Praying to God
Asking for stuff is something many of us should do daily. From the time we come into this world as babies, to the time we leave this world. God wants us to be asking for stuff in life. Asking for things is a good thing. It helps us grow in knowing people and we learn new things.
God delights in giving us everything we need. He delights even more when we ask him for things that we need. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive.” Matthew 7:7.
What a great promise, but many times we do ask and nothing happens. Why is that? Am I praying the wrong way? Is there a secret prayer code that I have to unlock? Do I need to be a priest for God to care about my prayers? Am I too much of a sinner for God to even listen to my voice?
The catholic church members treat prayer as something that is holy and only these few people over here in this corner can actually come to God and everyone else is excluded. Maybe it’s different in your catholic church, but most Catholics I know expect me to pray for them, they think they can’t pray for themselves, it’s so wrong. They also believe that you have to pray to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, so she can go to Jesus and ask Jesus to do things for us. There are some Catholics who also pray to the 12 disciples. That understanding that the catholic church has on prayer is not the biblical understanding of prayer. Now, you might be Catholic and don’t do these things. I know people who do.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is a conversation between You and God. It’s important to understand that we all, not just priests, have access to God. Matter of fact the Bible calls believers a Priesthood. According to the Bible, every believer in Jesus is a Priest. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you were most likely never taught this.
If you research this teaching, search for the term “Priesthood of Believers” on google. You will find articles and other information about this topic from many other pastors.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“Chosen People” – Before time began, God had a plan, He knew who would follow Him. In many places in the bible, the Church and the Jews are over and over called a “Chosen People”. A lot of people who study the bible and have doctorate degrees in theology struggle with this idea of being a chosen people. We are told that we have free will but then told that we are chosen too. The best way I can explain this idea is by thinking about a wedding of a man and a woman. They both have free will in the decision of getting married to each other, but at the same time, the man chose the woman to which he will marry. God chose us to be the people to call his own.
In the old testament, the Jews were slaves of Egypt so God sends Moses to go get his people out of slavery so that they will come and worship him. When God finally brought the Jews into the desert, he gives them all these laws. Laws that were mint to protect them. We could go down each law God gave the Jewish people and see how each one he gave was given for the benefit of the Jewish people.
A famous law a ton of people tell me about is a law that God told the Jews not to eat pork. Pork in those days was classified as unclean. Pigs were unclean. Well, now in the 21st Century, looking back, we see that pork was spreading deadly diseases in those days because no one knew how to cook it right. God wasn’t holding back anything good from his people, he was setting up laws to protect his people. In doing this, God is making it clear to all nations of the World in those days that THIS group of People is a DIFFERENT group of People.
God had pulled the Jews out of slavery, a people with nothing to offer God, he said, “I choose you” to these slaves. He chose them for what? To be different. They failed. The rest of the old testament is about how the Jews kept on turning away from their God who saved them from being in slavery, turning to the other gods of the nations around them, which made them slaves again.
Then Jesus shows up 2000 years ago, he died on the cross, then the Church Age begins. This marks the beginning of God opening the door for anyone, from any nation to be part of His Chosen People. So now the term “Chosen People” is hovering over the Church.
Peter calls the church, “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”. These were the terms that the Jews held onto for so long, but because they turn from God over, over, and over to other gods, now we as the Church claim possession of these terms. So let’s learn what they mean.
Remember I said that we as believers are in a priesthood. It’s like saying, I’m a US Marine, so I claim that I’m in a brotherhood, in this brotherhood there comes benefits. In this Priesthood, we have benefits, one of the main benefits is that we have direct access to God.
In the old testament, the Jews had to go to the priest who would go before God for them. “The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood.” Numbers 18:1. But now in the Church Age, we all have been given that membership card that says “Access Granted”. “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:18. So when it comes to prayer, we have access to skip the priest and go to God from the comfort of our bedrooms, on our drive home from work, drive from home to work, even in the middle of a battlefield, believers, those who have come “out of darkness into his wonderful light”, have access directly to God.
Warning Label on Prayer
Now that we know what prayer is and who can pray to God, how do we pray? Jesus answered this question during his sermon on the mount. In Matthew 6. He doesn’t just tell us how to pray and then moves to the next point, he gives us a warning about praying first.
Prayer is a tool, a deadly tool. Use this tool wrong, you could hurt yourself. So let’s examine Jesus’s Warning Label on this tool called Prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5
Praying to draw attention to yourself is not the way prayer should be used. Prayer should be used to draw attention to God and to draw others to God. This tool should be used to pull the hearts of people and the heart of God closer to each other. It should never be a tool to pull your own self-image towards people.
Blessing on Prayer
James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Prayer is Power. When we as God’s people pray, it’s like we have this supernatural power to do supernatural things. One is the greatest revivals in history happened because a businessman started a prayer service. That was called The Layman Prayer Revival of 1857. The guy’s job was to invite people to church service, nothing was working, so he gave up and asked people to come to pray during their lunch break. It’s what took the whole USA into the First Great Awakening. You want to see God do something, pray!
Instructions on Prayer
“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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:6-8
This is another one of those things in the bible that people get lost on. Where is the “Group Prayer” we see on Sunday morning in church service? In this passage, Jesus is telling us to go into our room and shut the door behind us, and pray. This is a picture of individual prayer, not group prayer.
Jesus is trying to make a point that when we pray our motivations for praying are right. In those days people were praying for all the wrong reasons. People had a mouth for God but not a heart for God. Jesus said, “go into your room and shut the door”. He is trying to make a point to us to be sure that our heart is truly praying what our lips are saying. Don’t give lip service to God. Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”. Key Words, “but their hearts are far from me”. God wants your heart. So make sure when you’re praying, your heart is praying and not just your lips.
“do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Just in case you don’t understand the first time, Jesus is screaming, “I don’t want lip service, I want your devoted heart”.
How Do I Pray?
ACTS, not the book in the bible, but ACTS is how we are going to pray. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Jesus gives us an example to follow in Matthew 6.
Adoration: Praise God for who He Is “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” Matthew 6:9
Confession: Admit that you are a Sinner to God “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
Thanksgiving: Thank God for all he has done in your life and will do with your life. The whole prayer Jesus gives us an example itself is a thankful prayer towards God.
Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and then yourself. “Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
Hindering Your Prayer Life
James says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.” James 1:6. In other words, we must have faith that God will, not might, but will answer our prayers.
“For everyone who asks receives; and to him who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8
Doubt can and will hinder your prayer life. I am reminded of a story. In Mark 9, the father of a demon-possessed son came to Jesus seeking help for his son. In Mark 9:23 it says, ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”. This man came to Jesus with partial faith, “maybe Jesus can heal my son?” Doubts can hinder us from getting our prayers answered. That is why I love what the father replied to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
Faith and Doubt are almost always next to each other. In a world that is full of sin nature, you will always see doubt hanging around faith. It’s a great thing to know though that we can actually ask God to help us “overcome” our “unbelief”. Sometimes we have all this stuff we want to bring in prayer to God, only to watch those prayers never get answered. Maybe it’s because first, we need to pray that God will help us overcome our unbelief that he can answer those prayers.
God isn’t a magic ball you shake up in hopes that you get to read something that you want to hear. God is our Holy Father in Heaven ready to have a conversation with us anytime and anywhere.