Prayer shaped by God’s Word

FRIDAY FRIENDS – a guest post by Tom Malinowski*

Jesus commands us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We cannot fulfill this greatest of commandments without developing and nurturing a relationship with God — which can only occur through a rich and powerful prayer life. This desirable prayer life must, however, begin with God’s Word.1103660_hands_up

Martin Luther was adamant that we cannot “know” who we are communicating with if we go “beyond God’s Word.” In other words, we cannot be assured we are communicating with the one true god unless we begin with Scripture. He writes: “We must first hear the Word, and then afterwards the Holy Ghost works in our hearts; he works in the hearts of whom he will, and how he will, but never without the Word.”

Timothy Keller, in his book, Prayer, asserts that our starting point for prayer must be immersion in God’s Word. We cannot grow in our relationship with God unless we learn who He is. The more we know who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly. Consequently, if our prayers are not a response to God’s Word, our prayers may be addressing a god that we wish for rather than the real God. In his book, Answering God, Eugene H. Peterson writes, “What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God.”

Many of us lack communication skills in that we tend to speak without listening. Let that not be the case as we communicate and build our relationship with the Lord.

 

*My friend, Tom, is a financial consultant and father of five residing in Charlton, NY, with his wife, Lisa. Tom is also a facilitator in the Schenectady City Mission’s Bridges to Freedom Program, a recovery and discipleship program.

 

The Lesson of Jonah’s Prayer

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly… JONAH 2:1

The comments of Hugh Martin (1822-1886), one of my favorite writers, are always profitable to read. In this case we learn something astute on prayer —

The prayer of Jonah is an illustrious instance of the conflict between sense and faith. And it will give unity to our meditations on it, if we keep this in view, and use this as the key to its interpretation; namely, that it discloses the action and reaction in the prophet’s soul, of sense and faith; sense prompting to despair; faith pleading for hope, and procuring victory . . .

The essential feature of the prayer — as a prayer of faith in circumstances that, save for faith, were altogether desperate — will commend it to every exercised believer, as a prayer to the proper understanding of which he will derive some light from his own experience, and which, when properly understood, will in its turn reflect light on his own experience back again, and tend to purify and strengthen that experience too.

For this prayer of faith, though in unparalleled circumstances, and spiritually noble in a marvellous degree, contains in it nothing but the ordinary principles of all believing prayer; and though we may not equal it in degree, if our prayers are not the same in kind, they are false.

Is not this the very trial of faith; namely, to have circumstances to contend with which appear to extinguish hope, yea, which viewed in themselves, not only appear to, but actually do shut out all hope whatever? Take the case of Abraham, and the character and commendation of his faith . . . ‘Against hope he believed in hope’ (Rom. 4:18) . . .

This is the victory which faith has to achieve.

from his Commentary on Jonah, Banner of Truth Trust, 1958

Saturday’s Prayer & Praise Breakfast

Saturday is our 15th annual Prayer & Praise Breakfast at church — an important conclusion to our Week of Prayer (with daily prayer meetings in homes). After we eat, we sing, I open the Word of God, then all share testimonies from the week before we spend one more session together in prayer.

The testimonies are not all “answers to prayers” but often are about how the week challenged (or changed) the person, and how thankful they are. And this is good! Our aim on Saturday morning is to raise praises and give thanks to the Lord!

In my sharing (on Romans 15:13), I plan to warn against cynicism and how it can undermine prayer. One of the key weapons against cynicism is thankfulness:

“Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness. You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift. Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. That would be returning to näive optimism. Thanking God restores the natural order of our dependence upon God. It enables us to see life as it really is.”

— Paul Miller in his book, A PRAYING LIFE, page 89

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Prayers & tears

Pastor Alistair Begg has sent out a wonderful devotional thought on this verse in his “Truth For Life” email. I think he writes with the same passion and illustration of Charles Spurgeon….

Behold, he is praying — Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray, the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. When our hearts are broken and we bow in prayer, we are often only able to employ the language of sighs and tears; still our groaning has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music.

That tear has been caught by God and treasured in the receptacle of heaven. “Put my tears in your bottle” (Psalm 56:8), implies that they are caught as they flow. The petitioner, whose fears prevent his words, will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye; but “prayer is the falling of a tear.”
. . . . .
Read the rest HERE….

I would encourage you to subscribe too…
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Nine ways to pray for your soul

Earlier this year, John Piper posted this brief list of nine biblical ways to “pray for yourself so that you’re praying in sync with the way God works.” Note the Scripture attached to each item. Don’t just read the list — pray it!

1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)

2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

chp_shadow3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”
[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.
[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.
[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

8. For God to be glorified.
Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)

AMEN!
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Week of Prayer 2009 begins

rembrandt_stjerome_prayer454x650With each new year comes a need for our annual Week of Prayer at CPCC! Each Prayer Week begins with a fresh sermon on prayer from God’s Word. This year our guest preacher is Rev. Jim Hale of Saratoga Chapel in Ballston Lake, NY.
Pastor Hale preached yesterday in our morning service from Acts 4 on The Beauty, Delight & Power 
of Corporate Prayer [watch for link to online sermon]. He then also taught the Adult Sunday School Class on perseverance in prayer, from The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18).

Last night, we had a good turnout for our annual “CONCERT OF PRAYER.” This hour uses several 6-8 minute segments of praying, each “orchestrated” around a set theme. It is a powerful way to begin praying together.

Monday through Friday, from 7-8:15 PM, a nightly prayer meeting is led by an Elder in someone’s home. These begin with a brief devotional thought then requests are shared and conversational praying begins. Many folks attempt to attend all five weeknight meetings to watch how the Holy Spirit is working among us during the week.

On Saturday, at 9 AM, we gather in the Fireside Room for our annual Prayer & Praise Breakfast, where answers to prayer & testimonies are shared, and one final round of prayer takes place.

Our theme verse is from James 1:17a as we look in prayer to God, our heavenly Father….

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

May the Lord again open our eyes to the power, privilege and potential of prayer among us during “Prayer Week 2009.”

Yours by divine mercy,
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PS — tonight’s meeting is at my house…

Praying for a Pastor

An older, wiser brother in the Lord, Pastor Ligon Duncan, (one of the T4G founders) put these thoughts together on how one might pray for their pastor….

63688537-1rsztfoloPray

1. That [your pastor] would know and love the living God, would have a saving interest in Christ, being purchased by His blood, and thus would be bound to the Lord by the indissoluble bond of the Holy Spirit.

2. That [your pastor] would know, embrace and ever more deeply understand the Gospel and be shaped by it in life and ministry.

3. That [your pastor] would be useful servant of the Lord, that he would know and love God’s word, God’s people, and God’s kingdom; that he would be used to build it up and so that it prevails even against Hell’s gates.

4. That [your pastor] would study, practice and teach the Word of the Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

5. That [your pastor] would love to pray, because he loves to commune with his God, and that he would be a man of prayer, characteristically.

6. That [your pastor] would be ever dependent upon and filled with the Spirit; and that he would possess true Spiritual wisdom.

7. That [your pastor] would be holy unto the Lord. That his tongue and heart would be wholly God’s.

8. That [your pastor] would be kept from pride, and especially spiritual pride. That the Lord himself would be gracious to slay pride in him, and that your pastor would endeavor to always be putting pride to death, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

9. That God would give [your pastor] guidance as to where to focus his efforts in ministry.

10. That He would protect [your pastor] from himself, from the enemy of his soul, and from all earthly enemies.

11. That no decision which [your pastor] ever makes or desire that [your pastor] ever pursues would restrict his ability to pour his whole soul into the Gospel ministry.

12.That many would be converted and many built up under [your pastor]’s ministry, to God’s glory alone.

13. That the Lord would bless [your pastor]’s wife, [. . . ], with holiness and happiness, Gospel assurance and Gospel rest.

14. That God would make [your pastor] a decent husband and father.

15. That [your pastor] would be a good friend to his wife, and love her self-sacrificially,

16. That [your pastor] would be a good daddy to his children. That they would love God, their parents and the church.

17. That [your pastor] would be a testimony in the home so that his wife might be able to respect him when he is in the pulpit, and so that [your pastor] will be able to feed her soul, along with the rest of the congregation.

I covet your prayers more than I can say,
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Ask God daily, or dally with idolatry

Puritan Thomas Manton points out the idolatry of not asking God for our daily bread, even when it is already close at hand…hands

We are taught every day to ask our daily bread, though we have it by us, that we may not, like thieves and robbers, use God’s goods without his leave. …It is a high piece of spiritual idolatry, to lean upon our own understanding, and think to carry even the ordinary affairs of any day without asking counsel from God, and then his blessing. God is not an idle spectator…

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Prayin’ for President-elect Obama? We must…

I’ve been not feeling well today, but that always makes me more prayerful (part of God’s plan I suspect). Pastor Ligon Duncan has written some good words on a crucial topic for all believers this week: Praying for President-elect Obama. It’s really straight-forward and helpful. Read it, then spend a few minutes in prayer. I pray you do
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ligonWell, my country and much of the rest of the world are electric with the election of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States of America. To say that it is historic, is a gross understatement.

Justin Taylor and Al Mohler, have both inspired some reflection on the question of how we as Christians –Bible-believing, Reformed, Christians– ought to pray for him, and I have freely borrowed many of their words and thoughts on this. But here are some ideas for leading our people to pray for our President-Elect. Barack Obama.

We ought to commit ourselves to pray for our new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We will do this, not only because of the biblical command to pray for our rulers, but because of the Continue reading

Dr Al Mohler reminds us how we should pray…

Al Mohler on his blog spoke yesterday of how we should pray for this election. His points on election results and the future (#8, #9 & #10) are worth reviewing:

1. We should pray that God will bless America with leaders better than we deserve. Continue reading