Study 6: A Man of Prayer

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf… that I will make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel.

Ephesians 6:18-19

We now begin a new study: The Character of a Godly Man.

While we have spoken much about discipleship and personal pursuit of growth, what is the aim? That we would be men of the Word, men who are spiritually mature. In a word: godly.

So why should we begin with prayer? John Calvin, in his excellent chapter on prayer in The Institutes has this as his subtitle: Prayer is the Chief Exercise of Faith. As believers in Jesus Christ, prayer is the primary way in which true faith expresses itself.

Consider: prayerlessness is practical atheism, and personal prayerlessness will always be a mark of hypocrisy. If we neglect prayer and do not enjoy communion with God, we are selling a product we do not believe in. Your prayer life shows who you truly are.

What does prayer represent?

  1. Dependence (“…apart from Me, you can do nothing…”)
  2. Submission (“…not My will, but Thine…”)
  3. Worship (see the entire prayer found in Acts 4:24-31)

In prayer we have a growing understanding of our need to rely on the Lord for even the most ‘mundane’ things. We can be quick to forget our need for His grace and think we can handle the day in our own strength. We become self-reliant and our prayer life suffers.

Let us consider several hindrances that lead to a life that lacks prayer, followed by positive dispositions that cultivate a healthy prayer life.

Hindrances

Be aware of hindrances to a life of dependent prayer (spoiler alert: they all have to do with you!)

  1. Lack of belief (prayer must always be an act of faith)
    • believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6)
    • believe that God is there and is interested in your prayer (Psalm 62:8)
    • understand that His answer may not be whatwhen, or how you expect
    • believe that His answer is always best
    • do not depend on getting answers to every question you have, but cling to Him in faith (move from why? to how? – how do I grow through this, how do I glorify You in this trial?)
  2. Lack of persistence 
    • we are so used to instant responses in day-to-day life, conditioned by our culture (if we don’t hear an immediate response, we cut off communication)
    • not receiving immediate answers forces us to long-term needs to pray about
    • God draws us to Himself in communion through those needs over which we must pray about continually
    • sometimes we do not get what we ask for because we ask for selfish motives (James 4:3)
  3. Lack of preparedness
    • we live in a culture of distractions
      • our life is so fast-paced with literally thousands of demands on our attention every day
      • this is worse today than ever before
      • tech, hobbies, advertising, etc… these are not the problem – our hearts are!
      • we love to be exposed to the endless stream of distractions and this does not help our devotion
      • we have altogether given up on considered meditation (Ps 1:2)
    • make time you need
      • Christ is our model (secluding Himself at times to pray, Luke 5:16)

Cultivating a Healthy Prayer Life

Work towards these dispositions towards God in prayer.

  1. Readiness
    • pray ‘at all times in the Spirit’ (Eph 6:18)
    • there is great readiness implied
    • a submissiveness towards the Holy Spirit
    • relying on Him as we ‘don’t know how to pray as we should’ (Rom 8:26)
    • our weakest (yet believing) prayers are perfectly translated by the Holy Spirit (and are thus made effectual)
    • the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and weaknesses
  2. Devotion and Alertness in Prayer (Col 4:2)
    • we are too often self-reliant
    • we must be spiritually desperate
    • we depend on (aware or not) God’s power, grace and strength daily (Col 1:9)
    • we need God’s wisdom for our daily walk
  3. Submission and Surrender
    • this is prayer that is consistent with what you know about God and His will
    • prayer that seeks to be obedient to God (remember, abiding in the Vine)
      • you must be yielded towards Christ (Eph 6:18)
      • you cannot be self-centered in your praying
      • you cannot pray in the Spirit and be submissive if you are stubborn against the truth
      • God wants our pride demolished
      • He is patient, but persistent
      • He may use trials and circumstances to bring about submissiveness:
        • Trials test our theology regarding God’s Sovereignty
        • Trials drive us to prayer
        • Trials give us great opportunity to grow in faith and prayer
  4. Spiritual Concern
    • We must cultivate a concern for what ultimately matters: spiritual growth
      • pray for others to ‘stand complete’ (Col 1:28, 4:12-13)
      • pray with Paul’s intense concern (Col 2:1-10)
      • don’t always pray for relief from the trial, but how you may grow through it (trials produce endurance and fruit intended by the pruning)

What is it that stirs faith and prayer? The Word of God. See how Daniel was moved to prayer (not inaction) when seeing the promise of God to restore Israel in the writings of Jeremiah approaching.

Many Christians use “in Jesus’ name” as some kind of legitimizing stamp to their (often self-centered) prayer. Calvin said that we pray, as it were, through Jesus’ mouth. The Son has given us His Name – and so we pray as Him. We have been brought into the fellowship and communion of the Trinity, and in prayer, that is what we enter. So, again, prayer is exercising faith and stirring faith – believing the incredible promise that we can come to the throne of grace with the boldness that we will receive.

We should perhaps ‘pray backwards’. Start with the understanding that we pray ‘in His Name’ and so we should work hard to shape our prayers to conform to His will and to see Him glorified.

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