People who slow down enough to pray are healthier people. Don’t believe me, then would you believe Dr. Harold Koenig, a family physician now at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina? For years he wondered about the role of prayer in the lives of his patients. As he made his daily rounds, he noticed many patients were praying or reading Scriptures.
His observations led him to study the impact of religion on health. His current findings revealed among other things that “healthy senior citizens who said they rarely or never prayed ran about a 50% greater risk of dying during the study than seniors who prayed or meditated more than once a month.”
What is prayer? Prayer in is simplest form is talking to God. What did Jesus say about talking to God? Let’s look at Matthew 6 for some answers.
Activate Your Prayer Life
Jesus’ assumption is that his followers WILL pray. Look at verse 7 And when you pray…He didn’t say “and if you pray.”
When do most of us pray? If we are honest we’d admit that our praying is most fervent when we are feeling jammed, crammed and slammed by life. And when we’re feeling the effects of busy, difficult and overwhelming life we pray like crazy – when we wake up, when we go to bed, when we’re in our car, when we’re taking a walk and every other waking moment. I sometimes wonder what that does to the heart of God. It is like we’re children who only talk to their parents when they want something. I bet he feels used.
When it was evident that the ship would not survive this storm, the captain called out to his crew, "Does anyone here know how to pray?" One man volunteered with, "Yes, sir, I know how to pray." "Good," the captain replied. "You pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets. We're one short."[Reader's Digest, July 1992, p. 62 ]
Most Christ followers I know have faced “prayer fade.” Prayer fade is when praying becomes unimportant to us. And this typically happens when the winds of life are calm and the weather of life is good.
An active prayer life is one where God is talked with regularly, regardless of the circumstances of life. It involves having a time and place. Jesus said in verse 8 When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen.
I know one man in our church who works about 30 minutes from his home. He prays five days a week from the time he leaves until the time he arrives at his workplace. His car is like a holy place for him.
If we wait until we have time to pray we’ll never pray. We must make time to pray.
Avoid Ineffective Praying
Mt. 6:7-8 "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Ineffective praying begins with the notion that God only hears long prayers.
I used to believe that God was impressed with how long I prayed, with how much scripture I quoted, with the words I chose. As a “preacher boy” in college (that’s what they called students going into vocational ministry) there seemed to be an underlying competition about who could pray the longest.
I’ve come to believe that sometimes all God wants to hear is “help” or “thank you” or “just do it Lord.”
Ineffective praying believes that God only answers certain prayer formulas.
Some people have taken this example of “how” to pray and turned into a prayer that they pray. When I playing high school football, for some reason, we would bow before the game and quickly recite this prayer and then the coach would say “Now get out there and kill that other team!” Now there is nothing wrong with praying this prayer if it is done intentionally and meditatively.
Some of us have become pretty mechanical in our conversation with God, especially when we pray out loud. For instance how many of us have phrases that always seem to pop up when we pray, phrases that we heard someone else use, phrases that at one time meant something but now they are like CB radio language, “breaker, breaker” “that’s a big 10-4 good buddy.”
Approach God as Father
"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your
This was a revolutionary and radical concept. The religious leaders had so sterilized the image of God that he was viewed as anything but Father. And as far as we know not even the great leaders of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Daniel – never addresses God as Father.
To call God “Father “ is a term of approachable intimacy. For instance I often call Karen “Sugar,” and Nathan, “Nasan” and Paul “Brother Paul.” These are terms of affection and intimacy; they indicate that we are on more than a formal level with each other.
I believe God is pleased when we address him as “Father.” To call him “Father” means we understand his love for us and his commitment to care for and correct us.
Gerald Mann says is well, “Praying is not an alarm clock whose purpose is to awaken God! It is an intimate visit with our loving Father – a secluded conversation with a happy parent.”
Acknowledge God’s Authority
When we talk with God we not only relate to him as our Father but we also acknowledge that he is God and we are not. Because he is God he has the right to lead and direct our lives. That’s the point Jesus is making in verse 10 when he says, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
The kingdom of God is another way of saying the authority of God. So Jesus says that the authority that God has in heaven we are to acknowledge in our lives on earth.
Acknowledging God’s authority to set my agenda is not easy because I want to run my life on my own terms in my own time and for my own benefit. But in the end a life run by me will run out of ideas, wisdom and strength.
To acknowledge God’s
means we have no conflicting loyalties:
it means that God takes precedence over everything;
it means that God’s presence is acknowledged everywhere I go and in everything I do;
it means that my attitude to God is “YES.”
Admit Your Dependence On God
This is difficult for many of us because we were raised to be proud, to admit no weaknesses and to ask for no handouts. But Jesus insists that when we talk with God it is appropriate to admit our dependence and ask for assistance. For what?
What food is to the body, forgiveness is to the soul. The verse is not saying that if
we forgive others we have the right to be forgiven by God. Instead the idea is that God forgives the brokenhearted, and one of the signs of broken-heartedness is a forgiving spirit.
Prayer is powerful, not because of the one who is praying, but because of the One to whom prayer is directed. If you want more power in your life then talk to the Source.
The late Sam Shoemaker was an Episcopal minister in New York City during the first half of this century. When he encountered someone who did not believe in God he would suggest they enter a Thirty-Day Prayer Experiment. He would instruct them, "Don't pay any attention to whether you believe or not. Just pray every day for thirty days that God will meet you at the point of your greatest need, and see what happens to you." From Reverend Shoemaker's little experiment, literally hundreds of people were transformed from staunch skeptics to committed Christians. Give God a chance, and he will turn a sinner in to a saint![ Hunger for Healing, J. Keith Miller, 1991, p. 36]
How many of us would be willing to try a prayer experiment?
like to ask for anyone who is willing to pray everyday for 30 days and
then share what God has done to come forward.
In the July 18, 2000 edition of USA Today “The power of prayer: six year study suggests people can be blessed with longer lives.”
Merle Mees, August 6,2000