Six Aspects of Prayer: a service of prayer at The Well, October 23, 2011, facilitated by Scott Chafee and Rick Heil.
Today is going to be a little different. Our focus is on prayer, and we will look at six aspects of prayer that you may have not considered before today. Oswald Chambers once said that, “prayer does not equip us for greater works, prayer is the greater work.” How often do we rush through prayer because we have more important tasks to get on with? If we are intent on living our lives free from God’s influence and direction, perhaps prayer is not all that important. But if we claim to be one of his children, how can we neglect such a necessary activity?
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
So, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, when you pray…
1. Forgiveness: we must be in touch with God daily because we sin daily. We are a part of a curse that beats us down in bondage to sin and the guilt it brings. God desires to set us free. Just as we need food daily; we pray that God would give us our daily bread. This is not future bread, since tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. So we pray today, daily, for the Lord of the present to give us strength to carry on through this life. We pray for forgiveness and victory so that we may walk in a manner worthy of being one of God’s children.
Personal Reflection: Let us silently reflect upon our own sinfulness; confess that sin and receive the assurance that God’s grace forgives us, cleanses us, and restores us. Jesus, hear our prayers of confession to You. We thank You for forgiveness and do not take it lightly. Help us to be as repulsed by our sin as You are. As we rise to walk in newness of life, we thank you for Your amazing grace.
Sing: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
2. Perspective: it is essential that we see life from God’s perspective, and that only comes through prayer. Prayer is not only talking to God, it is listening to him. As we pray, we go beyond our needs and often selfish prayers and become advocates for the needs of the “least of these” all around us. When our perspective changes, we begin to see the world differently. Sometimes our problems are not as earthshaking as we first believed when we compare our situation with others around us. We will often complain of having no shoes until we meet someone with no feet.
Pray: A guided prayer for God’s perspective on the needs all around us. “Who are the least of these that you see each week? How have you met the needs of lost people in your circle of influence? Ask God for the ability to look out for the interests of others more important than yourself. Put into your mind the face of someone you know is hurting, and ask God to reveal how you might help them.”
3. Guidance: we cannot walk through this life on our own, we will always make a mess of our lives when we try to go through life being in charge of our own spirituality. We need the guidance of God and to allow him to show us the way we should go. We are very poor at making unselfish decisions, so what we need right now is a heart transplant; we need to open our hearts and develop a desire to know God…
Sing: Open the Eyes of My Heart
Sing: A Heart Like Yours
We must pray every day for guidance. How else will we get a heart like his? James tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should “ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Third Day has a song with a tremendous message on guidance; it’s called “Revelation.” The lyrics go like this:
My life, Has led me down the road that’s so uncertain, And now I am left alone and I am broken, Trying to find my way, Trying to find the faith that’s gone.
This time, I know that you are holding all the answers, I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances, On roads that never seem, To be the ones that bring me home
Give me a revelation, Show me what to do, Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue. Tell me should I stay here, Or do I need to move? Give me a revelation, I’ve got nothing without You, I’ve got nothing without You.
The point is that we all need prayer to orient our lives. Part of that new orientation is allowing God to direct our paths, to show us the way to go, after all, Jeremiah tells us that, “the heart is desperately wicked, who can trust it,” so we desperately need a heart transplant. Then we begin to understand the importance of Christian community.
4. Community: we do not live out the Christian faith in a vacuum, we live in community. In this individualistic and self-centered society, we value privacy more than a sense of community. When we attempt to life a Christian life outside of the community of faith, we slowly begin to burn out, like a log removed from a bonfire.
When it comes to prayer, we may pray individually but we are a part of a larger praying church. When we pray, we build relationships not only with God but with each other. Jesus said, “where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). Just as in the early church, we gather together to pray and to worship; which affects us much more deeply than when we are just by ourselves. The fellowship of prayer helps us to grow, and it helps the church become the community that God intends.
Pray: for God’s guidance (individually and corporately) and for the community of faith.
Offering: this is not a distraction from worship, rather making our offerings to God is a part of worship. We cannot read the Bible and not see how important it was and is to bring an offering to the Lord.
5. Action: we are called to accomplish God’s work in the world. It is not praying first and then getting busy; remember that prayer is the greater work; prayer is the work of the church and therefore the work of the Christian. Prayer is not the last thing we do because we should pray without ceasing. Our minds need to be filled with the mission and purpose of God in our lives and in the world. How can we live in this world, see from God’s perspective, and not be moved toward action?
Prayer makes things happen: as we pray, it does not change God, but it changes us. Oswald Chambers also said that, “prayer does not change things; prayer changes us and we change things.” When it comes to taking action in the church, we must all seek a place to serve before we seek a place to sit.
After we pray for forgiveness, pray that God would help you see ourselves and the world from his perspective, pray about how God is going to guide you, then experience life through the community of faith, and then allow God to move you toward action.
Pray: for God to move us toward action and service.
6. Response: it is one thing to respond to God with or by our actions, but it is another to respond to God for who he is. In prayer, we all need to respond to who God is. We often believe that prayer is for the purpose of meeting our own needs. So when we pray, we worship and we give our adoration to God for who he is, not for what he has done. Our praying is a response to who God is. Listen to the psalmist as he does this (Psalm 96 on CD).
Sing: Our God
Sing: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
Sing: How Great is Our God
Oswald Chambers said of prayer: “Prayer is the evidence that I am spiritually concentrated on God.” When we don’t feel like praying, it will often be evidence that we have slipped away into our own world of selfishness. When we are concentrated on God, the natural flow from our heart is prayer.
Chambers also says: “Prayer does not equip us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayer answered; a wise man does not.” Remember that prayer changes us, and then we change things.
Prayer is the development of relationship, not a formula for personal requests. We continue to bear fruit by the means of prayer. Let today be the day that we refuse to ignore this vital part of our spiritual lives.
Benediction: as a group we will pray for the experience of today.