Cross Points 10.9.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking in Prayer

In our Christian walk, time is spent in prayer, addressing our heavenly Father as we communicate with him.  He communicates back through his Word, the Bible.  We need to be diligent in reading and studying (with others and on our own), so his Word can speak to us.  It’s been said that more has been written on prayer than any other aspect of the Christian life.  Some tackle the topic in classic form (Bill Hybels book “Too Busy Not to Pray”); some tackle the topic by promoting “cheap grace” (to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s term), wanting God to provide whatever they want, selfishly; and some are pure fiction.
Let’s assume we all want to approach prayer unselfishly, desiring a clean line of communication, seeking God’s will, purely.  Prayer has been a distinguishing mark of the church since it’s conception.  Jesus told the disciples to gather and pray after his ascension back to heaven, and they did.  God’s Spirit came on Pentecost and they were impowered to go forth, preaching the gospel message of Jesus, enduring hardship for his sake, faithful in this walk.  Prayer always has a central role.
Early in the churches history they had a bottleneck issue.  The widows and others were needing attention, so they chose certain men to attend to this need, freeing the apostles to be devoted to prayer and the ministry of the Word.  Not only were all the Christians praying, but prayer was of particular importance to those leading, yielding themselves to God as they made decisions.
True worship involves prayer as a focus, as well.  We learn that the first disciples “devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine (teaching) and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (eating together and sharing the Lord’s Supper), and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).  Peter and John were arrested, and the church prayed for them, with amazing results.  In prison, Paul and Silas worshiped and prayed, singing hymns, but calling on God thankfully, humbly, even when things seemed terrible for them.  Do we have such an attitude, or have we been too spoiled by our modern American culture (a culture rare in history)?
Psalm 66 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”  That’s a pretty serious statement.  Sin gets in the way of our prayers.  When the famous 2 Chronicles verse (If my people…) says to humble self, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, we too often make this all about prayer, when turning from sin is a key we often miss. Richard Neuhaus once stated, “The celebration called worship has less to do with the pursuit of happiness than with the abandonment of the pursuit of happiness.”  In such an atmosphere prayer has a better focus on God’s way.
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.  Honor God (our Father in heaven hallowed be thy name), desire to be a humble active part of the church (thy kingdom come, they will be done), be content and thankful with the basics needed (give us this day our daily bread), create a receptive atmosphere by forgiving as God forgives you (forgive us our sins as we forgive those sinning against us), and live God’s way, removing temptations to sin (lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil one).  Do our prayers seem along those lines?  Or are they always about healing our sicknesses and blessing us?  There’s a place for that, but it should not be the dominate focus.

Cross Point: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (I Tim. 2:1-3). “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare Christ” (Col. 4:3).      
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