Sunday, February 3, 2013

Communicating With God

To communicate with God is simply to pray to Him. To pray to God simply means to TALK to Him. It isn't some mysterious practice reserved only for the clergymen or the devout. Prayer is talking to God then listening to Him as He answers back in that still small voice. And this wonderful relationship begins to unfold.....and strengthen.

The first mention of praying is found in Genesis 4:26, "And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD." If you notice, the men began to "call upon the name of the Lord." It wasn't wordy. It wasn't fancy. It wasn't an impressive "speech."  In Matthew 6:7 we are told, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words." God was making it clear that He didn't want any repetitious prayers or many words because it wouldn't be coming from the heart or the Holy Spirit, but rather, man. God knows our hearts and all He wants from us is to talk to Him, to communicate our love and desire for a relationship with Him, and to put our trust and faith in Him and His promises to us. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, "Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few." 

Prayers develop our relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, allowing us to grow closer and more intimate with Him. Think about ANY relationship you have in your life right now. If you NEVER spoke to them, never interacted with them or never listened to them and what they have to say, those relationships would quickly deteriorate. Well, the same goes for talking to and listening to God. Zechariah 13:9 tells us, "I will bring the one–third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” And in John 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." A wonderful promise to us for praying, communicating and listening to our Creator God! The Lord instructed us to pray as well. One of the simplest reasons to spend time in prayer is because the Lord instructed us to pray. Obedience is a natural by-product of discipleship. Simply put in Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It's in His strength and might that we will be able to fight off our temptations and in order to obtain that strength and might, we first must communicate with God and build our relationships with Him!

Are there any requirements for successful prayer? Yes.
1) A humble heart - 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if My people who are called by My name will 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) Wholeheartedness - Jeremiah 29:13, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
3) Faith - Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."
4) Righteousness - James 5:16, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
5)  Obedience - 1 John 3:22, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight."

Prayer is both the most exhilarating and the most frustrating experience in our walk with the Lord. When God answers our prayers, it's a feeling like no other! A feeling one can't describe because there are no words to properly describe such a moment! The Creator of the Universe just reached down and worked in your life. You know a miracle just happened, whether it be big or small, and that God did it for just one reason: because He loves you. You want that experience over and over. You want to know He is always there answering your prayers whenever you send them up to Him. God wants to be in relationship with us. And He knows we need what He can give. Through prayer, we experience life-transforming, life-renewing intimacy with the Creator of the universe.

But what happens when our prayers DON'T get answered the WAY WE want them to? It can be so disappointing that it drives you to tears. It's especially hard when you asked God for something undeniably good like someones healing, a job, financial freedom or mending a relationship. You assume those are genuine requests and prayers that your Father loves to hear. You can't understand why God didn't answer the way you wanted. You then suddenly start seeing how God seems to be answering everyone else's prayers around you. You become extremely sensitive to those miracles happening all around you to others, but not to yourself. So then you begin to ask the proverbial question of the universe, "Why not me?" Isn't that doubt creeping in? Yes, it is. You start second-guessing yourself, thinking maybe there might be some hidden sin in your life that's keeping God from intervening and all you have to do is think of it, confess it and repent of it, all will be good and the breakthrough will happen. But the truth is, we are all sinners and can't ever come before God totally free of sin. We are sinners in need of a Savior. Fortunately for us, our great Savior is Jesus Christ, the spotless sacrifice who can bring our requests before his Father knowing God will deny his Son nothing.

Pray Always!
How can we avoid all the frustration that commonly accompanies our prayers? I believe the answer lies in studying the way Jesus prayed. Jesus knew how to pray because He knew how God thinks because He IS God. John 10:30, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Jesus demonstrated a pattern throughout his prayer life all of us can copy. He brought His desires in line with His Father's through obedience. When we reach the place where we are willing to do or accept God's will instead of our own, we have reached the turning point in prayer. We must pray for His will to be done in our lives, not our own. Our will is not a certainty. It's shaky at best. God's will is a much better way for us because He has a plan for us. In order for us to fulfill His ultimate plan, we have to surrender to His will and accept that His ways are much better than our ways. Once we surrender to His will, then our doubts and questions begin to wane. They won't matter any longer because it's not of our flesh that we will be asking of Him, it will be from the Spirit, a much deeper, personal place! In John 6:38, Jesus lived this out, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." What an example Jesus is to all of us!

Choosing God's will over our own can be so hard when we passionately want something in our flesh. It's torture sometimes to act as though it doesn't matter to us when it really does matter. Our emotions start to play with us and try to convince us that we don't have the ability to give in. But we CAN submit to God's will instead of our own. Why? Because God is absolutely trustworthy and faithful to who He is, what He promises and how He loves us! His love for us is pure and God has our best interest at heart, and He will ALWAYS do what is best for us, no matter how it appears at the time. Things aren't always what they appear to be anyway! Sometimes, though, in order to surrender to God's will, we have to cry out to Him as the father of the sick child did to Jesus in Mark 9:24, "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” We all have trouble surrendering to the will of God and to cry out, from the deepest parts of our hearts and with the angst of sorrow, is to humble ourselves before our Lord. Let's not surrender our will only when we hit rock bottom though as many do, and as that father did in Mark.

Jesus in Prayer
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus said to his Father, "…your will be done." (Matthew 6:10). When we can say that with sincerity and complete trust, then we've reached the turning point in our prayer lives. God never abandons those who trust Him. It isn't about me. It isn't about you. It's about God and His will. God reveals Himself to us through prayer. In Psalm 143:10 it is said so beautifully, "Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness." If we don't know His will for us, all we have to do is ASK Him to teach us to do His will and it will be done! Part of the communication with Him. We learn more and more about His character and how His perfect will is working itself out in our own life. Deepening our understanding of God also deepens our faith and desire to worship. And through prayer, God imparts wisdom and understanding as stated in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." As we become increasingly aware of our limitations, we can rest in the knowledge that our God is omniscient. Availing ourselves of God’s counsel is a blessing of prayer.

Because of God's omnipresence we are assured that no matter where we are on this grand earth, God will hear our prayers! Even from the belly of a fish as was the case with Jonah! "Prayer is an open door which none can shut," wrote Charles Spurgeon in "Morning and Evening." "Devils may surround you on all sides," he continued, "but the way upward is always open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy's hand." There isn't anywhere we go that God isn't present. How comforting to know that even in our darkest hours, when we are afraid and alone, God is right there with us, often times, holding our hands and wrapping His arms around us! How could we NOT want to talk to God, listen to Him and have a relationship with Him? Psalm 139:7 asks, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" Nowhere.

The Lord's Prayer
Prayer has no barriers. Governments can't stop it, our location can't stop it and enemies in the spiritual realm can't stop it. As it was noted earlier by Charles Spurgeon, "Prayer is an open door which none can shut." But there is one way to shut it and that's when we choose disbelief over belief. That's a dangerous choice though and many have chosen to disbelieve. Our own doubts and anxieties can stop the power of prayer, IF we allow them to stifle the real truth that prayer is always available to us. Prayer is always available to us because God is ALWAYS available to us. God is always ready to listen, no matter what our circumstances are, but we have to talk to Him through prayer. We need to turn to Him as a first response NOT a last resort. An important step in receiving the blessings of prayer is to humbly and sincerely offer our prayers to God. We can do this anywhere and anytime, because prayer is always available to us. However, we must take the initiative. If we do, God is eager to hear us, comfort us, strengthen us, help us, and uphold us with His "righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).

In closing, and I could go on for pages about prayers and communicating with God, prayer allows us to worship and praise the Lord. It allows us to confess our sins, which should lead to our genuine repentance. But moreover, prayer gives us the opportunity to present our requests to God. Every aspect of prayer involves communication with our Creator God. He is personal, He cares for us, and He wants to commune with us through prayer! Prayer is not just about asking for His blessings, although we are welcome to do so, but it's about communication with the living, loving God. Without communication, relationships fall apart as we are witness to on a daily basis. Our relationship with God suffers too when we don't communicate with Him. Jesus believed and acted on the confidence that God answered his prayers. We, too, can have that same confidence once we understand the mind and heart of Jesus and pray accordingly. Then when our prayers are being answered it will only give us more confidence and boldness to pray for even greater things.
The first step to praying like Jesus is to believe in the incredible power of prayer!

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