Reasons To Pray

While preparing for our first Passover dinner, I was reading up on all the traditions of the meal, including the Birkat Hamazon (the “Blessing on Nourishment” or Grace After Meals) is recited. I came across a document with all of the backgrounds on this, but it had this list of reasons to pray according to Jewish traditions, which I thought would be nice to post here:

Jewish tradition offers many reasons different individuals may choose to pray at different times:

  • Prayer can be an opportunity to talk to God;
  • Prayer can be an expression for self-reflection;
  • Prayer can be the expression of hopes, desires, and visions, both communal and individual;
  • Prayer can be a vehicle for awareness or mindfulness of individual moments, which may lead to an appreciation of their uniqueness;
  • Prayer can be an opportunity for participation in a community;
  • Prayer can be a link to tradition and to one’s heritage or background;
  • Prayer, if performed regularly, can be an opportunity to develop self-discipline;
  • Prayer can be seen as […] something we do because God commands it;
  • Prayer can be an occasion for textual study, which may lead to intellectual growth or aesthetic appreciation of meaningful poetry;

The Prayers of Paul #3 – To the Corinthians

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way – with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come – even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. 8 For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.” (2 Corinthians 13:7-9)

The Challenge of 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

There are some prerequisites here:

  • We need to be a people who are called by His name
  • We need to humble ourselves
  • We need to pray
  • We need to seek His face
  • We need to turn from our wicked ways

All these steps are necessary, and can only happen in this order. It is so easy to think that we are called by His name. I mean, how many people are out there calling themselves Christians (to whatever extent), saying they believe in God. But it is God “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

Yet even when we are sure of our calling, we need to humble ourselves. Being humble provides us with a set of character traits or attributes which will put us in a position in the world in which we can show the love of God through our good works and sincerity of heart. Secondly, being humble is not an end goal to be achieved, but a starting point to obtain from which all our transformation into Christ-likeness happens. Strangely enough a great book to study humility is James. I did this once, and it was really amazing.

When studying the book of James on the theme of humility my aim was to go through each verse and see if the character of humility was to be found in there. The main two distinctions is what character humility will produce, and what humility will give us. Humility is being patient (James 1:4, James 5:7-8, James 5:11), being self-controlled (James 1:19-20; 3:2), being content (James 4:1-3), being receptive to the Word (James 1:21), being repentant (James 4:8-9), being submissive (James 4:15), and being self-sacrificial (James 5:4-5). Humility will give us glory (James 1:9-10; 4:10), will give us grace (James 4:6), will give us rewards for work (James 1:25), and will give us spiritual healing (James 5:16). For each of the above, we at least need to find the humility to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5; 3:13).

Our humility should (and maybe can only) drive us to our knees, to pray. The reason prayer has such great potential for changing things is God. And the reason prayer is surrounded by such difficult problems is God. If it weren’t for the power of God over natural process and over the human will, there would be no hope in praying for change in the world or in people. And it is that very same power and prerogative of God that creates the problems we stumble over in prayer. This is what Spurgeon said:

“It is our full belief that God has foreknown and predestinated everything that happeneth in heaven above or in the earth beneath, and that the foreknown station of a reed by the river is as fixed as the station of a king, and “the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.” Predestination embraceth the great and the little, and reacheth unto all things; the question is, wherefore pray? Might it not as logically be asked wherefore breathe, eat, move, or do anything? We have an answer which satisfies us, namely, that our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has as much ordained His people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny decrees that I should pray — I pray; destiny decrees that I shall be answered, and the answer comes to me.”

And prayer is hard work! “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). The Greek word used here for “devote yourselves” is “proskartereō” and means to “to be devoted, steadfastly attentive, persevere, constant readiness, be strong”. Wow, to be devoted to prayer means to be constant ready, to be steadfastly attentive. Prayer is hard work. I never considered prayer to be hard work. I mean, do you ever need to take a shower after you’re done praying because you sweat so much of the hard work? I don’t! The other verse is “Epaphras… always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). The Greek word for “laboring earnestly” is “agonizomai” meaning “to contend with adversaries, fight, to endeavour with strenuous zeal”. So it’s not only hard work, it’s a fight.

But not only pray, but also seek His face. The Bible talks about this in a number of verses:

  • Jehoshaphat sought God’s face on the eve of a great battle (2 Chronicles 20:2-4);
  • We are commanded to seek His face (Psalm 24:5-6; 27:7-9; 105:4; Hosea 5:15)
  • We receive justice through it (Proverbs 29:26)
  • Daniel sought His face in his prayer about the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:3)

Turning towards God, seeking His face, means being confronted with His glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ. When we behold the glory of God we see the face of Jesus Christ, and it transforms! God’s life in us is started or brought into existence and our human heart life, love, thoughts and power is replaced by God’s supernatural life, love, thoughts and power. It cannot be that we are beholding the glory of God and are not being transformed. Yes, we have our own willpower, but “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) must have as a result that we turn from our wicked ways…

And the result? God will listen, and respond. Isn’t that amazing!

The Prayers of Paul #2 – To the Romans

Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.” (Romans 10:1-4)

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27)

The Prayers of Paul #1 – Paul’s Heart for Prayer

Yesterday I was reading through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and I noticed how often he prayed and how beautiful his prayers are. So, I though I would do a small series on that with the hope to bring out the beauty of the prayers, the importance and urgency of prayer, and the amazing example that Paul set for us. As an introduction I just wanted to highlight some verses across his letters with the aim to expose Paul’s heart of prayer.

Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25)

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.” (Acts 28:7-9)

God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son. One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you.” (Romans 1:9-10)

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (Romans 12:12)

For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly” (Ephesians 1:16)

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6)

We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 1:3)

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you.” (Colossians 1:9a)

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2)

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2)

Night and day we pray earnestly for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:10a)

Never stop praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

So we keep on praying for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:11a)

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” (1 Timothy 2:8)

Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Timothy 1:3b)

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon” (Philemon 1:4)