Deep in our hearts, we want a deeper connection with God; we want to experience Jesus in a more personal and more powerful way.
God helps us with this; He gives us the Bible, which is God's Very Word.
As we saw last week, the Bible works, it helps us to know and follow Jesus. If we actually engage God in it and believe it and act on it, God's Word centers us on Christ and in truth and God's love; it helps us to live freer, wiser. So we looked at a few practical steps to be in His Word and walk closer with Jesus.
God gives us another gift too, prayer.
If you are up to a richer experience with Jesus in 2021, this is so good. Praying is a simple and effective way to connect more deeply with our Lord.
But there are a hundred reasons why we don't pray. We don't always think to pray. We're too busy, too tired. We may not care enough to pray. Unless we come to an end of ourselves, unless our world falls apart, we may not see much need to pray. But also, we don't physically see or hear God, so it's an act of faith to pray, and if we're honest we may not have that much faith. Or if we're really honest, we don't always love God enough to pray…
Jesus gives another reason why we may not pray,
John 4:5 So [Jesus] came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
Jesus tells this woman her perception of Him is too small. What she believes He can do for her is to weak. Us too! And this keeps us from praying, and it keeps Him from giving us even greater things than we ask.
Jesus didn't do miracles in His hometown, why? Because they did not trust Him to do great things.
It is important to have a proper vision of Jesus according to His Very Words to us.
When we see the magnitude of the glory of Jesus and of the deeper things that He wants to do for and through each of us, then, Jesus said, we will ask Him with faith and He will lavish on us greater things than we ask.
This is why Paul prays,
Ephesians 1:17 [I pray…] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him [I.e., I pray that God may grant you to know Him in a greater way.] 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…
The gist of Paul’s prayer is for God to grant us to know Him better. Then, Jesus says we will love Him more, and pray more, and He will bless us more.
I know how hard it is to pray. I'm better about reading and meeting God in His Word than I am at praying. And my goal isn't just that you pray more.
It's not like we are good if we pray. "O man, I know I should pray," so we pray a quick prayer and feel good about ourselves. But praying is not the goal as if we really accomplished something if we prayed.
Prayer is connection. Praying is a way to connect with God, personally. We see this in David's life. In Paul's life. In Jesus' life. That's what we want in our life.
So, the goal isn’t to pray more but to more personally connect with God and to present our needs to Him in order to open the floodgates of His heart and His power so that we may walk closely with Him.
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which [Jesus] inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Trusting Jesus gives you the right to approach God with absolute confidence in His love, acceptance, and favor right now. Your sins do not stop God from loving you or answering the believer's prayers…
This is what it means to "pray in Jesus' name." We approach God with our hearts fully certain of His favor because we trust Jesus' sacrificial death (v19), Jesus' shed blood (v20), and JC as our high priest who represents us to God (v21) .
Prayer is connection! And that which connects us to God in prayer is our faith in Jesus Christ who's already opened the Way.
When you pray with faith in Jesus that God loves you and beholds you as His child and welcomes you to pray and that He cares for you and He is listening to you with the very best of intentions for you. Such prayer is intimacy with God.
Prayer is connection. It is also a channel for God's blessings which leads to further intimacy.
John 16:23 … Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
Praying in Jesus' name isn't tagging "in Jesus' name" to the end of our prayer. To "pray in Jesus' name" is to approach the Father confident in Jesus that we have Abba's favor. It's trusting Him to answer not because you've been good but you're a child of God, and Jesus has clothed in you in His righteousness.
Look at the pattern in John 16 above. 1) Jesus invites us to act on the relationship Jesus gives us. 2) Ask the Father in My name. 3) He will answer. 4) You will be given what you ask. 5) And your joy will be made full. And not just because God gave you what you requested. But Jesus will revitalize your faith in Him when He answers and you know He did, you realize that He has answered your prayer.
This is one of the reasons why we should actually ask God, petition Him, and request His help. More than His help. Call on Him to supply whatever concerns you—personal, financial, physical, spiritual, relational...
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we get anxious about something. We fret. We worry, "O if this happens, how will that affect me? Or if this doesn't happen, how will that affect me? What should we do? What I should say? How should I respond?"
If you catch yourself worrying, take it to God, and ask Him to intervene. If you're afraid, you want something good to happen and you don't know how to make it happen, ask God to do it, pray for whatever you hope.
Instead of complain, pray for God to work in this person, this situation. Ask Him to do something great in this. Ask Him to use you to bring about good.
If you need help in any way, pray for it. If you hope for anything, pray for it. Turn to God with it before you plot how to get it. If there is something in your life that doesn’t glorify God, pray about it!
Psalm 50:15 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me.
Notice the same sequence as in John 16, it starts with God inviting you to pray in a day of trouble.
This is a standing invitation. The next step is to face a day of trouble and to trust Him and call on Him knowing His grace. He will rescue you. You will be grateful, you'll praise and honor Him, and He will be glorified.
God glorifies Himself by answering our prayers and showing Himself to be full of love and power! But if we don’t call on Him in the day of trouble, He won’t necessarily rescue us; we may not be delivered; He won’t get the glory.
Good things to do when we pray
Pray out loud. Talking with God aloud stimulates relational dynamics.
James says to check your motivation. So does the psalm writer,
Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
Praying according to God's will, actually praying for something that God wants for us is important.
Make your requests known to God for you and for others—loved ones, those in need. Pray also for the church and for God to use us. In this way prayer is like an act of sedition. We don't believe things have to go a certain way.
Pray for the president and for the laws he authors so that we may lead a quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Pray through the psalms or New Testament prayers. The Lord's Prayer too but realize that it is more of an outline than a prayer to recite in awkward cadance.
After you pray, wait on the Lord. Give Him space to respond. Be ready to follow. The power isn't in our prayers but allowing God to speak and lead us.