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Powerful in prayer…the activity which we call prayer is, without a doubt, the very heart of religion

05 Feb

That which distinguishes a deeply religious person from all other people is the fact that he has a definite place in his life for prayer. Prayer is a definite part of his life. And is should be the case, because there is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.

We are not told that Jesus ever taught His disciples how to preach, but He taught them how to pray. He wanted them to have power with God; then He knew they would have power with man.

GDreading TJ readingPrayer is a form of communication between God and man and man and God. It is of the essence of communication between persons that they should talk with each other from the same basic agenda. Wherever this is not done, communication tends to break down. If, however, an atmosphere of trust can be maintained, then one learns how to wait and be still. It is instructive to examine the prayer life of the Master from this point of view.[1]

Prayer is much like a check to be countersigned by two parties. I sign the check and send it up to heaven. If Jesus Christ also signs it, it does not matter how large it is — it’ll be honored.

Abraham Lincoln faced some of our nation’s most difficult situation with prayer, stating that “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

The trouble with many who pray is that he/she says “Amen” and runs away before God has a chance to reply.

God wants us to communicate with Him because He has a great plan for our lives. For us to fulfill that plan, we have to hear what He’s saying and what He’s calling us to do. Prayer sometimes consists of sitting down and just being quiet and listening.

   You know how people say, “Don’t just stand there, do something”? I believe God is telling us, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” God wants us to be quiet sometimes and just meditate. We have to listen before we can learn and obey.

There come times in our lives when we in our desperation and pain run to God and dial our 911 prayers. Sometimes we’re hysterical. Sometimes we don’t know the words to speak. But God hears. He knows our number and he knows our name and he knows our circumstance. That help is already on the way; God has already begun to bring the remedy to us.[2]

Since September 11, 2001, when those Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists in New York City, our country has been more accommodating to the ‘idea’ of prayer as opposed to the secular attitude of many of our citizens. Even our politicians have been seen to turn to prayer in a way unlike recent years.

But there is a natural cynicism in wondering if their actions are truly genuine, reminding me of an Indiana farmer who took his family to the nation’s capital to see how their government worked.  After visiting the House of Representatives, they went to the Senate gallery, where the chaplain of the Senate was speaking.

 Daddy,” asked the farmer’s ten-year-old daughter, “does the chaplain pray for the Senate?”

“No,” said the farmer.  “He comes in, looks at the Senators, and then prays for the country.”[3]

Many are unaware that the Declaration of Independence did not come into being until a day of fasting and prayer had been observed. Appointed by the Continental Congress, it was kept by all the colonies on May 17, 1776. At that time in our history, God and the Bible were given more reverence and recognition than they are today. When the nation was finally born, our forefathers rang the Liberty Bell with great enthusiasm, and a legend says that it cracked as they zealously proclaimed their freedom. Years later the White Chapel Foundry of London offered to recast the huge carillon, but their proposal was of course refused. Apparently the symbolic value of the damaged bell, which recalls the religious and patriotic fervor of those early days, is something that America still wishes to preserve.

This in itself is good; but in view of our nation’s moral decline, the crack may also suggest a break in our basic ideals and a serious defect in our spiritual attitudes. We can remedy the situation and avert the judgment of the Lord only by repentance, prayer, and a return to the faith of our fathers. In this sense, there is no time for delay in “mending the bell.”

These words have a profound historical significance: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee, and we beg thy blessings upon us, our teachers and our country.” This was the voluntary prayer the U.S. Supreme Court found violated the establishment clause of the Constitution in 1962 in Engel vs. Vitale. It reasoned that if this prayer was allowed, it would be a step toward establishment of a state-sponsored religion. The absurdity of this reasoning is self-evident.

The end of the Declaration of Independence provides: “with a firm reliance of the protection of divine providence….” At the opening of each day’s session of the Supreme Court the crier states: “God save the United States and this honorable court.” In 1952 the U.S. Supreme Court stated in Zorach vs. Clauson: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a supreme being.” Carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court is: “In God we Trust.”

There are some of us within the legal system who desperately oppose the Supreme Court on this point and support those who courageously seek to change the law. Our children deserve better than the current moral anarchy.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is adjusting to God’s willingness. God never sleeps, so He is never disturbed when we approach Him. God does not answer our much praying in order to get rid of us, but because He loves us.

Howard Hendricks tells of a church in Dallas a few years ago having trouble finding a teacher for a junior high boys class: “The list of prospects had only one name and when they told me who it was I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I couldn’t have been more wrong about that young man. He took the class and revolutionized it.

“I was so impressed I invited him to my home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book. On each page he had a small picture of one of the boys, and under the boy’s name were comments like “having trouble in arithmetic,” or “comes to church against parents’ wishes,” or “would like to be a missionary some day, but doesn’t think he has what it takes.”

  “I pray over those pages every day,” he said, “and I can hardly wait to come to church each Sunday to see what God has been doing in their lives.”

Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work. Prayer . . . really is a silent surrendering of everything to God because it is not quite clear to us how we should pray.

What type things might we pray about? Pray for a tough hide and a tender heart. We might ask the lord to grant us a peaceful night and a perfect death.  The best prayers have often been more groans than words.

Benjamin Franklin suggested that we “Work as if you were to live a hundred years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”

There are days when we can bring before God a deep and glad laughter of joy and gratitude. There will be other days when we can only muster a bitter, angry complaint. If it is honest, be confident that God will accept whatever it is we truly have to lift up before him, and he will make it serve his purpose and our good.[4]

F.B. Meyer offered that “the great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”

A 17-century Roman Catholic Frenchman named Francois Fenelon wrote, “Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them, talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others.

“If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”

According to a poll on prayer for Newsweek in 1997, the following percentage said:

They ask for health or success for a child or family member when they pray — 82

They ask for strength to overcome a personal weakness — 75

They never ask for financial or career success —  36

The following percentages stated their beliefs about the prospects of prayer:

God answers prayers — 87

God doesn’t answer prayers —  51

They believe God does not play favorites in answering prayers — 82

God answers prayers for healing someone with an incurable disease — 79

Prayers for help in finding a job are answered —  73

They believe that when God doesn’t answer their prayers, it means it wasn’t God’s will to answer — 54

They don’t turn away from God when prayers go unanswered   —  82

According to researchers James Petterson and Peter Kim in their book, The Day America Told the Truth:  What People Really Believe about Everything that Really Matters, God is alive and well. But fewer people are listening to what He has to say than ever before. While 90 percent of those questioned by the authors said they believe in God, few turn to Him when they face a moral issue.

If Petterson and Kim are right — and other research results confirm America’s spiritual drift — then it’s no wonder that those willing to do right often seem few and maligned.

Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home; the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.

Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festered with aimlessness, falsehoods, and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life, in which to divest itself of enforced pretensions and camouflage, in which to simplify complexities, in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer.[5]

R.A. Torrey offers the following prescription that will bring revival — revival to any church, or community, or any city on earth. First: Let few Christians get thoroughly right with God. If this is not done, the rest will come to nothing. Second: Let them bind themselves together to pray for revival until God opens the windows of heaven and comes down. Third: Let them put themselves at the disposal of God for His use as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all. I have given this prescription around the world… and in no instance has it failed. It cannot fail.

He also is credit with stating that “If all the sleeping folk will wake up, if all the lukewarm folk will fire up, if all the dishonest folk will confess up, if all the disgruntled folk will cheer up, if all the depressed folk will cheer up, if all the estranged folk will make up, if all the gossipers will shut up, if all true soldiers will stand up, if all the dry bones will shake up, if all the church members will pray up…then we can have a revival!”

The Untimely Death of Mrs. Prayer Meeting!

We are sorry to announce the passing of Mrs. Prayer Meeting. She died recently at the First Neglected Church on Ho-Hum Avenue. Born many years ago in the midst of a great revival, she was strong and healthy as a child, fed largely on testimony and Bible study she grew into world-wide prominence and was one of the most influential members of the Church family.

However, in recent years Sister Prayer Meeting has been failing in health, gradually wasting away until rendered helpless by stiffness of the knees, cooling of the heart, lack of spiritual sensitivity and the concern for spiritual things. Her last whispered words were inquiring about the strange absence of her loved ones, now so busy in the market place and places of wordly amusement on Wednesday evenings!

Experts, including Dr. Good Works, Dr. Socializing and Dr. Unconcerned disagree as to the fatal cause of her final illness. They all administered large doses of excuses, even ordered a last minute motivational bypass, all to no avail. A post-mortem examination showed that a deficiency of regular spiritual food, a lack of prayer and Christian fellowship, all contributed to her untimely demise.

The following prayer might be a good way to begin each and every day: I arise today through God’s strength to direct me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak to me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s hosts to save me from snares of devils. From temptation of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, Afar and near, Alone and in a multitude.[6]

————————–

[1] Howard Thurman in A Strange Freedom. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 5.

[2] Leith Anderson, Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 2.

[3] From Quote Magazine, reprinted in Reader’s Digest, March 1992, p. 50

[4] Gardner Taylor, quoted in Reflections,  Christianity Today, Vol. 45, no. 2.

[5] Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity.  Christianity Today, Vol. 42, no. 5.

[6] Attributed to St. Patrick, from “The Deer’s Cry” (St. Patrick’s Breastplate), translated by Kuno Meyer, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today, Vol. 44, no. 13.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Encouragement

 

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