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Prayer


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Today let us study how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. First turn to Luke 11:1:

 

"And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

 

They were listening as Jesus prayed. What power there was in His words! On one occasion, some people were sent to arrest Jesus, but when they came back without Him, they were asked why they had not brought Him. Their only answer was, "Never man spake like this Man."

 

On this occasion, Jesus was praying, talking to His Father. And when He got through, those who had been listening to Him said, "Lord, teach us to pray." Sometimes I feel like praying, "Teach me to preach," when I hear a sermon anointed by the Spirit of God. Or when I hear someone calling on God in desperation, and God answers, it makes me feel that I want that too. It is the Spirit of God. We feel it. We know that is what we want. It doesn't matter who preaches, or who sings, or who prays. The main thing is to have the Spirit of God on what we do for Him. Then God will answer, and He will get the glory.

 

We can't pray like Jesus prayed, but we can be a disciple. We can say, "Lord, teach me to pray," and the Master Teacher in all things will help us to learn.

 

This is an abbreviated explanation in Luke of the Lord's Prayer. The full form is in Matthew 6, which is more familiar to us. It doesn't mean that Luke was mistaken, or Matthew was. It doesn't mean one was right and one was wrong. It is just a different account, a different answer to their question of being taught to pray. Let us now turn to Matthew 6:5:

 

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

 

Their reward was that someone saw them and heard them, so now they were known as someone who prayed. That is like doing a favor for someone and then talking about it, telling others what you have done. That is all the glory you will get. But if you do it as unto the Lord, not bragging about it or looking for men's applause, you will get your reward from God. You do it in secret and the Lord will reward you openly.

 

We sometimes meet people who come to our services, preachers especially, who come in and enjoy the meeting, and say, "Aye, brother," and shake hands with you -- glad hand you in every way — but when it comes time to pray they don't know what to do. They like to tell you all about the evangelistic work they have done, how many souls have been saved, how many countries they have covered, and all that. Well, they have their reward. They tell you, and you heard it. That's all there is to it.

 

But I'd rather have something God teaches me. I'd rather learn it God's way and not glory about anything we have done, but wait for His reward. Some people get all the glory they want through men's applause for what they have done, the prayers God has answered for them. I'm not talking about giving God the glory for saving our souls. You will notice in the testimonies that people give the glory to God. They point to the fact that they were not doing so well, in fact were a total failure, with no hope in the world. But they found hope in Jesus Christ. They prayed and asked for His mercy, and the Lord saved them.

 

So we are taught that people are saved when they repent of their sins and pray, asking God's forgiveness. That is the predominant mode of getting saved. (You can get saved while washing dishes at the sink, or by walking along the street, or as you are going to the classroom at school.) God will answer your prayer when you repent and believe. They have heard the sermon to repent, and they say, "That's for me. I'm guilty." They see themselves as the worst of sinners, and in desperation and humility they begin to pray. They sometimes have a hard time getting through to victory just because it takes them a while to get to the point where they can believe. But as they hold on, victory comes. His Spirit witnesses with their spirit that they are forgiven, born of God.

 

Now let us turn to the Lord's Prayer, verse 6:

 

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou bast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

 

Some people will take that verse and say that that means not to pray aloud in church. Pray in your closet. Many people are rather taken aback when they see how we pray in our church around our altars. They think that is unusual, and they don't want to do it. It is unusual; it is not done in many places. But we have scores of people, even hundreds, who tell us they were saved at an altar of prayer when they poured out their hearts to the Lord in repentance and were born again. Nothing succeeds like success, and if it works, we are going to continue to do it.

 

What a blessing there is in blending our voices together in prayer! We are concentrating on getting our prayers through to God, and are not listening to one another. In this way, we are shutting ourselves in with the Lord, even when there are people praying all around us. We pray to God in Jesus' name, claiming the victory He promised for whatever we are praying for at the time. So, "close the door," whether you are at an altar of prayer or in your closet alone.

 

Verse 7:

 

"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

 

We should try to pray intelligent prayers, asking God for what we want, and then concentrating on expecting Him to hear us, understand us, and answer our prayers. God is the authority, and He said, Don't do it with vain repetitions.

 

"Be not ye therefore like unto them. . . ."

 

We aren't heathens. We are intelligent people. We are Christians. We want God to answer our prayers, so we address Him in a reverent manner, honoring Him as God, believing He is God, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. So we put our diligence into words. But if we can't really frame it — our hearts are so hungry that we can't say it in words — God understands. But we don't want to get into the habit of just saying words, without any heart behind it. We want to pray in the right manner.

 

". . for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."

 

It isn't altogether a matter of the words you utter; that is true enough. You don't have to frame it just right, but God wants you to reverence and honor Him. Jesus goes on to tell us how to do it:

 

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name."

 

Holy and reverend is His name (Psalm 111:9). Reverence God as God, and come to Him as the Creator of Heaven and earth, and in whose hand is the breath of life. Let us expect God to help us when we come to Him, our heavenly Father, and hallow His name. Holy is His name.

 

"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."

 

In other words, let God do now what must be done in our hearts that His kingdom might be established on earth. It is the will of God that none should perish but all should come to repentance. So, "Thy will be done in earth" would include saving us or saving other people.

 

We know that the will of God is done in Heaven, but we are in an imperfect world. However, we want God's will to be done in our sphere, in our life, in our families, in our church. There are certain degrees in how this comes about. Individually, as we raise our families, as children obey their parents, as they get a job, or work for people on the job, there is a pattern, a plan that God has for us. Men who hire others to work for them are not to lord it over them, be slave drivers, or exact more from his employees than he is paying for. That would be wrong. It would also be wrong for the employee not to give service for which he is paid, not give a good day 's work for a good day 's pay. All this is in the Bible. We want to do what God's Word says, so we pray about it: "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."

 

"Give us this day our daily bread."

 

It comes from Heaven even though we may have grown the wheat, ground it into flour, and baked the bread. Remember that all good gifts come from God. We can pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and He supplies our needs — not our greeds.

 

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

 

The subject of forgiveness has been heard in sermon after sermon. There must be some reason for that. It must be that people are getting into the habit of not really understanding that in order to get anything from God we, too, must forgive. If we expect Him to forgive us, we must forgive others.

 

"And lead us not into temptation."

 

Some people flirt with temptation. They may even be flirting with temptation when they should be praying "lead us not into temptation." That means to run for your life when it comes. Don't roll sin under your tongue as a sweet morsel. Just remember that when Satan comes with temptation we are to resist him. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Satan is the tempter, but we must resist his insinuations, his inducements, his enticement. We can just say No, and have no part in what he brings before us. If we have prayed, "Lead us not into temptation," we should not be dumb enough to walk into it, or invite it to come our way. Don't give place to the devil once.

 

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

 

That is the end of the Lord's Prayer, but see what the next verse says:

 

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

"But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

 

It is not only the ministers here who have been saying that. You will find it in different places in the Bible. Our being forgiven is contingent upon our forgiving others. And being forgiven once does not mean that from then on we can go ahead and do what we want to and our standing in the sight of God is still good. No, no. If one has transgressed against God, he must go and do his first works, repent and be sorry for what he has done, and ask God again to be merciful to him because he has sinned against the holy God by disregarding His instructions, not doing what He said.

 

Now farther down, verse 16:

 

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

 

Yes, just like that one who was praying on the street corner with a long prayer, fasting and saying, "I'm on a long fast and I..." You know how he talked.

 

But listen to this:

 

"But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

"That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:5-18).

 

He is talking about fasting, to refrain from eating or drinking. But there is more to it than that. We are not to brag about or glory in what we are doing for the Lord. Some people get into a trap until they are possessed with a feeling of self-importance, glorying in the blessing God has given on their preaching. We do appreciate what God does, but we want to be sure to give God the glory.

 

"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" is Scripture. And at this camp meeting we have every inducement and encouragement to pray. Praying takes care of the fainting. But fainting doesn't take care of the praying. You have to come up out of the depression, or fainting — the low spot — and you get there by praying: "God, help me to get on top; get me through this trial." If you pray and believe, you won't have to faint. You'll remember that God has all power. He has promised to give us strength day by day. Jesus said before He went away: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

 

Some people pray the wrong way. They have the wrong idea about how their prayer is going to be answered. It might be answered yes; it might be answered no; it might be answered wait. But if one prays in faith, God hears. The answer He gives is contingent upon what He knows is good for the one making the petition. If some of our prayers were answered, we would be ruined. We might become proud if God answered every prayer and satisfied our every desire.  We are so limited in understanding of what we really need and what is good for us. But God knows what is good for us. We read in Romans 8:28 that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Not for everybody. And many things don't work out good. God can't bless some things when one is not walking in the Spirit. The natural man can't claim God's blessings every day. We want to be among those who are "the called according to his purpose." We have to be dedicated, consecrated, fully surrendered Christians in order to be able to say, "I know that everything coming my way, good or bad, will work out for God's glory." We can do that if we know we are walking where God wants us to walk, and praying the prayers we know God wants us to pray.

 

Let us read James 4:3. This will explain why some prayers are not answered.

 

"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

 

Now that is blunt language, isn't it. But that is what happens sometimes. You would like to have something for your own satisfaction or gratification, and God doesn't give it. You are asking amiss because you are asking it for the wrong purpose. You have to remember that anything you are going to ask for should redound to the glory of God if it is to be a blessing to you. If you will humbly use it the way God would give it to you, it can be to the glory of God and for your enjoyment too. There is joy in being in the center of God's will, and the joy of the Lord is our strength. But to pray for something that we shouldn't even have, or wouldn't be good for us, then it is a good thing that God has more judgment than we do, and withholds it. We think we need it, but it might be just a greed. Remember what Paul told the Philippians, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

 

So we are praying to our Father in Heaven, and He hears and answers prayer. We have every encouragement through the testimonies we have been hearing in the meetings, people saying, "I prayed and God answered." We have seen them through the years, and we know it is true. So why can't God do the same for us? God is no respecter of persons. He loves us all alike. He wants everyone to have His best. He wants us to pray as those others prayed whom God answered, and He will answer our prayers too.

 

But the devil will fight it. He fights those who are trying to give glory to God. Sometimes he gets them tongue-tied, or causes them to forget what they were going to say. They try their best to tell what God has done for them, but Satan fights it. Satan fights preachers too. Sometimes we almost get sick before we get to the church house. He doesn't want us to glorify God. Don't ever give in to him. Don't get the feeling that you don't want to try anymore. God's command is, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). God wants us to do His service with all our heart. We are always to pray and not to faint.

 

It is not easy to pray. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes concentration. We have to keep our minds on what we are praying about. If we persevere, we will come to love it. The people who pray the most are the ones who love it most, and they are the ones who will pray more. But those who let themselves get out of the habit of praying will neglect it more and more.

 

You know, you always find time to do the things you really want to do. And how much better you feel after you have done things you know you will have to do. One may not have much enthusiasm for cleaning house, or cleaning our desk, or washing the car, or mowing the lawn. Before we do them, they nag at us, knowing we should do them, but we don't feel we have the time. It can muddle our whole day. Well, we will never get everything done in this world. We can't do everything. But there are a few things we must do, and one of them that is so very important is that we always pray and not faint.

 

Time passes so swiftly. Have you noticed how much faster time goes when you are doing what you want to do? If you don't love to pray, don't feel that it is a blessing to you, it is hard to pray even five minutes. But if you diligently put yourself into your prayer, you will hardly feel you have started in five minutes. The more you pray, the more you will want to pray. And the more the Lord will bless your prayers. Brother Rodman used to say that it took him about ten minutes to get into the spirit of prayer to where he could really get hold of God. Many people are through and gone in ten minutes. We can see by that what prevailing prayer means.

 

Brother Jack Robbins was a minister in our church in the early days. God called him Home in 1948. He was a big, stalwart man, a preacher of righteous­ness, and how he could pray! I've heard him praying right along here by the pulpit, and would be amazed how his prayers could sweep around the whole world. How God did bless! He lived in Brother Ray Crawford 's home, along with other ministers in a large house. I have heard them talk about how he prayed in his bedroom. They always knew when he was in his room praying. When he preached about praying, he would say that those little snapshot payers some people pray didn't amount to anything. He would call them "Kodak prayers." He would say, "God doesn't hear such prayers. Get down to business with God and prevail, and you will get results." He didn't just talk about praying; he prayed and prayed.

 

And he died praying. When his hour to die came, and he was almost at the end of his life, he started praying for people everywhere, in Africa and Asia, and other countries of the world. He had been a correspondent in the church office, and had written letters to people in those faraway places on our mailing list. What compassion he showed to them in their trials! As the end came, he still had the same burden, the same vision for the people out there. In his sick hour, about to die, he prayed for them; then he began to pray for people closer, in this part of the country. Finally, he came down to their own household, and prayed for people by name who lived with him in the same house. When he had finished it all, he passed away. He had just kept on going as he had done all those years he had served the Lord, and then laid down his armor to receive his reward. That is what we will do if we are faithful. If we are praying people, we will keep on praying. But if we don't practice it, we won't be prayer warriors. God wants us all to learn how to pray, and then keep on doing it.

 

Prayer is very important, but some footwork needs to be associated with it too. We must carry the burden to go out to spread the Good Tidings of salvation to all men. I would like to give you an example of what happened to me. I was nineteen years old when I was converted the first day of camp meeting in 1938, here in this tabernacle. I was working in a CCC camp which to you younger people means a Job Corps-type camp, except that we had an army-style camp. There were two hundred boys to every camp, with army officers over us. The people from our church in Klamath Falls, Oregon, twenty miles from where my camp was, would come out to gather us and cultivate our friendship and take us to their meetings time and time again. They didn't just stay in Klamath Falls and say, "God, You bless those boys out there at the camp." They could have prayed until they were blue in the face, and if they hadn't put some wheels under their prayers and started out toward the camp and done some footwork among us, their prayers wouldn't have done much good. We might have gone on the same old way, not even knowing they had been praying.

 

Miraculously, God sometimes stops someone in his tracks, one here and one there. For the most part, however, converts and people who are established in the Gospel are the result of other people's having put action behind their prayers, not expecting God to do it all. They say, "I know what I'm called to do. I'm called to pray, and to go to work and reach out there and do something so that God can answer my prayers." ff you pray for someone, then go and help him. Don't turn a deaf ear to his needs, and ignore him. Do your best to establish a Christian relationship with the one for whom you are praying that he will know that you have a spiritual interest in his welfare, and are praying for him.

 

The Scripture even says, "What good does it do if you see a man who is hungry and naked, and say to him, 'God bless you; go be clothed and fed,' and don't give him the wherewithal to be clothed and fed. What profit is there in that?" No reason to pray like that. Help the one who needs to have the help at the moment, or it doesn't do any good to pray. Don't just sing about the victory in serving Jesus. Be among those who pray, and then get up and put some action behind their desires, saying, "I want to go where God wants me to go; I want to say what God wants me to say." Then there will be meaning to your prayers.

 

The onlooker in the prayer meeting isn't really getting very much out of it. Oh, he might be if he is totally new and doesn't understand what is going on. It might be that he is just learning, and edging toward the time he, too, will pray. But I'm talking about those who are used to praying. There is no profit in standing around talking when we should be praying. What pays the biggest dividends? Compare how easy it is to stand around and talk after a meeting with getting down to earnest prevailing prayer. God would have us learn to pray so that we might pray more effectively, and that we might get into the habit of giving more of ourselves in prayer. If we will do that, we will soon love it more and more. It will be a blessing to us, and people listening may even ask, "Teach us to pray."

 

There are some examples in the Bible of both the right way and the wrong way to pray. In I Kings 18, we read of Elijah the prophet who had told King Ahab that because of the sins of the Children of Israel there would be no rain on the earth except at his word. A dry spell came. There was no rain for three years and six months. The brooks dried up, and Elijah had some experiences of having to go to different. laces to be supported in a providential way by God Himself. But when the time of the end of the drought was near, God sent Elijah to show himself to Ahab, promising to follow that with rain. Let us read from verse 17:

 

"And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" [Are you the one who is causing the drought?]

"And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim."

 

It was because of the sins of the king and of the people that God had sent this judgment. It wasn't the fault of Elijah who had brought the message from God.

 

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (I Kings 18:21).

 

They were Baal worshipers, and Elijah seemed to be alone. He prayed and challenged the people to prove whether God was God or not — the God he worshiped — or was Baal god. He propositioned them to build this altar for themselves to Baal, and he would build one to God. They would call on their gods to answer by fire when they put their sacrifice upon the altar. Then he would pray that God would send the fire and consume his offering. The Baal worshipers prayed and prayed, and kept on praying. They cut themselves with knives until the blood ran. They were sincere in their worship, but it was the wrong kind of worship. That shows us that it is not true that if you are sincere in your religion, it does not matter what you believe. It does matter! You can believe a lie and be damned; or you can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and receive it, and have everlasting life.

 

The Baal worshipers were dead serious. They prayed for hours and hours, but no fire came. After a while it came Elijah's turn, and he put his sacrifice in order. He put the wood on the altar and the sacrifice on top of it, then had twelve barrels of water poured over the whole thing. Then he prayed a little prayer so the people would know that he was praying to the God of Israel, and he stood back and watched what would happen. We will read that in I Kings 18:37:

 

"Hear me, 0 Low), hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again."

 

By Rev L C Carver

 

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