Prayer, an important spiritual discipline

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Here’s an important reality to hold onto, every day we are either becoming more like Jesus or less like him, we do not stay in one place very long.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that spiritual growth is not an option for us.  We are now in union with Christ and being guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit to be transformed into His image for the purpose of communion with God.

What role can prayer play in our spiritual formation and growth?   Dr. Tim Keller tells us that “Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through His Word and His grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with Him.  The power of prayer, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge and relationship with God.”

Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is second only to reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word.  Prayer is second in importance because it relies heavily on our knowledge of God, which comes directly from reading his Word.  Without engagement with Scripture, our prayers are lacking.  It’s like having a phone conversation in which the other person can hear us, but we can’t hear them.  There is a very important connection between being a student of the Word (to use a Pastor Tony phase) and prayer.

If you are like me, it’s so easy to start praying for my own list of needs vs. God’s will.  If prayer is asking God for things agreeable to His will, and the purpose of the discipline is to train us to be godly (1 Tim. 4:7), then the primary purpose of prayer as a spiritual discipline is to help conform our will to God’s will.  As we study God’s Word, meditate on it, when we pray our will should start to conform to God’s will.  Our prayer life must be rooted in the following seven words; Not my will, but your be done. (Luke 22:42)  Man’s highest aim should be to bring glory to God         (1 Cor. 10:31) and this includes praying according to His will.

How do we know if it is God’s will?  If the matter we are praying about is covered in a passage of Scripture in which God gives us a command or a direct declaration of His will, then the answer to the question is easy.  His will is that we obey His Word.  For this reason knowledge of Scripture is a tremendous help in prayer, enabling us to follow the pattern of the first Christians who quotes Scripture when they prayed.  (See Acts 4:25-26)  The regular reading and memorization of scripture, cultivates over many years of a Christian life, will increase the depth, power, and wisdom of his or her prayers.  Jesus encourages us to have his words within us as we pray, for he says, “If you abide in me, and my Word abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7)

One particular pattern for prayer that many Christians have found helpful is expressed by the acronym “A.C.T.S.”, representing adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication

Adoration – is an attitude of worship characterized by love and reverence.

Confession – refers to the admission or acknowledgement of our sins before God.

Thanksgiving – refers to offering thanks to God for His grace, love, and daily blessings.

Supplication – is when we come to God and ask for something.  Intercession is when we pray for someone else and their needs.

I love the attached two phases by Charles Stanley on the importance of prayer.

  • “Remember the shortest distance between a problem and the solution is the distance between our knees and the floor.”
  • “Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.”

As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task God commands.  A lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace.

Are you facing a decision in your life that is too big for you to handle?  Are you going through a difficulty that has left you confused and disheartened?  God said, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3) He will clear away all of the fog that surrounds your circumstances, He will show you what to do.

You brother in Christ, Jim Nelson

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