To pray and not be prayerless

To pray and not be prayerless gallery05-379x269

I love having conversations about Sabbath. It all started with an Old Testament course in university and reading some material from a Jewish Rabbi that put it all together and it made sense. Sabbath is about rest but it really is also about trusting in God’s provisions for each day, for today. It is the heeding of God’s commandment of being observant about God’s own cycle of work and rest that makes this relevant even in our modern economy.

You have six days in which to do your work. Deuteronomy 5:13 GNT

How will God supply when I need to hold a job that needs me seven days a week (or two or three jobs), clean the house/yard, grocery shopping/prepare meals, school work and paying bills? Can I trust God to provide even when I take a day off? Can I take time to worship God, to pray and to gather with others for study and encouragement? I love this commandment because it does not explain how God will make it all work out, it simply tells me to rest one day every seven.

Prayer begins this conversation, as it did in most of our Psalms.

Lord God, my savior, I cry out all day,
    and at night I come before you. – Psalm 88:1 GNT

When life gets messy it never gets messy enough that the sparks of prayer are blown out. They become prayers that I cry out, they are very personal. Sickness will not let me rest unless I spend my restlessness in prayer. It becomes something I do all day. It is where evil is transformed to good. I need to bring them to the Father – my cry is meant for the heart of God.

Hear my prayer;
    listen to my cry for help! – Psalm 88:2 GNT

Though it may be imperfect – hear it – it is my prayer. I understand that there may be obstacles in the way that may impede my prayer – Lord remove them – I need your favour. When I pray day and night, I am in a place where I cannot lose. Only if I were indifferent in my prayer would I be indifferent about it’s outcome.

So many troubles have fallen on me
    that I am close to death. – Psalm 88:3 GNT

How bad are things, how far have I fallen into despair, how full is my heart? There is no room left to have my prayers return empty when my soul is so full of grief. And so I pray believing…

Lord, have mercy on us. We have put our hope in you. Protect us day by day and save us in times of trouble. – Isaiah 33:2 GNT

I have the opportunity of waking up every morning to approach the God of the universe and pray for mercy and to put my hope in Him to protect and to save me. God hears that prayer. He will help me in every way I need help. I cannot think of what it would be like if I ever felt like I did not need to pray like those in the church of Laodicea.

You say, ‘I am rich and well off; I have all I need.’ But you do not know how miserable and pitiful you are! You are poor, naked, and blind. – Revelation 3:17 GNT

It would seem that they thought they could do it on their own, they had everything they needed and may very well have come to a place where prayer did not happen because they were not pursuing God. When I do not pray, I am showing that I believe I am self-sufficient. Is prayerlessness not an indicator of pride? If I am in a place where I can do things on my own, why would I pray? Praying people need God’s help, need Him to provide, not only for me but for others too.

When, after this preparation, you find yourselves yet perplexed and entangled, not able comfortably to persist in spiritual thoughts unto your refreshment, take these two directions for your relief:

1. Cry and sigh to God for help and relief. Bewail the darkness, weakness, and instability of your minds, so as to groan within yourselves for deliverance. And if your designed meditations do issue only in a renewed gracious sense of your own weakness and insufficiency, with application unto God for supplies of strength, they are by no means lost as unto a spiritual account. 

2. Supply the brokenness of your thoughts with ejaculatory prayers, according as either the matter of them or your defect in the management of them doth require. – Owen

Prayer for spiritual needs are answered

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Another great Psalm that leads us to prayer is Psalm 79. It starts with lament, moves into supplication and then there is prayer for vindication, forgiveness and reprisal and finally ending in praise for God responding.

Lord, will you be angry with us forever?
    Will your anger continue to burn like fire? – Psalm 79:5 GNT

I love that the writer did not ask why there was trouble but rather the question of how long must they suffer. It is the question that moved them from lament to prayer.

Turn your anger on the nations that do not worship you,
    on the people who do not pray to you. – Psalm 79:6 GNT

Doesn’t this make sense – why pick on me? Why not the ones who are really out of line? Hear us the prayerful, and mess around with the prayerless.

Do not punish us for the sins of our ancestors.
    Have mercy on us now;
    we have lost all hope. – Psalm 79:8 GNT

The urgency of the prayer was the acknowledgment that there were generational sins involved. I need to make this my prayer and make it a continual prayer. 

The concept of former iniquities suggests a principle. “Sins accumulate against nations. Generations lay up stores of transgressions to be visited upon their successors; hence this urgent prayer.” – Spurgeon

The Book of Common Prayer has this verse sounding like this –

O remember not our old sins, but have mercy upon us, and that soon; for we are come to great misery.”

I have never called on God in regards to His honour, but I like it when I read this prayer here. One day I might have too.

Help us, O God, and save us;
    rescue us and forgive our sins
    for the sake of your own honor. – Psalm 79:9 GNT

I will try to wisely use it understanding it will be my greatest weapon when I am in battle with the evil one. In fact, is not the name and honour of God the mightiest weapon I have when it comes to prayer?

“Prayer is therefore here made by the faithful, that God, not to gratify any vindictive spirit of theirs, but to vindicate his own attributes, would break the teeth of the oppressor, and work a public and glorious salvation for his chosen.” – Horne

There is something about God watching over me that gives me joy in the midst of my troubles.

I watch over it and water it continually. I guard it night and day so that no one will harm it. – Isaiah 27:3 GNT

In fact this idea comes from Jesus teaching on delivering me from evil and I know He hears for His is the power. For this reason I have courage when I pray today.

We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will. He hears us whenever we ask him; and since we know this is true, we know also that he gives us what we ask from him. – 1 John 5:14-15 GNT

My courage comes from the assurance of eternal life. I am not sure that one could pray according to the will of God except that they would be in a place where they have already prayed asking God to save them from their sins.

THE PROMISE: WHEN WE PRAY, GOD HEARS US AND WE HAVE THE REQUESTS THAT WE ASK OF HIM

Isn’t this why prayer is not optional – it is absolutely essential for if I do not pray then I am not living by faith in God. And if I do not pray, I am trusting in myself, which is no difference to what the world is doing.

  • This promise means I can have courage when I approach God in prayer
  • This promise means I come into His presence when I pray
  • This promise means I can ask anything according to His will and He will hear me
  • This promise means that I know He hears me and I will receive from Him the requests that I have asked from Him

Here is a truth I know to be real – I must ask according to God’s will. Only when I do not know God am I not seeking God’s will in prayer. Prayer is not talking God into giving me what I want, it is rather me submitting my will to His.

Maybe the big question is, how do I determine what God’s will is? And the next difficulty to overcome is how can I pray according to God’s will when His ways are not even my ways – I am thinking in ways that make sense to me. Ask John when it came to the death of his brother James. James died, yet Peter was rescued from the same fate. Notice Jesus did not pray that Peter would be able to resist the evil one’s attack, as I would have, He prayed rather that Peter’s faith would not fail and that he would be restored.

Prayer is what I do even when I do not understand God’s will or ways. I should be praying for God to give life to whose who are separated from Him.

If you see a believer commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray to God, who will give that person life. This applies to those whose sins do not lead to death. But there is sin which leads to death, and I do not say that you should pray to God about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which does not lead to death. – 1 John 5:16-17 GNT

Prayer is essential in the restoration process.

…thou must in thy meditation quicken thy own heart. Enter into a serious debate with it. Plead with it in the most moving and affecting language, and urge it with the most powerful and weighty arguments. It is what holy men of God have practiced in all ages. Thus David: ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.’ And again; ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul! and forget not all his benefits!’ This soliloquy is to be made use of according to the several affections of the soul, and according to its several necessities. It is a preaching to one’s self; for as every good master or father of a family is a good preacher to his own family, so every good Christian is a good preacher to his own soul. – Richard Baxter