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21 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 21 November

This week's study will be condensed into Monday and Wednesday only.

Is there someone in your life who prays magnificently? Are you intimidated by their apparent ease in speaking to the Almighty? Are they a “super Christian” or a mere mortal? How can I pray like that?

Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer – but why did He do that? Because they asked Him to. His prayer life was so superior to what they knew, and they wanted to be more like Him. But are we to pray that prayer – all by itself – or does this prayer model a conversation? Is it our words or our heart that matters most?

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9  Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt 6:5-13 (ESV)

Do we have to repeat the words of “The Lord’s Prayer”? I don’t think that this was Jesus’ intent. It was merely a model for prayer. There are some key elements in the prayer. Look back through the prayer and see if you can find them!

Verse(s) _______        Worship – showing reverence
Verse(s) _______        Declaration of allegiance/loyalties to God
Verse(s) _______        Petition/request
Verse(s) _______        Confession of sins – asking forgiveness 
                                   (and reciprocating to those who have sinned against us)
Verse(s) _______        Request for deliverance and protection

One element appears at the beginning and the end of the prayer. What is it, and why is it important?

Jehoshaphat, an ancient Jewish king, faced a major threat, so they appealed to God. Let’s look at the way he incorporated worship into his prayer.

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9  ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you— for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chron 20:5-12 (ESV)

War was coming. Can you remember 2001? How did you feel on that eventful day? I was afraid that more terrible things would occur. What did I do? Did I pray? No. Wish I could say I did, but my first response was to make sure I had supplies available, check on my friends, and listen to the news with fear and trembling. Contrast that with King Jehosphaphat.

Verse 8. Worship and adoration – his first words reminded God of who He was (not that He needs to be reminded!). That set the tone for the rest of the prayer. If God is in charge, if You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you, what is there to be afraid of?
As I typed this, I realized how vital the worship aspect of prayer is. And to extend that, how important the “worship” part of the “praise and worship” part of the church service is. I’m asking myself – when I play a “praise/worship set”, is it simply three or four songs in a “slot”? Or, as I play, am I actually using my music to worship Him? Am I “the piano/flute player/choir director”, or am I a “worship leader”? Yikes. Sometimes, I confess, I am simply playing. Sigh. More work for me!

And you – when you are at church, is the first 15 minutes a time to catch up with your friends, chat about how loud the music is, wonder what’s for lunch, look at the bulletin? Are the musicians there for your entertainment? Or is it time to connect with God and worship with the other people attending the service? If you are worshiping, what can/do you do to gently move those around you from a chatty/entertainment mode into a worship experience?

How will adding worship to your prayer life adjust your attitude toward both prayer and toward God? For me, it will be remembering to calm down and rest in Him. That may sound like so much Christian talk, but to actually put the “calm” and the “rest” into practice will take … more prayer!

I’d love to hear what you do to worship God, in prayer and in everyday life!

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