One of the most despicable things ever spoken regarding the believer and his relationship with God is that he has a “right” to tell God what he wants. This is a common practice for those who lean toward the “word of faith”wing of the Church. Because we are “king’s kids,” and because we can “boldly” approach God, we don’t have to ask, we should simply “tell” God what we want and “expect” Him to give it to us. That’s terrible theology, and if you practice it for long, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

Another despicable practice among many Christians is the notion that we can do pretty much whatever we want to do if it’s done in “Christ’s Name,” and expect God to bless our efforts. In fact, we need to make absolutely sure that what we are doing, what we want to do, and what we are praying is according to God’s will. We don’t have the right to order God around and it is unreasonable to expect God to bless anything we do if what we are doing is not God’s will for us.

In reality, we are not to demand anything from God, but God demands a lot from those who are His children. We should be so busy seeking and doing the will of God that we don’t have the time or the energy to run around doing our own things! A good example of the kind of person who lived to do God’s will is Elijah. This great prophet of God was not perfect; he made his share of mistakes. But his life was marked with two things: obedience to God’s will and power in prayer.

Elijah’s greatest prayer, and one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Bible, was prayed with 450 heathen prophets of Baal breathing down his neck and much of the nation of Israel watching him. There he was, surrounded by the enemy, standing in front of a heathen altar that was soaking wet. His request was simple: send down fire from heaven.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36, 37)

Elijah’s back was against the wall. His life and the future of his people hung in the balance, yet this man’s prayer doesn’t reflect that. Notice the unselfishness of Elijah’s prayer, and notice what concerned him most: that God would be glorified and that he, Elijah, would be known simply as God’s servant. It was very important to Elijah God be lifted up and that he be put in subservient position.

What a good example for us to follow. No matter what we need, no matter whom we are praying for, our greatest desire should be that God be glorified. When it comes to prayer, God is always glorified when we yield to His will, even if the answer He gives is not what we were hoping for.

1. The importance of “Your” in prayer

A lot churches recite what is erroneously called “The Lord’s Prayer” as part their Sunday worship service. A better name for this prayer, which is recorded for us in the Gospels, most prominently in Matthew 6, would be “the Disciple’s Prayer” because Jesus was giving them a classic example of what prayer should sound like. Look carefully at how the Disciple’s Prayer begins:

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)

Before a single personal request is made of God, Jesus’ model prayer establishes the prominence of God’s will. The first three requests of this prayer are all about God’s glory and God’s will. You may think that God “knows how I feel about Him” and that “God knows I know His will is important,” but when you pray, you need to indicate to the Lord your feelings; you need to speak what’s in your heart, you  need to tell the Lord what you think He knows. Remember something else Jesus said:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Of course God knows what’s in your heart! But He needs you tell Him. The things that are important to you are generally the things you spend most of your time thinking about and they are the first things you pray about. When you pray, you need to learn to acknowledge the prominence of God and His will. Now, when you’re praying for something very close to you—like the healing of a loved one, for example—this may be hard to do. That’s why acknowledging the prominence of God’s glory and will must become as natural in prayer as breathing.

2. Emphasize the spiritual

When we pray, then, we need to remember the importance “your,” as in “Your will,” and “Your glory.” Eventually we can get to the “I” and “me” parts of the prayer, but God must always come first, and we should learn to be more concerned about God’s will being accomplished than our desires being fulfilled.

The big stumbling block for most of us is our lack of spirituality. Most of us tend to pray more for physical things than spiritual things. We pray most often for that which is tangible, like physical healing or material blessings, while all but ignoring the intangible things. This is natural; we are part of the physical world. And yet, at the same time, we also part of the unseen, intangible Kingdom of God. It takes practice, but each one of us needs to learn to value things the way Jesus does.

What does Jesus value most? There is minor incident in Luke 21 that serves well to illustrate a major truth.

Then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping their gifts into the treasury, and he noticed a poor widow drop in two coppers, and he commented, “I assure you that this poor widow put in more than all of them, for they have all put in what they can easily spare, but she in her poverty has given away her whole living.” (Luke 21:1—4, JBP)

It would be natural to take notice of the gifts the “rich people” gave. We can be sure that they gave substantial amounts. Most of us would acknowledge their “generosity.” Maybe some of us would put their names on a plaque and display it in a prominent place. But Jesus, who alone knows the heart, valued most what the “poor widow” gave. He values not so much the tangible, but the intangible. Jesus saw the hearts of the givers and He valued the woman’s gift because her heart was right. Now, rich or poor can have the right heart; Jesus doesn’t value poor folk more than rich folk! That’s not the lesson of the story. The lesson is simply this: what Jesus values is often surprising to us. And what He values more than anything are the intangibles; the spiritual things; usually the things we tend to value least.

Our prayers should reflect Jesus’ values, not ours. It takes practice; we need to change our habitual way of thinking, but it is incumbent on all believes to learn to see things from God’s perspective and to value most those things that He values most.

3. The heart of the matter

Learning to pray properly takes practice; it requires effort. Not all Christians appreciate this because for them, prayer is just “talking to God.” Prayer is so much more than that! Prayers prayed properly unleash the greatest power in the universe! So many of us think praying is conversing with God. But that’s just part of it. When we pray in the Spirit, our prayers are empowered.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… (Ephesians 3:20)

This is truly a remarkable verse. Human beings are fascinated with exploring and unlocking the secrets of the universe; we marvel at the mysteries of the ocean, yet the greatest mystery of all is what happens when we pray. The greatest secrets of all involve prayer. According to Paul, there is nothing God cannot do in response to a prayer prayed in the Spirit. When we pray correctly, God answers over and above what we can imagine! And we can pray prayers that get those kinds of results because His power is at work in us! The awesome power of the atom is nothing compared to the power of God. It’s the power that brought the universe into being! It’s the power that raised Christ from the dead! That’s the power available to us in prayer…if we can learn to unleash it.

The heart of the matter is this: when we pray, God must be at the forefront of our prayers, not us and not our needs. Our focus needs to be on Him. There is an incident in the Old Testament that illustrates how many of us treat God in our prayers. In the middle of the night, Jacob wrestled with a man. All night long, Jacob wrestled with this stranger. All night! Can you imagine a wrestling match lasting that long? We know that this stranger was, in reality, the preincarnate Christ.

When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” (Genesis 32:25, 26)

Jacob was stubborn and obstinate and would not let the Man go:

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (verse 27)

Jacob held on to this man; he stopped wrestling with him and simply held on. Jacob learned something: he got nothing out of the Man wrestling with him. It was when he finally stopped struggling and just held on that the Man blessed him:

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (verse 28)

There is a great principle here for believers. The principle is NOT that there is value in wrestling with God! Remember, God did nothing for Jacob until he stopped wrestling! The principle is this: always yield to God. Always yield to God’s will. Stop struggling with God’s will and accept it. When you get your ideas out of your head and replace them with God’s, you will be blessed as Jacob was.

We can pray in power every time we bow our heads, but we need to remember the right emphasis: it’s not us; it’s not our needs or desires; it’s God first. The emphasis of all our prayers must be God’s glory and God’s will. We need never fear that God’s will for us is anything less than His best for us.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd


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