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16 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 16 December

We’ve taken some time to woodshed. To “navel gaze”. To look inside ourselves and admit how wrong we really are. If you’re like me, the honest sentence ends with the word “mostly”. There are actions I’ve taken that I know are wrong – but I’m trying desperately to justify my behaviors. Are you in the same boat? Have I really asked forgiveness in those instances, or am I just fooling myself? Guess I still need work!

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matt 6:13 (ESV)

Do you think that God really leads us into temptation? Leads us there? Or does He allow us free will, giving us the ability to walk into, or away from, temptation? Can we do it on our own?

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  
Matt 26:41 (ESV)

Where was Jesus when He said this? In the Garden, the night He was betrayed. What was He doing? Praying. Here’s the whole story as told in Matthew:

36  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matt 26:36-46 (ESV)

Here Jesus, once again, modeled persistence and perseverance in prayer. He knew His life would be cut short. He knew that He would be betrayed – by a close companion. So He prayed. He asked God if it were possible to allow Him to live. But He knew that was not possible, so He said “Your will be done”. He prayed. Even God Himself, in the flesh, knew that without prayer the flesh could predominate and a sin could occur.

That His spirit was willing
But His flesh was weak

If Jesus needed to pray to avoid temptation, how much more do we need to pray?

Of course, God has a promise for us regarding temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor 10:13 (ESV)

Where there is temptation, there is also a way of escape! Do you want to look at something you know you shouldn’t? The way of escape is to avert your eyes – and pray. Do you want to take something that isn’t yours? The way of escape is to turn away – and pray. Do you want to say hurtful things to a friend? The way of escape is to shut your mouth – and pray.
The next verses are from Jesus’ own prayer of intercession in John 17. It is truly “The Lord’s Prayer”. Take the time to read the entire chapter and see how He prayed.

14  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:14-21 (ESV)

Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for all future believers, just before His death. He knew by week’s end He would be dead – and risen! But He took the time to ask for deliverance for His believers. He must think that temptation is very important!

Remember – God won’t give you something you can’t handle. You need to keep your spiritual sword sharpened by reading God’s Word daily, studying, attending church, and most important – praying.

Pray the Bible for wisdom and discernment this week (based on Philippians 1:9-11)

I pray that my love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment so that I may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I’ll see you next week!

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