Thoughts on Prayer
Lent Prayers are the first of the 3 principal Lent activities
we participate in Lent.
- Fasting, and
Jesus spoke on these three things - alms, prayer, and fasting - in Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 - 18, in his first public teaching, known as the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)
To get the most benefit out of anything, we must do it right. The best way to pray correctly is to find out what Jesus says in the Bible, and then to do it.
Pray from the Heart
Prayer is talking to God. It's communicating with God. It's a conversation, with the intention to deepen our relationship with God.
So how do you talk to your dearest friend? Your parents and teachers? Your spouse? Your children? Do you first write out everything you want to say, and then read it all back to them? Or do you simply look at them and talk to them?
While there is a place for group prayer, and learning prayers by heart such as the Our Father, it is much more important to get into the habit of talking to God in our very own words, and not someone else's. That makes it much more personal and intimate a conversation.
Short, Sweet, and to the Point Prayers are Powerful
If you need help, you don't say, "Wait a minute, I got to find the book and find out how to speak to God..." You say
"Help me !!!"
"Please help me now. I need help. I'm hurt. ..."
If there's a fire, you don't say, "Excuse me, dear sir, may I take a moment of your precious time? I would like to call your attention to the fact that there is a bit of an unusual circumstance ..." You yell,
"Fire !!!" "Help !!!" "Look !!!" "Right there !!!" "Quick !!!" "Water !!!"
Who cares about perfect English when the house is burning down or you need help?
Not me. And for sure, not God.
Pray as Children
There are so many books on prayer, and books full of prayers, it would give you a headache to try to read them all.
Some people make prayer so hard, you got to get everything figured out before you can pray.
Not children. And that's the first thing to consider, "Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
Children ask. Children say they're sorry. Children beg and plead. Children listen.
Because a lot of prayer is listening to God. What is God saying? What does God say in the bible? If you don't know, read your bible, especially the Gospels, learn what Jesus says. Do it every day in Lent, and then keep the practice, and do it every day of your life. You may be surprised how it how it will change your life for the much better - if you're willing.
Pray with Confidence
Have you ever noticed how children won't give up? They keep asking in many different ways, because the worse they can be told is no, not now, and then they'll ask again, to make sure that their parents realize this is a big deal.
That's how we're supposed to pray. God is waiting to see how bad we want it.
When You Pray, Don't Fake It
If you're going to pretend to pray, but not change your life or your attitude to God, forget it.
Talk is cheap. Don't be one of the hypocrites that Jesus condemns, saying, "They honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6)
Think of a very wealthy, but very wise man. 2 people come and ask him for some of his money.
The first one is a criminal, who bad mouths the wealthy man all the time, and is, in fact, his enemy.
The other one has served well the wealthy man, putting in years of dedicated service to work hard and diligently for the wealthy man.
Who do you think the wise man will be willing to share his wealth with?
Some Thoughts on General Types of Prayers
There are four general types of prayer to God. An easy way to remember is the first letter of each makes the acronym A.C.T.S.
- A-doration - praising and honoring God, the one to whom we owe everything - life, food, sun, family, breath, our senses - everything
- C-ontrition - sorrow for sin, asking God for forgiveness
- T-hanksgiving - gratitude and appreciation for all that God has given us.
- S-upplication or petition - asking God for spiritual and temporal blessings
We have a tendency to do a lot of asking, when what we should be doing is working on the other 3. Especially taking time to show our gratitude and thanksgiving, our deepest appreciation.
Are You Hurting - in Misery or Pain?
Right now, are you in a lot of pain and misery? Don't worry, it's a good thing.
Unfortunately - or fortunately - it is often the only way God can get our attention. He has to give us pain and show us our misery, else we'd end up destroying ourselves.
God is like a good parent that sometimes has to discipline his child to make him understand the seriousness of the situation.
You can benefit from pain like the good thief on his cross, who got into heaven that day, in answer to prayer to Jesus. (Luke 23:39-43)
or, go the way of the bad thief, who continued from his cross to blaspheme and mock Jesus on the Cross.
By the way, both of the criminals who were crucified on either side of Jesus, started out mocking Jesus. (Matthew 27:24) But fortunately, by God's grace, the good thief changed his tune.
So it's never too late to change ... until it's too late. So don't put it off anymore. Do it now. Do it now. Do it now. Don't know how? Just start. Just start anywhere. You've talked to strangers before. And God's no stranger, he's been waiting to hear a long time from you. You're lucky you're not dead right now - because he's been very merciful to you, and because he's still been waiting to hear from you.
You've figured how to get yourself into trouble before. Start by asking God for his help to get you out of trouble. And do some owning up. He loves honesty. He doesn't like lying and you can't fool him anyway.
Prayer Puts God to Work for Us
In this earthly life, we have no idea of how much our Heavenly Father waits to hear from us, so He can do good things for us.
One pastor said prayer is like a lever, with which we can lift the whole world.
Prayer is All-Powerful Over God
In the 1800's in France, a holy pastor made this statement:
Prayer is all Powerful over God.
If prayer is so powerful, it certainly is worth our while to learn how to do it right.
The next topics include ways to make sure our prayers are effective.
Include Repentance in Your Lenten Prayers
If you have lots of sins and misery, don't worry. You're in good company, because we're all sinners. God gives many special graces in Lent to help us repent of our sins.
Repentance means you're truly sorry for your sins:
Asking for and Receiving Forgiveness
- sorry enough to ask God's forgiveness
- sorry enough to stop doing your sins
- and sorry enough to ask God to help you make up for the wrong, such as returning stolen property, or undoing damaging gossip.
Read the story of how a pharisee and a publican went to the temple to pray. The pharisee was in the front, proud of the good things he did. The publican was in the back, ashamed to look up, and could only say over and over, "O God, be merciful to me, the sinner."
Jesus said the publican went home justified by God, and not the other.
The pharisee is a good example of Easter Sunday Christians, who come with fancy new clothes and perfume and lipstick and hats and all - just to show off.
You know, the type people who only show up in church on Christmas or Easter, and who aren't willing to pay the price of developing a true relationship with their God.
A relationship that has to start with us getting the shit our of our lives, which we can't do by ourselves, but we have to have God's help and do it his way, because he is the only one who has the cure.
Humility Makes Our Prayers Powerful
Jesus came on earth to help sinners. He said the healthy don't need to see the doctor, but the sick. (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31) The problem is there are many people who think they are healthy, but we all have sinned and fallen short of God's standard of holiness. (Romans 3:23)
As long as a person thinks they are not a sinner, not even God can help them.
The Importance of Perseverance in Our Prayers
One time, Jesus was praying. When he finished, one of his followers said, "Lord, teach us to pray.' So Jesus said when you pray, pray this way... and then taught the Our Father.
Then Jesus told the story of how a man got 3 loaves of bread in the middle of the night, not because it was his friend, but because he wouldn't stop knocking. Read the rest of these stories on prayer in Luke chapter 11, verses 1-13.
Our prayers must be persevering:
The Importance of Listening to God in Prayer
- Do we want it bad enough?
- Are we consistent, year in, year out?
- Do we pray daily?
If you do all the talking and no listening in a conversation, you'd soon be very boring to other people.
A good conversation is both talking and listening. Some people say God gave us 2 ears and one mouth, to show us that we should listen more than talk.
I would add that he gave most of us 2 eyes and the ability to read, so we can read his word, the bible.
Do you read your bible daily? That is one of the best ways to listen to God.
And to discover for yourself how to pray well, and maybe, why God is not answering your prayers right now.
A good example of listening is Mary in the story of Jesus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus said Mary chose the best part, and it was not going to be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)
We Have Many Examples of Prayer
In the Bible, but in the Gospels especially, Jesus gives many teachings, stories, and examples of prayer.
I could list more of them here, but what good would it do you?
A good teacher makes his students find out on their own, because when you discover it for yourself, the more you get involved in your own education, the more you are able to take ownership of the teaching.
When you go to church to learn more about God, especially how to talk with God effectively, God will bless your dedication, your commitment, your involvement, provided you come with a good spirit, a humble spirit, which is a willingness to learn more, and put it into practice.
The more you get involved, you'll be thanking your praying stars for sure!
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