Christian Prayer

Equipped to Pray

Raj Saha | Wed, 2nd Mar 2022

Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.

As one of God’s saints once said:

‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak.’

The reverse is also true. Prayerless people cut themselves off from God’s prevailing power. I have often found in my own experience, that lack of prayer often results in feelings of being overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, pushed around and even defeated. 

So prayer is an essential part of our Christian life.

So why do I find it so hard? When someone asks me about my prayer life, why does it make me feel a little uncomfortable….a little guilty maybe. 

I think the bottom line is…..I often don’t pray because, deep down, I don’t think it’s going to really ‘work’….whatever that means!

There’s a chapter in one of J John’s books called ‘How to pray when it’s the last thing you feel like doing’.

But the more I have prevailed in prayer, I have realised that Jesus knows this. That’s why Jesus is always interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25). That’s why God’s Spirit helps us in the weakness of our prayer Iives (Romans 8:26). That’s why He is our Faithful Advocate, our Great Defender (1John 2:22). 

This really came home to me when I was studying The Lord’s Prayer which, even as a non-believer throughout my life, I would find myself reciting in various life contexts such as school assemblies and weddings and various church service invitations.

When you look closely the actual prayer is in response to a question. Jesus’ disciples were asking Jesus how to pray. Now that mere fact should capture our attention!

Why? Because for a Jewish person to ask someone how to pray was quite startling. It would have probably been quite a shameful, quite an embarrassing question to ask. These guys would have been brought up on prayer. The Jewish people were a praying people. It was the very core of their spiritual lives. 

Yet they own up to Jesus just like I regularly do: 
Lord, teach us to pray. Because sometimes I just don’t know how to; sometimes I just don’t think it’s really, really, really going to work; sometimes I just want to get on with it by myself; sometimes Lord you just slow me down. 

I’m going out on a limb here. I’m always worried that maybe these experiences are mine and mine alone. But I suspect not. When it comes to prayer, we need all the help we can get and surrendering to this truth is one of the most important ways of starting, or progressing or even resetting a more fruitful exuberant prayer life with God. And Our Triune God is always willing to help!
So let’s have a think about a Prayer 101 with our L-plates securely fastened on!

In Matthew 6:9 Jesus answers His disciples’ question about prayer and I’m confident He will answer ours too. 

"This, then, is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be your name, 
your kingdom come, 
your will be done 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us today our daily bread. 
Forgive us our debts, 
as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one”

Jesus is teaching us why His prayer life was so attractive. These phrases are headings which we build on, fill out and expand ourselves, personalise in our everyday lives. It’s a pattern showing us how to enter into a deeper fruitful relationship with God. 

So what does praying like Jesus look like?

So it starts with 'Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name’

This is the bedrock of Christian prayer which is in total contrast to other faiths. Jesus teaches us to come to God as our loving father in heaven with all the emotions and feelings and goose bumps that that arouses in us. 

Richard Foster writes:

‘Abba and Imma – Daddy and mummy – are the first words Jewish children learn to speak. The word Abba, daddy, is so personal, so familiar a term that no one ever dared to use it to address to the great God of the universe – no-one until Jesus.’

But this father is unique. He’s perfect. He doesn’t lack any of the shortfalls of your own fatherly experiences. Gavin, one of our elders, due to his experience of a difficult father, found this tough when encountering the Christian God. But as soon as he let his defences down God did not disappoint. I believe it’s one of the biggest reasons he’s such a disciplined and avid pray-er!

However, Gods uniqueness isn’t just His perfect fatherly attributes, it’s His holiness. 

When we enter into his presence we’re not just coming to our dad, we are coming to our dad in heaven…..hallowed…. holy….awesome…. majestic. This is the wonder and tension of Christian prayer. If we over-egg his ‘daddiness’, we end up dragging him down to our level…..as if he’s just our mate. However, if we over-emphasise His Holiness above His ‘fatherliness’ we end up lifting Him so high that he becomes out of reach, terrifying, irrelevant. 

On one occasion Jesus prayed ‘Holy Father’ (John 17:11). In doing this he brought together beautifully the awesomeness of God and the intimacy and closeness of God. That’s the God we worship and pray too. Hallowed be your name!
       
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name
Then comes …..Your kingdom come 
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.’

In the midst of the last 2 years of pandemic life I have often been asking the question: What on earth are you doing God? Sometimes curiously, sometimes out of darnn right anger and frustration. 

However, over the last 18 months or so Ephesians 1:9-10 has been helped me reorient my life to Gods true north. 

God tells us through the Apostle Paul that:
‘he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ….to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.’

God’s ultimate plan is to deal with the whole universe, bringing all things in heaven and on the earth together under his headship, the complete total authority and rule and reign of Jesus. 

That’s what God is doing…we may not understand it all….but that is the mystery that has been revealed to us as Christians. That’s what the Kingdom of God is all about….. let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven……his will being declared on the earth. In other words, let up there look like down here more and more and more…

As we come to the end of another financial year, I want to commend you for your faithfulness in giving. This season hasn’t been easy for many of you yet, month in and month out, I have continued to praise God for your generosity. We have seen lots of people encounter God through Alpha, through the compassion of The Hope Foundation, Open Door and Foodbank, through generosity to our brothers and sisters in Ghana as they seek to advance Jesus’ kingdom through church planting and setting up a Compassion Hub this year, through partnering with our brothers and sisters in Turkey as they create openings for the gospel in some of the most dangerous and persecuted parts of the globe.

Just as in the garden of Eden where God tells Adam (meaning humanity) to have dominion over creation Jesus tells His disciples:
 ‘I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me.’ (Luke 22:29)

Bringing the Joy news of Jesus to everyone everywhere!

And this is what our prayer lives should align up to…not begrudgingly but delightfully. 

Terry Virgo writes: 

‘Jesus didn’t see God’s will as something he has to tolerate. On the contrary it was his greatest DELIGHT. He called it his ‘food’ – it really satisfied him.’

In prayer we line up with the magnificent purposes of God

Then at last we get to bit we all like…..we’re here….Give us this day our daily bread.

It’s now finally time to ask to our hearts content. Not from a greedy aimless starting point but rather out of a context of worship and relationship. 

Now Lord Give us today our daily bread.

But here once again, Jesus is teaching us something. Over the years Jesh, our 15 year old son, has asked us for loads of things. His asking was purely out of self-interest. And over those years we have always answered his requests. Sometimes ‘no’, sometimes ‘later’, sometimes yes! And what is really interesting through years of growing relationship as he’s got older, his asking has matured! He has come to a deeper understanding of our values and what we see as important. He starts seeing with our eyes if you like. What’s good for him. When are we likely to say yes or no? This is part of our developing flourishing bond together

And it the same with God.

The apostle Paul tells the Church at Philippi:
‘God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 4:19)

As we plunge ourselves into prayer, regularly, continuously, we get to know our Father much better…we mature in our understanding of what really matters….we get to know what to really ask for…what’s important and good for us.  

And You know what? He loves to give us these things. God loves to give joyfully and generously.

‘The Spirit gives life.’ (John 6:63)

As we make our heartfelt requests to God, we are saying, ‘God I need you, I can’t do it on my own.’ In prayer God asks us to test his love for him - his faithfulness. 

John Piper writes:

‘How astonishing is it that God wills to do his work through people…you and me? What is doubly astonishing is that he ordains [or decrees]to fulfil His plans by being asked to do so. God loves to bless his people. But even more God loves to do it in answer to prayer.’

Then Jesus says: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’

The biggest ask we can probably plead for is forgiveness. Sin is the main deal. It’s what separates us from our loving God; it’s what messes up our relationship with God; it’s what stops us from going deeper.

And Jesus is God’s greatest gift to us. On the cross, all of our stinking mess was swapped for his perfect purity. 

‘When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ's cross.’ (Colossians 2: 13-14)

We need to come to Jesus time and time again for forgiveness. We need to go into battle against sin with him, not without Him.  

In all of our struggles and breakthroughs as we live by the spirit and we receive his forgiveness and grace daily, God changes us. And in faith, we are to expect that.

‘And we…are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’ (2 Corinthians 3:18)

And the outworking of that is simple. It goes hand in hand. The fruit of being forgiven is that we become ourselves the best forgivers in the world. 

We rejoice - We welcome - We inspire - We go

When there’s disagreement and disunity in the church of God it breaks His heart. 

And finally in prayer we need to cry out to God every day, ‘Lord do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

This is an essential part of our prayer life. We need to always be on guard. We need to always be close to God. 

‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour….it could be you.’ (1 Peter 5:8)

Remember God promises us that he will never let us face any temptation that is too hard for us to walk away from. Don’t be deceived by the devil’s myths and whisperings. God will always give you grace to escape. Pray for God’s help. Stand firm. Together. 

We can learn a lot from our African brothers and sisters here whose prayer lives are steeped in spiritual warfare often requiring overnight vigils and days of fasting. Rooted in Pentecostalism and seeing how Jesus’ kingdom involved casting out demons, their practice of faith can seem somewhat disturbing to us who experience our Christianity in schedules, liturgy and moderation. But Jesus calls us to see the bigger picture. 

‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ (Ephesians 6:12)

In the Lord’s Prayer we have a holistic framework to help us to pray. We have a dialogue with God rooted in intimacy and awe. We have victory in our sinfulness and strength in our battles. 

So, don’t make your prayer life a set of rules and regulations that keep banging you over the head with guilt and disappointment. Enter the most holy of holies.

God delights in you. God delights to know you. God delights in accomplishing what we alone cannot pull off. He listens for our requests. And so every time I feel like a failure, I remember the Lord’s Prayer. It never ceases to flabbergast me!

So make these 4 weeks from the 15th March a real priority as we learn together how to pray, hear the stories of people praying, experience the power of God in prayer and, most importantly, let our ‘Hallowed’ weeks be a launchpad for greater intimacy and dependence on the Lord Most High over all the earth…exalted far above all other gods!

More from this series:

Elders Letters
Stand
The armour of God
15th Jun 2022
Raj Saha
Elders Letters
Ha Ha Hallelujah
Lessons about joy and faith from little ones
5th May 2022

Watching my children sing and dance along to their favourite worship song taught me a couple of lessons about joy and faith. Jesus also had a lot of say about having childlike fath when teaching his disciples in Luke 18. 

Gavin Rodgers
Elders Letters
Easter Changes Everything
Joy-News
13th Apr 2022

This will be the first Easter in three years that we’re able in Jubilee to gather together to celebrate, and the Easter message is still as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago!

Simon Rogalski
Elders Letters
Christian Prayer
Equipped to Pray
2nd Mar 2022

Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.

Raj Saha