"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" The Practice Of Prayer INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson, we discussed PRINCIPLES of prayer, such as: a. Characteristics of acceptable prayer b. Obstacles to prayer c. Answers to prayer 2. With a desire to encourage disciples of Jesus to more diligent praying, this lesson will offer suggestions as to the PRACTICE of prayer... I. WHEN SHOULD WE PRAY? A. HAVING "SET TIMES" TO PRAY CAN HELP TO CREATE THE HABIT OF PRAYING... 1. For example, consider the practice of: a. David, whom God described as "a man after My own heart" - Ps 55:17 b. Daniel, whom the angel of God described as "O man greatly beloved" - Da 6:10 2. These great men of God made it a habit to pray at set times throughout the day; we would do well to imitate their example 3. At the very least... a. Find some time each day to be alone with God in prayer 1) Early morning may be best for some 2) Others might find it easier to be alone late at night b. Make it a SPECIAL TIME to be alone with your Heavenly Father! B. YET PRAYERS SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO "SET TIMES"... 1. Special needs call for special times of praying 2. Consider the examples of: a. Jesus, praying on important occasions - Lk 6:12-13 b. Paul, praying in trying circumstances - Ac 16:25 c. Nehemiah - praying on the spur of the moment - Neh 2:4-5 C. THE GOAL IS TO "PRAY WITHOUT CEASING" - 1 Th 5:17 1. Having "set times" will help develop the experience in praying 2. Praying "spontaneously" as needs arise will develop the disposition to pray in every circumstance ("without ceasing") II. WITH WHOM SHOULD WE PRAY? A. JESUS EXHORTED US TO PRAY "IN SECRET" - Mt 6:5-6 1. Private prayer should occupy the largest portion of our total life of prayer 2. Consider the value of "secret prayer": a. It forms a close union, communion and fellowship with God (you two are the only ones there!) b. It is a true test of your sincerity and devotion 1) You certainly are not doing it to please men (they can't see you) 2) You can't be trying to falsely impress God (He will see right through you) c. Your Father will reward you "openly" - Mt 6:6 -- THEREFORE, "PRIVATE PRAYER" SHOULD BE A PRIORITY! B. JESUS ALSO SPOKE OF PRAYING WITH "TWO OR THREE" - Mt 18:19-20 1. The early Christians prayed together often... a. In times of trouble - Ac 4:23-24 ; 12:5,12; 16:25 b. In times of departure - Ac 20:36 ; 21:5 2. A sweetness of fellowship and sense of strength comes when God's people pray together -- THEREFORE, "PRAYING WITH OTHERS" SHOULD BE DONE AS OFTEN AS WE CAN III. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? A. JESUS TAUGHT HOW TO PRAY - Lk 11:1-4 1. The "Lord's Prayer", as it is commonly called, is a model, a guide for learning how to pray 2. A careful examination of this prayer reveals that proper prayer includes: a. To "whom" we should pray ("Our Father in heaven") b. Praising God ("Hallowed be Your Name") c. Supplication 1) For God's purposes ("Your kingdom come. Your will be done...") 2) For our physical needs ("Give us this day our daily bread") 3) For our spiritual needs ("Forgive us our sins...") 4) For the spiritual needs of others ("For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us") 3. He also stressed the importance of simplicity in our prayers - Mt 6:7-8 B. A HELPFUL ACROSTIC IN LEARNING TO PRAY IS "A-C-T-S"... 1. A = ADORATION a. I.e., praising God b. A good example of this is found in 1 Chr 29:10-13 c. Spending time in sincere praise of God's greatness will help put us in the proper spirit of humility 2. C = CONFESSION a. I.e., acknowledging our sins before God b. When we understand how sin can break the fellowship we have with God, we naturally desire its quick remission c. Fortunately, as Christians we can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus as we confess our sins - 1 Jn 1:9 3. T = THANKSGIVING a. This is an important part of prayer, even those in which we are making requests - Ph 4:6 b. The benefits of giving thanks are many: 1) Causes us to acknowledge God's existence, love, and care 2) Reminds us of His goodness 3) Helps to shift our focus from what we don't have to what we do have c. The kind of things to be thankful for: 1) Things we can see in our lives... a) Health b) Family and friends c) God's guidance, answers to previous prayers 2) Things we may not be able to see... a) Our adoption as His children b) The forgiveness of sins c) The hope of eternal life d) The assurance of His continued presence d. God's people have every reason to be thankful, and to be known for "abounding in thanksgiving" - Co 1:12 ; 2:7; 3:15 ; 4:2 4. S = SUPPLICATION a. I.e., making requests of God - Ph 4:6 b. If we are faithful in including the first three (adoration, confession, thanksgiving), this last will prevent prayer from being simply a spiritual "shopping list" c. When we broaden our requests to include others, we enter into one of the most noble realms of prayer: INTERCESSION 1) Something which God wants us to do - 1 Ti 2:1 2) Examples of whom we can pray for are given in the next section... IV. FOR WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY? A. IN THE SCRIPTURES, GOD INDICATES THAT HE WISHES US TO PRAY FOR... 1. SELF a. For physical daily needs - Mt 6:11 b. For personal growth in Christlikeness and devotion to God - Co 1:9-12 2. FAMILY a. For spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc. b. For their nurture and growth in the teaching of the Lord - Ep 6:4 3. COMMUNITY a. For peace to prevail b. E.g., Jer 29:7 4. CHURCH a. For love and unity to prevail - Jn 13:35 ; 17:20-21 b. For the spiritual growth of each member - Ph 1:9-11 c. For the gospel to have free course - 2 Th 3:1 5. NATION a. For national repentance and consciousness of who God is - Ps 33:12 ; Pr 14:34 b. For leaders to rule wisely - 1 Ti 2:2 6. NON-BELIEVERS a. For their salvation - Ro 10:1 b. For the effort of those involved in teaching them - Ep 6:18-20 7. THE SICK a. For their restoration to health - Ja 5:14-15 b. For spiritual strength and peace of mind - Ja 5:16 8. THE POOR & OPPRESSED a. Such as the homeless, fatherless, unborn children - Pr 29:7 b. Those in other nations oppressed by their own rulers or outside influences B. IT MIGHT HELP TO HAVE A "PRAYER STRATEGY"... 1. On MONDAY - Family a. Pray for both immediate and extended family members b. For both their physical and spiritual well-being 2. On TUESDAY - Church a. For members in the local congregation b. For Christians and congregations throughout the world 3. On WEDNESDAY - Community a. For community leaders b. For your neighbors 4. On THURSDAY - Nation a. For elected officials b. For efforts to bring peace and righteousness 5. On FRIDAY - World a. For world peace b. For nations that are "closed" to the gospel 6. On SATURDAY - Afflicted a. For the poor, homeless, jobless b. For those in prison c. For those who are sick d. For widows, single mothers, fatherless children CONCLUSION 1. These are simply suggestions, to help us see that there is much we can be praying for; other suggestions could include: a. A "daily prayer strategy" (morning-family; noon-church; evening-community) b. When praying for the nation and the world, pray about the events described in the newspaper c. Keeping a "list" or "journal" of those for whom you are praying 2. The important thing is to PRAY, and to do so: a. "always" b. "in everything" c. "earnestly" d. "being vigilant" e. "without ceasing" 3. I hope these last two lessons will encourage us to be more diligent in utilizing this wonderful privilege of prayer! SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. Do you spend time each day in prayer to God? 2. Do you find prayer an easy or difficult activity? 3. Do you pray with other people at times other than before meals, in group studies, or in the assembly? 4. Do your prayers include the needs of others, or just your own concerns?