26. Partake – The Christian disciple and Prayer
Paul writing in Ephesians 6v18 – “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all of God’s holy people.”
Why is prayer, along with the Bible, our weapons in spiritual warfare? I wonder when the last time you said “Good morning” to God as you woke up or said “Good night” to God as you fell asleep. Prayer is at the centre in the relationship between God and the Christian disciple. It is the major action of fellowship between God and humans, and of humans communicating with God, both in talking and listening (Genesis 18v33).
Prayer is also a way of “letting God in” to the life of the Christian disciple, and of enjoying the company of God, relating all aspects of life to Him. Calvin, said that part of praying was asking for “what we have learned to be available” in God’s love and of His being the infinitesimal good giver. He goes on to say our “only security” is achieved by calling on the Father for His providence out of His infinite mercy. Martin Luther said that our “protection (by God) lies in prayer”, for the Christian disciple is too weak in their own strength to withstand all that is against them. Prayer is ultimately what humans were made for: conversing with God. This dynamic relationship enables the Christian disciple to engage in prayer that is both “personal and relational.” However, prayer is only the penultimate stage in the relationship with God. Prayer is the forerunner of the day when the Christian disciple will know fully, even as they are fully known (1 Corinthians 13v12). All prayer consists of a desire or longing to know God better, and that is to be our prime motivation: to know God better. That is why it is a spiritual weapon, and it is also the reason satan tries to stop Christian disciples from praying.
The function of prayer according to Augustine was a constant yearning for assistance and strengthening of desire towards the ultimate goal – eternal happiness and worship and knowledge of God. God Himself assists the Christian disciple as they pray: where He corrects and strengthening the yearning. Prayers express desires and thoughts in a contributory way to the journey of the Christian disciple. The Lord’s Prayer and the book Psalms are superb biblical examples of prayer. It is through Scripture that desire to know God and be known by God evolves and develops. That is why prayer and Bible reading go hand in hand.
Prayer emits our words from ourselves to the God we seek to know, as a response to His reaching out to us. A popular method of prayer is the ACTS acronym, whereby prayer is Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Through prayer, God is able to comprehend the Christian disciple regardless of language, grammar or oratory skill as long as the Christian disciple approaches with a correct attitude.
Words however, are not just to be a mental action but also an emotive act, conveying emotions and feeling. Prayer is to convey deep emotions to God, regardless of our language skills. The words spoken in prayer portray our innermost feeling to Him. Because God is personal, He values language and expects His people to talk to Him. If for some reason, the Christian disciple is unable to convey their words in prayer, then Romans 8v26, intimates that the Holy Spirit intercedes. Prayer epitomises the Father-child relationship symbolized in the Christian disciple’s relationship with God. It further symbolizes the freedom and peace in prayer, advocated by Jesus to communicate His deepest desires, as in the Lords Prayer (Matthew 6v9-13) and in John 17.
The Lord’s Prayer - What does Jesus say about prayer? In the first part of the prayer termed “The Lord’s Prayer”, the words spoken give supplication to God that He always be revered as holy, His kingdom rule will come quickly and that His will be accomplished. The second part comprises words of petition, for the past, present and future. By words, “we are known by God.” This prayer is a model for real prayer because it is both God-centred and intelligent. Prayers reveal the Christian disciple’s submission to, and acknowledgment of, God as Master; a God who both knows and cares for His creation.
Does God answer all prayers? First of all the answer we expect, may not be the answer we get! So often we pray, expecting one result and getting another and then think that God hasn’t answered our prayer! Sometimes the answer He gives is yes. At other times it may be no or not yet. When we realise that God works outside of our restrictions of time and space, we learn to trust His judgement and wisdom. We acknowledge that He is the Master and we his servants. Sometimes when we pray, we like to think we are the Masters and He is our servant! Prayers that aren’t answered are due to unconfessed sin (Psalm 66v18); selfishness (James 4v3); doubt (James 1v5-7); disobedience (Proverbs 28v9) or pride (Luke 18v11-14).
A great book to read on prayer is The Message of Prayer by Tim Chester. For more to think about please do read for yourself Ephesians 1 & 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. What lessons can I take from this prayer and use to improve my prayer life?
Q2. From this chapter, what is my incentive for prayer?
Q3. What stops me from spending time praying and causes me to struggle in prayer?
As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.