Have you experienced the power of one prayer, which has the ability to transform your life?
That was the question that I posed to everyone at Illumination Church this past weekend, and for many reasons.
Unfortunately and all too often people will approach prayer like they do with brushing their teeth: they’ll go through the motions once or twice a day without really giving much thought to what they’re doing, why they’re doing it or the rewards of such an activity in their lives. It’s just what they’ve grown up doing, but don’t really put much thought or intentionality into it. Learned behavior? Necessity? Whatever the case may be, prayer if and when it takes place is often just what it is, something that we do.
There’s good news in all of this!
Your prayer life doesn’t have to be like this. No! Instead, you can experience the power of one prayer that Jesus prayed, which radically transforms how you and I can approach prayer and in how we come to God.
Matthew 6:5-13 | NIV
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
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.
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.
And forgive us our debts, as we
also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
Four questions from this weekend:
There are four questions from this weekend that I think is imperative that we address in our lives, specifically as it relates to our faith and how we view prayer.
1. What motivates you?
Jesus addresses the issue of motivation with prayer before he ever teaches us how to pray. Jesus is incredibly clear on the things that we’re not to do when it comes to praying: “do not by the like the hypocrites…”
You see, the Pharisees were infamous for being dramatic in their public prayer life for their own benefit and personal gain. Their motivation was on what others would think of them and what it could do for their political gain and personal power. It had nothing to do with honoring God nor focusing on a right-relationship with Him.
In light of Jesus’ warning about how we ought not pray based on motivation, we must then ask ourselves and address this question in our personal prayer life – “what motivates me?”
If our motivation for prayer is anything other than growing in our relationship with God, honoring Him through obedience in worship through prayer and fixing our eyes on Him, we need to address matters of motivation and set our priorities straight.
2. Are you intentional in your prayer life?
The pagan practice of Jesus’ day was incredible – thousands and thousands of gods whom would receive useless babbling as “prayers” – people saying the same phrases over and over again in an attempt to somehow gain an advantage in their personal prayer life. Heck, even the Pharisees were ridiculous in that they would keep a running record of who prayed, how long they prayed, what words they used, how the words were used, if they prayed the right way, etc.
This approach to prayer isn’t intentional at all. In fact, it seems that it’s just the opposite. Useless rambling that amounts to very little other than wasted breath and empty hope.
When we come to God in prayer, Jesus calls us to be ever-intentional about how we come to God; that we pray on purpose, with a purpose and for a purpose.
3. Are you into religion or a relationship with God?
According to Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary, religion is: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. All too often people confuse the practice of “religion” with a relationship with God. We ought not make any mistake about it. These two (religion and relationship) are worlds apart from one another.
Jesus was concerned with people who were just going through the motions of the ritualistic prayers and religious practices of the day, when he completely flipped the way people view prayer and can approach God in what I consider the power of one prayer. You see, Jesus, when he taught his disciples how to pray, started off by addressing God as Father. In Aramaic, which was the language Jesus would have used, the literal word used here is “Abba”, which when translated means, Daddy. Only 14 times throughout all 39 books of the Old Testament was this term used (Hebrew: pater) for Father and it was only ever used in a National sense, never as an individual addressing God as Father. In the New Testament, Jesus uses this type off address in prayer to God on 60 different occasions and in all but one of his prayers. While this may not mean much at first glance, the significance of what Jesus’ did here is incredible. He took something like prayer that was a part of religion and he made it personal, an opportunity to experience intimacy with God on our own as our Father; no longer needing to approach God through rights and rituals, through Levites and Priests.
In light of what Jesus did for us through the power of one prayer, we must be all the more intentional about how we come to God – as a relationship and not merely something we do as a part of our religion.
4. Is prayer a part of everything in your life?
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he calls us to pray at all times or to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). Jesus’ teaching on prayer includes 6 petitions as part of the way we are called to pray along with many other components.
Consider this: “Our Father”, takes religion out of prayer and places the emphasis on a relationship
Consider this: “Hallowed be your name”, places the focus on how hallowed or holy our God is, that He is worthy of praise and adoration in all things
Consider this: “your kingdom come”, encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on the things not of this world (money, job, cars, etc.), the things that we are tempted and often consumed by in our lives, but to place our treasures in heaven and our thinking on the things of God, which are eternal
Consider this: “give us today our daily bread”, takes the pressure off of focusing on the things of tomorrow and equips us to worry about the things that we have in front of us, here and now, today
These are just a few samples of some of the ways that Jesus calls us to make prayer a part of our everyday/all day life. He shows us how to pray and include God in the good things that are going on as well as the petitions for what we need. What’s more is that Jesus’ prayer and instruction for us teaches us to draw near to God in all things.
Prayer is NOT about religion. It’s about a relationship with God and relationships only grow when we intentionally and purposefully invest in them, spend time with them and make them a priority in our lives.
I pray that you and I might experience the power of one prayer this week in our lives.
To help us put prayer into practice, might I suggest one or more of the following:
- Set aside a designated time daily for you to get alone with God (put it in your calendar and make it happen)
- Keep a prayer journal
- Read through various prayers throughout the Bible (start with Psalms)
- Share your prayers with others
- Be intentional about praying in every situation…make it a habit…a lifestyle
~ Pastor Andrew