Last week we began a series about having a prayer-filled life. It started off with why we pray. We talked about how prayer is communication with God, and the conversation we have with Him is part of surrendering our will to His will. We also expressed that prayers are final, in that God hears us the first time, every time. Yes, we may have to pray repetitively over an issue, but that does not mean He did not hear us. God has reasons for his delays. It’s all in His inexplicable perfect timing. And we must resign to that; it’s always for our good.
This week I want to explore how to pray by addressing two areas; Attitude and Position. We all pray. We pray over our meals, as we drive our car through rush hour traffic, and sometimes we give that quick shout out to God when we want something to go our way. It seems that we pray more while in the middle of a storm than we do during times of calm waters.
This takes us to our first area: Attitude
Praying for needs is not a bad thing. God wants us to pray for our needs. It’s when we exclusively pray out of need that can be a problem. We start to look to God as a genie, where we can rub his lamp and get our three wishes: health, wealth, and prosperity. Prayer does not work that way. Most of the time this is the reason prayers go unanswered. Well, that is not entirely true. ALL prayers are answered. Let me restate that… Most of the time this is the reason prayers are answered, “no.” Yet we still wait for our genie-God to wave his magic wand to give us what we want.
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James 4:3 speaks about this very subject. The verse states that the reason we don’t get what we pray for is that we are praying selfishly, only to spend what we get on ourselves. So how do we pray for needs, then? How will we know if our prayers are selfish? We will address that in greater detail next week in What to Pray. For the sake of this blog, I will say that if the only person who benefits from your prayer is you, then you need to reconsider what you are praying for.
Jesus talks about attitude during prayer. He gives the example of a Pharisee and their habit of standing in view of others making his prayers heard. While we may not exactly stand on a street corner and speak needs publicly, we do at times wear our heart on our sleeve, hoping someone will notice and ask us what is wrong. We do this to gain the attention of others. Jesus says that no one who has this attitude should expect to receive anything. The attention they receive will be their reward.
In Matthew, Jesus ties this Attitude with our second area: Position
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6
First, sincere prayer is a private issue. It is between you and the Lord. Of course, there are times for corporate prayer. There are times when you make your requests known to others so that they can lift them up to God with you in agreement. Also, there will be times when others make their requests known to you so that you can lift their prayer up to God with them. Either way, prayer begins within what some call, “your prayer closet.” This is a euphemism for the area where you visit with God privately. It can be a favorite chair, the corner of your bed, or actually in a closet. Having a regular time and place to pray can be beneficial. It helps you to develop a habit. It helps you to stay focused. It helps you to feel connected to Him within your fortress of solitude.
Second, when some think of position, we think of the position of your body. Sitting with head bowed, kneeling with hands folded, or lying prostrate on the ground all come to mind. I have seen and done all of these. I believe it does matter to God, but only that our position should reflect our attitude. If you are so desperate for God that you feel the need to fall flat-faced on the floor, then that is the position you need to be in. But do not ever think that if you don’t pray in a particular manner, then you won’t be heard. Remember, He hears every word your mouth and heart utter. It’s the attitude that is the qualifier. It is the position that reflects the attitude.
An Example for All
Even the expert prayer has come to the end of themselves and not known how to pray. Two scriptures take on these blank-minded moments. It may not seem to be believable, but the Holy Spirit knows what we need to pray, even if our mind and heart do not. Romans 8:26 teaches us that He knows, and He intercedes for us to God about those needs. (Note that the scripture says ‘needs,’ not ‘wants.’ There is a huge difference. This will be another thing we will address in next week’s blog, What to Pray.)
Next is one everyone knows. We have heard it from childhood. The Lord’s Prayer has been recited at church services, beginning of many events, and on the airwaves of many radio stations. It has made its rounds so often that it tends to lose its bite. It has become more of a mantra, than a true example of sincere prayer. This will be the main scripture for next week as it is filled with the what of prayer. For this lesson, we are only looking at the first two verses.
In these two verses of Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching about prayer. First, He addresses God. Then He speaks to God’s position of power. Next, He acknowledges that God’s will is what needs to be surrendered to. The attitude of God’s supremacy and the position of humility are evident in Christ’s prayer. This example is how we are to approach prayer. The biggest take away from this is that this is Jesus teaching how to pray. Who better to give an example?
When we have the proper attitude and the right position, then we can begin to have a greater understanding of prayer. We will know if our prayers are selfish, or if they are a pleasing aroma to God.
Further on in the Romans passage we read earlier, about the Spirit knowing what we need and speaking to God on our behalf, we see the results of such behavior in sincere prayer. Verse 28 tells us that we know that God works for the good of all who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. Either we are personally speaking our needs, or the Spirit speaks to God for us, and God is answering those requests in line with His will in our life.
Why do we pray? –To communicate with God.
How do we pray? –With an attitude of humility and a position of allowing His will in our life.