Prayer is like Lego


As a child, and as an adult, I have always loved building with Lego. There are so many different ways to put the pieces together and the creations you can make are only limited by your imagination.

It is the same with prayer. There are different elements of prayer which, like Lego bricks, we can build together to make a prayer time. For example, there is the well-known acronym for praying called “A.C.T.S.” This acronym puts together elements of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication, to form an easy to remember formula for praying. You can move through a time of adoration, giving praise to God for who He is and what He has done and then move into a time of confession before the Lord. Then after spending time in thanksgiving, being thankful for the many blessings life gives, the prayer time is concluded by moving into supplication, that is bringing to the Lord the people, events, situations in which we would like Him to work.

There are of course more than just four elements to prayer. Prayer can include times of singing in worship, or listening in silence. Elements of prayer can include intercession for the needs of others or petition for our own needs. Meditation, reading and praying Scripture, journaling, are just a few examples, but the list can go on. These elements can be put together in different orders to make very different prayer times. You can have quiet times of prayer with meditation and journaling or expressive prayer times with singing and loud declarations of Scripture.

The beauty of prayer is that these elements can be combined in so many ways. The possibilities are endless. So prayer should never become routine and stale. If prayer begins to feel like a simple routine, then perhaps it’s time to mix things up a little and add a new element to our prayer time. This keeps our prayers fresh and stop us from getting stuck in a rut. We shall look at some of these elements in the next few weeks.

But as you think about your prayer times right now, what are the elements you include when you pray? Are there elements you spend more time on than others? Maybe it’s time to consider building a new prayer structure and try a different element of prayer.

Abiding in Christ


Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4

An important element of a healthy prayer life is learning to abide or remain in Christ. Jesus gave the command to “remain in me, as I also remain in you.” The word remain, in the original language, has a range of nuanced meaning including: remain, stay, persist, wait for, and to dwell for an extended period. The direction that Jesus gives is to remain, stay put and persist in him as he also remains in us. This is an invitation, a directive, to continue in relationship with Jesus. We cannot just give lip service to the Lord, with a quick prayer here and there, and then go off to do what we want to do the rest of the time.

Jesus wants us to remain with him as he remains with us, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We can have the Spirit in us, but if we do not pay attention to Him, we miss out on His ability to lead us. Therefore, Jesus urges us to remain in him. He wants us to cultivate an attitude of mind and spirit which remains open to the voice of Jesus through the Spirit, so that He may speak to us during the regular activities of our lives.

There are times when we shut Jesus out of our lives. Times when we try to do life on our own. Times when we try to live out of our own strength and our own resources. But there are also times when we actively shut the door on Jesus so that we can pursue our own sinful habits and desires. Jesus is encouraging us not to shut him out, but to continue to invite him in, to continue to remain or abide in Him.

When we remain in Jesus we will produce fruit. In other words, there will be an effect. When we remain open to the Spirit’s voice to lead us, change will happen in our lives and our spiritual walk. The Spirit will pull us away from the things which would cause us harm and instead continue to point us towards things which bring us life. When we choose not to shut Jesus out of our lives we will grow in relationship and intimacy with him. He will continue to guide us into places where his glory may be demonstrated.

Our prayer life becomes richer because of this continually growing relationship with Jesus. The psalmist says. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). The invitation of Jesus is to live with him, to remain in this place of connection and intimacy with Almighty God. What a privilege to remain with him in life and in prayer.

 

Prevailing Prayer

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Here is one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer: To study the Word to find what God’s will is as revealed there in the promises, and then simply take these promises and spread them out before God in prayer with the absolutely unwavering expectation that He will do what He has promised in His Word.

-Reuben Archer Torrey

Praying the promises of God anchors our prayers within the will of God. These are things God has promised to do so they will be in line with his will. It means that we can approach God with confidence and not with some lingering doubt about whether or not he will listen to our prayer. Instead, knowing that God has promised this allows us to be confident that we are praying for we shall receive. We can pray with unwavering expectation, that God will answer.

It seems only too easy, just pray the promises, but in order to pray them we have to know what those promises are. To know that requires that we dig into the Word to find those promises. The need to be fully familiar with God’s word is essential, and not just a part, but the whole of God’s Word. There is a danger that we can pluck abstract verses and think that they are promises which we can just apply…

For example, Job cries out: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? (Job 21:7) We can’t take that verse and assume that all seniors are really wicked people, because they have reached old age. Nor can we say that everyone who is wicked is going to live a long life. We need to be aware of the whole counsel of Scripture and not pick and choose verses we want, after all Proverbs 16:31 reminds us “Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

We need to mine the Word of God for the true promises which he expresses. This means continuously reading, studying and digging in to what the Word says…

Discover promises like the one God makes to Abram:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
 and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

This is a promise which we can continue to expect with absolute unwavering expectation that the Lord, has done, is doing and will do for the nation of Israel.

So dig in, discover the promises and pray them in faith for a powerful prayer which shall prevail.

 

 

Prayer Changes Things…

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Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. (Acts 4:29)

When we step into the place of prayer it is often to ask the Lord to change circumstances. We pray for healing for someone who is sick, comfort for someone who is grieving and for the Lord to change the heart of someone who is walking away from God’s kingdom. Prayer changes things and the Lord is able to move in people’s lives and circumstances because we pray.

But prayer does not just change a situation it will also change who we are, so that we can be used by the Lord to be his change agents in this world. God’s word is a double edged sword and it works on us just as much as on the situation we are praying for.

It can simply be the action of the Holy Spirit giving us a deeper love for the person who we are praying for. But it can be a more profound effect. In Acts 4, Peter and John had been in prison because they had been speaking about Jesus. Once they were released the believers gathered to pray. They were praying about the persecution and discrimination which they faced. You would think that the focus of the believers’ prayers would be to stop the persecution, to protect themselves from future imprisonment. But instead they pray that they would be changed. The believers pray for great boldness to be able to speak. They ask for signs and wonders to be performed so that they would be able to speak about Jesus.

Their prayers were not “Change this bad situation Lord,” but “Change us so that we can be effective in this situation!” God heard and answered their prayer in such a tangible way that the building was shaken, the believers were filled with the Spirit and spoke boldly.

What challenging circumstances do you face today? Where are the places you want the Lord to step into and change? How may the Lord be wanting to change you so that you can become the change agent for the situation?

Prayer changes things and often the very first thing which needs to be changed is our own hearts.

Praying with Authority


In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:23-24   

When we see the flashing lights of a police car behind us and pull over to the side of the road and await the officer approaching the car to ask for our licence and registration, we comply because we know that the officer has the authority to do that. The officer cannot do that when they are off duty and driving their own car. They can only stop us because of the authority of the badge which they carry. 

In a similar manner we carry a badge of authority in prayer, because we belong to Jesus. We carry his badge, his authority. As we accept Jesus as Lord we are adopted by the Father, through the justifying work of the Spirit who allows us to cry out “Abba Father” (Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6). As adopted children of God we can come to him at any time. I came across a quote from Tim Keller which expressed this beautifully… 

“The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 am for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” 

With such access we can come before the Lord at any time. We can approach God’s throne with confidence because we have the authority of his children (Heb 4:16). We have authority of access and we have authority of request. 

When we come to the father in the name of Jesus, we are promised by Christ that “my father will give you whatever you ask in my name’ (John 16:23). Our requests are heard through Jesus and the father will respond to those prayers. 

Christ’s work of redemption allows the reconciliation of humanity with God. The relationship which Adam had with the Father is being redeemed and so too is the task God gave to Adam. Adam had dominion in Eden, he had authority and was a co-labourer with God. God invites us today into that place of domination and authority as through the Holy Spirit we are invited to join in the work the Father is doing just as Jesus did (john 5:19). One of the ways we can join in that work is by praying. 

When we pray in the authority of our position in Christ and pray into God’s will in the name and authority of Jesus then our prayers become powerful ad effective. It’s time to pray in authority.

Praying Together


Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19–20  

There is great value in personal private prayer time with the Lord. Scripture encourages us to go “into your room, close the door and pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6). This verse continues with a promise of reward for those who spend time in prayer. Spending intimate time with the Lord is one of the best ways of developing a personal love relationship with our heavenly Father. We grow in understanding who we are and who God is. 

But it is not the only way the Lord calls for us to engage in prayer. Later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus directs his disciples to pray together. While Jesus assures us that we will be rewarded when we pray on our own, when we pray together in Jesus’ name the Lord promises that those prayers will be effective. 

They are effective because there is unity and mutual submission. When I pray by myself it is just God and I. I can pray for whatever I want to pray for. But when I get together with a group to pray then we join together to pray about a specific topic. There is an immediate sense of unity, which comes from praying together. Everyone is engaged in prayer at the same time and there is mutual submission to one another as everyone prays together for a particular issue rather than everyone praying for what they want. 

Praying together is effective because it becomes the body of Christ at work. God has given this body various gifts, which come together when we pray as a group. One person may bring a word of wisdom giving guidance to a situation, another may be bring a scripture to pray, or a picture or word of knowledge, all of which give shape, direction and fullness to the prayer. It requires trust to pray together and out of that trust greater fellowship follows. We draw near to God, but we also draw near to one another. Praying together produces koinonea; it builds community. 

We need personal times of prayer to draw close to the Lord, to read and meditate on God’s Word. Out of that time we receive the personal reward of relationship with our Abba Father. Then as we join together in corporate prayer we unite in fellowship. Together our prayers become effective.

Sovereignty, Kairos and Prayer

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For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

 This verse speaks into the reality of God’s sovereignty and the way He has chosen to work within this world. The Jewish nation faced annihilation at the hands of Haman. Esther is asked to go before the king and risk her life for her people for it was forbidden for anyone, including a queen, to approach the king without his invitation. As Esther acknowledges this reality her uncle Mordecai reminds her of God’s sovereignty.

God is in covenant with his people Israel. He has shown himself repeatedly faithful to his covenant promises. So when faced with extermination Mordecai, in faith, knows that deliverance will come. God is sovereign, if he has promised that Israel would be saved then Israel will be saved. But Mordecai doesn’t know how the Lord is going to do it. He knows that the Lord works through people. He brought the people out of Egypt using Moses. He conquered the Promised Land through Joshua. God does not work independently of humanity, but in cooperation with them. So some human agent is needed to stand up and be used by the Lord to bring salvation to the Jews. Esther has a choice. She could risk her life and step out in faith or she could remain silent. We do not know if there were others who could have acted, who God could have been prompting to act, but who remained silent. It is the Book of Ester in the Bible not the Book of Miriam.

God’s overall sovereignty is never in question but the means by which that sovereign plan will be achieved does depend upon how we respond to His call and prompts… “For such a time as this…”

Esther steps into God’s kairos time when she presents herself before the king unannounced. She steps into a kairos moment, an extraordinary time, a significant time, a time, which David Henderson describes as…

Moments of unaccounted generosity which we are called simple to receive with gratitude. At the same time, they require recognition (God is present and moving in our midst now), decision (I will say yes to his invitation in this moment), and action (I will do whatever he requires of me).”

As we spend time in prayer, we grow in intimacy with our heavenly Father, we in turn understand him better, how he is working, speaking and moving. We become more aware of these kairos moments that are taking place and just as Esther we can take the step of obedience clothed in faith and respond to the Lord’s direction. As we act, speak and pray into these kairos moments the Lord is able to move in power.

As John Calvin said…

“Nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers.”

It is time to join in with the work of the Lord, for such a time as this…