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Prayer | Voices

Prayer | Voices

Monday He was praying…and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray…”  Luke 11:1

Seriously? These were good Jewish boys, went to the synagogue every week, learned about God from Mama’s lap, and saw the rabbis lead countless prayers. Handpicked by the Son of God to be world-changers, they’d seen miracles up close and even done a few themselves. So if anyone should know how to pray, it would be these guys. Why would they ask to be taught?

Because they heard something in His voice that made them thirsty. He didn’t pray like the Pharisees. Prayer wasn’t a chore on a daily checklist. Jesus prayed when He didn’t have to. He prayed like He wanted to. There was a smile in His voice as He looked up into the heavens with intimacy, implying that He and God shared a secret. Their own prayers were like droplets of pond water beside His sparkling waterfalls—and they wanted what He had. Have you ever listened to someone pray and you wanted what they had? There was a confidence in their prayers, a joy and intimacy that made you thirsty. Well, grab a big cup because we’re all offered that waterfall. Jesus didn’t respond to the question with, “Too bad. I might tell you when you’re as spiritual as I am.” In the next verse He said, “When you pray, say…’” And then they wrote it down so we could learn too.

Challenge: Do the prayers of some Jesus followers make you thirsty? There’s a waterfall nearby. Keep reading for the map.

Prayer: Father, I like printed prayers because I’m never sure if I’m doing it right. It’s hard to know what to say sometimes. Thank you for including instructions so I know you’re hearing me. Help me learn to pray like you did. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday— “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”   Matthew 6:9-10

“Okay, God. Here are the problems for the day. You need to do this and this and that and that and…then give me this and this but not those and those…” If we had to provide a template for a typical, 21st-century western prayer, it might look something like that. We like to jump right to the point—our point—as though the Lord God Almighty was our personal Genie. We order Him around and call it “faith,” while skipping over Jesus’ detailed instructions. We call it “the Lord’s prayer,” but it really wasn’t His. It was a template for us, to teach us how to pray. So this week, we’ll take that model apart and learn to pray like Jesus.

Notice that it doesn’t start with our wants and fears. It starts with a humble recognition of who God is. When we begin a prayer by reminding ourselves just Who it is we’re talking to, it puts the rest of it in perspective. Even His Name is to be revered as holy and not to be trampled on. How do you think God views our current OMG flippancy? We get in the right frame of mind when we acknowledge how wonderful it is that this Creator invites us to call Him Father. It is our hearts and our thoughts He’s evaluating, not the precision of our words. So when our hearts are properly humbled before Him, we’re ready to proceed. We agree with Him that we’re eager for His kingdom to come to earth and ask that His will be done in what we’re about to say. 

Challenge: Do you have the right amount of reverence and awe when you approach the Lord Almighty?

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, you are so awesome and wonderful that it amazes me you want to hear from me, a tiny dust speck on a tiny planet in one of your universes. May my life be lived in an ongoing state of worship. In Jesus’ name, amen                                                               ———————————————————-

WednesdayGive us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:11-12

Sandwiched between praise and more praise, we find the place for our personal requests. But notice how Jesus said we should ask for them. We’re to request daily needs—not potential needs ten years into the future. Jesus was big on living in the moment. He constantly warned us not to worry about tomorrow because “What if” fears cause us to miss God’s provision for today. So Jesus reminds us again: “Father, today give me what I need. And if you don’t provide it, I don’t need it.” It readjusts our attitudes and reminds us that everything we have is a gift from a generous Father. James warns us not ask with selfish motives (Jms 4:3). But then…right after the gimmee section, comes the part that makes us uncomfortable: Forgiveness.

We LOVE forgiveness when it’s coming from God to us or from someone else to us or from us to ourselves. But Jesus raises the bar. He says we should ask God to forgive us THE SAME WAY we forgive other people. OUCH! In other words, before we can ask God to forgive what we did, we have to forgive what someone else did to us. We don’t like that as much. But it’s a reminder that God’s forgiveness of our sin is not cheap. It cost Him dearly to forgive us, just as it often costs us dearly to forgive wrongs against us. But doing so allows us to team up with Him and go into the forgiveness business together.

Challenge: If some of your prayers are not being answered, could it be that you’re harboring unforgiveness or asking selfishly?

Prayer: Father, most of my prayer time is taken up with pleading and complaints. Help me learn to balance it more so I am praying in line with your will for me. And teach me to forgive others the way you’re always forgiving me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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ThursdayAnd lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Matthew 6:13

“Watch while I make fools out of your people!” Lucifer taunted from across a great divide. “They claim to follow the Son, but I’ve got some delectable temptations ahead for them and they’ll fall like a chain of dominoes.” A spear sliced through the air and an angelic warrior thundered, “Not on my watch!” Lucifer cackled. “Nothing you can do about it. We’ve distracted them so much they’ve stopped praying. They don’t even ask for deliverance anymore. They’re putty in our hands.” The angel lowered his spear and sighed. “Yes, if only they realized the power at their disposal. They don’t have to be defeated, but they choose it.”

Just beyond our vision, a cosmic battle rages. Satan and his hordes devise crafty schemes to thwart God’s plan and sabotage His people. But to defend His children, the Lord of angel armies sends angelic warriors to defend us. IF we ask. IF we’re walking in fellowship with Him. Relying on our own willpower or cleverness is like engaging a Russian tank with a plastic light saber. If we think we can defeat this enemy on our own, we are fools. The word translated “temptations” can also refer to severe trials or testing. All of it can topple our faith. So Jesus included this part of His model prayer to remind us to ask God daily for deliverance. Effective prayers include pleas for protection from disasters and temptation too great to bear.

Challenge: Temptation happens when lust meets opportunity, so we can pray that the two never meet.

Prayer: Father, I forget that there is more going on around me than I can see. I have a vicious enemy who wants to destroy me. But you offer defense and protection if I will call upon you. Help me remember to do that every day. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Friday——When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners… when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private…”   Matthew 6:5-6

“Brother Ralph, would you close us in prayer?” asked Pastor Will. Ralph beamed. “Certainly!” he said. He stood, held out his arms, and shouted like a used car salesman. “Our most infinite divine Presence! Grant Thou Thy lowly servants the petitions we entreat of Thee. Thou knowest the injustices that have befallen Thine offspring and the inquiries we have of Thee…” The prayer went on in that vein until everyone was secretly checking his watch. Ty glanced at his buddy Rex. “Does God even know what that guy’s saying?” he whispered. “…’cause I don’t. I hope I don’t get called on to pray next. Who can top that?”

Have you ever been in a prayer circle when someone seemed to be reciting the entire Bible? You broke out in a sweat and prayed in earnest that you wouldn’t have to follow him. What could you possibly offer God after a keynote address like that? Is the Lord impressed? Jesus said no. Remember, God weighs the sincerity of the heart. Words are a way for us to stay on track, but God is way ahead of us. If our hearts are proud, unforgiving, or rebellious, it doesn’t matter how fancy our words are. We can’t fool God about our motives. But when we come like a trusting child, telling Him about our hurts, fears, and struggles, He brings scriptures to mind in answer to those questions. While we pour out our hearts, we catch our own wrong motives and bad attitudes and confess them on the spot. God makes sense of the most bumbling prayer if it comes from a sincere heart.

Challenge: Are you afraid you don’t know how to pray fancy enough for God to hear? Just pour out your heart.

Prayer: Father, here we go. I’m going to do like Jesus said and go into that secret place in my heart and open the door for you. Come in and let’s talk about what’s burdening me. Jesus said you’d hear me, and I want to hear you. In His name, amen.