Thinking About Prayer
September 17, 2019
A while back I was in a conversation with someone about prayer. The conversation covered a lot of territory, and one of the topics concerned how we can know what God really wants. Whether it has to do with a job-change, finding a spouse, or making a financial decision, people often say, “Well, I prayed about it and I feel comfortable with my decision.”
When I pray about such things, I usually hear three “voices” or impressions: my own, Satan’s, and God’s. The loudest voice is usually my own. The reason is because I know what I want to happen, and many times I am trying to convince myself that this is what God wants. You know how that is, don’t you? If we feel good about it, we go ahead, and later we find that it wasn’t the best decision and are willing to consider that maybe it wasn’t God after all.
How do we know God’s heart on the matters that concern us?
Prayer is conversation with God. While Scripture is God speaking to us, prayer is us speaking to God. Prayer is to be an ongoing conversation. God invites us to talk with Him all the time about everything.
Ephesians 6:18 tells us, “Pray at all times in the Spirit.” We often hear people speak of “praying in the Spirit” as if it is something where we don’t know what we are saying. To pray "in the Spirit" means to pray as agents of God's purposes, not pushing our own preferences and desires. It means to pray in alignment with the God’s character and will. It also means that we are praying with a pre-acceptance of His response. To pray in the Spirit means we are fully surrendered and submitted to Him. If there is deliberate practicing of sin in our lives, it is dangerous to pray because we are not in a position to clearly hear from the Lord. “If I cherish sin in my life, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18). When we pray in the Spirit we are saying "not my will, Lord, but may Your will be done."
Prayer is not a tool to manipulate God to do what we want. James tells us in James 4:3, "You have not because you ask not." So we must ask, but there is more to it. Our motives matter. James goes on to say in verse 4, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." To pray in the Spirit means praying for the fulfillment of the purposes God has for your life.
To pray in the Spirit also means to pray in response to the inspired Word of God. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit lives within you (Acts 2:38). As you read and study Scripture, pray and ask the Spirit to give you understanding and insight.
To pray in the Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to help you pray. When we are deeply connected to and focused on the things of the Spirit, the attitude of our prayers and requests will be very different. Our motives are different. We want what God wants and nothing else.
So here is the question: What situations are you facing about which you need to pray in the Spirit?
How would a purposeful connection to the Holy Spirit change the way you see your situation and what you pray and ask God for? Do your prayers originate in just your own perspective, or are you in the Word and getting a Spirit-perspective? Are you asking the Lord to get you out of the situation and give you a better situation, or are you asking the Lord to give you courage to be His tool in the middle of the situation, if that is what He knows is best?
Peter says, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith (1 Peter 5:7-8).
To be sober-minded means to see and think clearly. To be watchful means to keep alert and pay attention to what is going on. It means you are discerning. Being sober-minded, alert, and discerning are affected in large degree by your mental condition. Sin and selfishness are intoxicating. If you are not sober-minded, you will be easily fooled by the Enemy, even while you think you are incredibly wise and clever.
Our Adversary is deceitful and constantly on the prowl. He is always hunting, and you are the prey he is stalking. He uses attractive lies; things that look good but aren't. He uses out-of- control passions; things that feel good but aren't good. He uses our arrogance and self-delusion; things that feel wise but aren’t.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Better advice has never been given. It’s the attitude through which we talk to God. When we trust Him and believe He knows what is best, we trust Him more than our own desires, feelings, and logic. Prayer becomes the daily conversation that guides our lives in the straight path that leads to lasting fulfillment.