Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prayer as Worship

Many people do not pray. The self-sufficient do not pray, they merely talk to themselves. The self-satisfied will not pray, they have no knowledge of their need. The self-righteous cannot pray; they have no basis on which to approach God. In contrast note the words of the Psalmist “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice,”- Psalm 95:6-7. Psalm 95 is a model for approaching God in prayer. It begins with praise and thanksgiving. The apostle Paul seldom mentioned prayer in the New Testament without conveying an attitude filled with gratitude. "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:16) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6). The Bible speaks of three levels of communicating with God in prayer. Each level is saturated with praise and thanksgiving. At the beginning of our Christian walk, we tend to make prayer lists and present our requests to God. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. The leaves of my first Bible are filled with hand written prayer requests. James 4:2-3 says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." David expands this point by saying, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 66:18). We come to the Lord with confession, praise, worship and petition. We will struggle in prayer if we do not get beyond level one. This is the level at which the communication is only one way. The second level of prayer is a level of personal and two way communication. Have you ever tried to build a relationship when you did all the talking? Prayer is the language of our relationship with our heavenly Father. We need to hear His voice as we personally and humbly approach Him. The word hear means to listen so as to obey. Knowing God's ways leads to His rest. There is no rest in a hardened heart. "Learn from me and you shall find rest in your souls" (Matthew 11:29). God's prayer list will probably not be the same as ours. The first items on God's list are issues that concern our relationship with Him. So if there are unresolved moral issues that we have never confessed to God, rest assured they will be at the top of His list. That is why the psalmist cautions us not to harden our hearts. We should actively deal with whatever comes to our minds during prayer. There is nothing we can't talk to God about because He already knows the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. When prayer becomes personal, we begin to pray more. Intercessory prayer, the third level of prayer, then becomes possible. There is a great need for true intercessors. Intercessors are Christians who are intimate enough with God to hear His voice and obey. Intercessors hear from God, sense the burden to pray and continue in prayer until the burden lifts. Seldom, if ever, is intercessory prayer undertaken in public. Intercessors usually pray in the privacy of their homes. often late at night, sometimes praying through the night. God accomplishes much of His work through these dear saints who know how to intercede for others. I believe God wants us all to intercede on behalf of one another. Consider asking the Lord to "teach you to pray." Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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