer we learn to abide before we expect to abound (John 15:1-5, 17:3). Prayer recalls our reliance upon God to succeed, not political connections, positional power, personal resources, education, eloquence, or anything else (Pro. 21:31).
8) Secure Good. We need daily provision and protection from the hand of God. Prayer then is petition (Matt. 6:11-13, Luke 11:9-13). It seeks God’s help and intercession on behalf of others. Prayer is heartfelt help sought from God. It is often born out of alertness to the plight of others (Neh. 1:1-4).
9) Stay Grounded. We sometimes get off course in our actions, attitudes, affections and desire to attain. The lusts and pride of life get the best of us. God is not obligated to our will, nor moved by our whims. Good prayer brings us back to the reality that God is not our “errand boy”. He responds unfavorably when we ask:
a) For good and natural things but with impure motives, or if controlled by those desires (James 1:5-8, 4:3)
b) While in sin (Psa. 66:18, Isa. 59:1-3)
c) For something contrary to the word of God or His wise will for our lives (1 John 5:14-15).

B.   Prayer is Priority. We seek God first in everything and early. No matter what, we go first to God with distress, desire, darkness, doubt and delight (Psa. 63:1-8).

C.   Prayer is Practical. It is how things get done in the spiritual realm and Christian life. Whether one prays for remedy, receipt, or revelation, trust God for the right answer.

Good prayer makes one’s request known to God, then waits expectantly and peacefully for His answer to come at the right time and in the right manner (Lk. 11:9-13, 1 Tim. 2:8).

D.   Prayer is Personal. Get alone with God in a quiet, uninterrupted and consistent meeting place and time. This meeting should be a priority every day (Matt. 6:5-8).

  • Prayer speaks to God as friend to friend or child to parent, and not in “religious language.” Prayer also listens to God with a desire to learn of, and be led by, the Lord.
  • Prayer becomes personal when one seeks both a quiet time and continuous fellowship with and guidance from God throughout the day (1 Th. 5:17, 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

E.   Prayer is Public: When praying in the presence of others (at a dinner table, special gathering, church or prayer meeting, etc.), talk to God, not to, or about others.

  • Prayer that is pretentious, presumptuous or prattling has no power. 
  • When praying publicly, get to the point. Avoid unnecessary details, lengthy descriptions and private information. This is not a time to share information about others.

2. Prayer is Direct Engagement

A. Prayer is Position. It remembers whose presence we are in. It is a disposition of the heart more than the position of the body. We pray with an attitude of gratitude, reverence, expectancy and honor. We pray at all times, in all places, in all conditions of life, knowing our Father hears us (Heb. 4:16).

B.   Prayer is Powerful: (Jer. 33:3, Eph. 6:17-20). It secures the power and provision of God in the circumstances of life and spiritual warfare all believer’s face.

  • Jesus defeated the fiercest opposition and temptation at the beginning and end of His earthly ministry through prayer (Lk. 4:1-13, 22:39-46). If Jesus needed to pray, we need to pray more. Prayer is a battleground won on one’s knees.
  • In prayer, one can expect company: Father, Son and Holy Ghost (2 Cor. 13:14); other believers (Acts 12:5, Eph. 6:18-20); and the forces of spiritual opposition (Act 16:16).
  • Little gets accomplished in the trials, triumphs, tribulation and tests of life apart from prayer. Prayer enlists God’s resources in our efforts. Satan knows this; too few saints do.
  • Someone said, “Preaching gives us power with men, but prayer gives us power with God.” Prayer must precede everything we do; and prevail through all we do. Pray without ceasing, and don’t forget the praise!

C.   Prayer is Prevailing (Luke 18:1, 1 Th. 5:17). Of the many disciplines required for effective prayer, this one is most needful, yet rarely done. Effective prayer involves importunity, not impatience, and perseveres (Luke 11:1-8, 9-13).

  • Prayer proves our faith. We ask, seek, and knock with the expectancy, urgency, and confidence of a child speaking to their loving Father who is also King of all creation!
  • The size of our prayers corresponds to our faith in, and understanding of, the God whom we pray to (Jer. 33:3, Heb. 4:16).
  • Prayer helps the saint get above sin, self, strife, situations, and circumstances. One does not have to live “under the circumstances”. With prayer the child of God can prevail.
  • In prevailing prayer, one can trample the bold lions of fear, faithlessness, and temptation, as well as the subtle serpents of doubt and discouragement (Psa. 91:13). Wise disciples drag their foes to the battleground of prayer.

MEMORY VERSES

Philippians 4:6-7. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

1 John 5:14-15. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

1. In your own words explain the statement, “Prayer is Developmental Empowerment (Luke 11:9-13).

2. In your own words explain the statement, “Prayer is Devotional Encouragement (Psa. 100, Heb. 4:12-16).

3.In your own words explain the statement, “Prayer is Disciplined Exercise (1 John 5:14-15, Psa. 63:1-3).

4.In your own words explain the statement, “Prayer is Direct Engagement (Eph. 6:17-20).