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Prayer Duncan Heaster  
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3. Prayer: Practical Guidance

3-1 Prayer: Practical Guidance

First of all, realize the crucial importance of prayer. It really is the lifeblood of spiritual life. Ensure that somehow you make the time and develop a prayerful attitude. For your relationship with God depends upon it. The early elders of the Christian church decided that they were spending too much time on practical matters with the result that they weren't finding enough time for prayer. And so they made a major re-arrangement to enable them to devote more time to prayer (Acts 6:1-4). Paul assumes that prayer will be such a major component in the lives of married believers that they may well chose to temporarily abstain from sexual relationships in order to find a greater intensity in prayer (1 Cor. 7:5). This speaks of quite some emphasis on prayer; not just a few minutes at the end of each day saying often the same words. Daniel was willing to die in justification of his habit of open, unashamed, regular prayer (Dan. 6:10). Remember how those who had asked the King for more time before telling him his dream, had been given the death sentence; and yet knowing this, Daniel asks for more time- so that he can pray seriously for the answer (Dan. 2:8,16). He must have been tempted to just say a quick prayer; but he knew that real prayer is not merely an emotional outburst fuelled by the self-preservation instinct. This is a fine challenge to our excuses that we don’t have or don’t need much time to pray. As the Philistines closed in upon Israel, Samuel was busy offering up the burnt offering, symbolizing Israel’s plea to God for help (1 Sam. 7:10)- when the natural reaction would have been to think ‘Enough of that, come on, do something practical now…’. The widows who were financially supported by the early ecclesias gave themselves to constant prayer (1 Tim. 5:5 and context). In view of the way believers fall away and also because of our great duty to witness to the world, first of all (i.e. most importantly), prayer must be made (1 Tim. 2:1 and context). Indeed, it is an actual sin- albeit a sin of omission- to cease to pray for our brethren (1 Sam. 12:23).

Secondly, seek to perceive just how delighted God is to hear our prayers, to have us praying to Him, about anything. Our distance from Him, coming as it usually does from mere preoccupation with mundane things, must so awfully hurt Him. He must weep over the simple fact that we basically forget Him, minute after minute. Make an effort to pray, no matter how inadequate or irrelevant you feel your efforts are; for we are children, very little children, talking to a delighted Father. I have often found myself excusing a lack of personal witness by shyness- when there are far more fundamental issues which lead to my failure in this. And likewise I have caught myself excusing a lack of prayer by the idea that I am busy. But, as I often tell people who say they have no time to study the Bible, we will always, naturally, find time for what we want.

- Appreciate that God often puts us in the situation in which we put Him by our prayers. He does this in order to develop our understanding of what it means to pray to Him, and to allow us some window into how He actually feels when we pray to Him. For example, we ask God to forgive us, as we forgive those who sin against us. Whenever we deal with someone sinning against us, we are being given an insight into how God responds to us. Moses went through the same. God told Moses to “let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against [Israel]” (Ex. 32:10). But Moses prays to God and begs Him not to express His wrath against Israel; and God hears. Soon afterwards, Aaron prays / entreats Moses: “Let not the anger of my lord wax hot…” (Ex. 32:22). Moses found himself with the same emotions as God; and being approached by a somewhat unworthy man [Aaron] begging him to show unreasoned grace. This was precisely the situation God had just been in when Moses approached Him!

- Believe that God wants to answer our prayers, no matter how poorly formulated they are. He is our loving Father, who dearly loves us and so wishes to respond to our requests. Think of how He responded to Moses’ request, that God wouldn’t destroy Israel as He planned, and make of Moses a great nation. Moses’ prayer was on the basis that if God did this, then, His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wouldn’t be fulfilled (Ex. 32:13). Actually, if God made a great nation of Moses, who was a descendant of Abraham, Jacob etc, then the promises would still have been fulfilled. Logically, Moses didn’t have a good argument. Reviewed from hindsight in cold blood, it didn’t add up at all. But God heard Moses, because He loved Moses, and because God perceived that Moses was so very genuinely motivated in what he was requesting. And it’s the same with our prayers.