Apprentice Lesson 7: Prayer is a wonderful privilege

Tied up in knots

I love my Dad.  There’s no one quite like him.  He’s someone I can be totally honest with.  He listens to me, comforts me, makes me laugh.  I love talking to him, especially about what I’m learning from God’s word.

I wish I could talk to my Heavenly Father as easily.  But somehow, it’s harder, isn’t it?

For a start, I can see my earthly father.  In person, on Skype… if we’re on the phone I can visualize him.  At home, wearing a holey M&S jumper with navy cotton trousers and a pale blue cotton shirt.

I can’t even tell you what God looks like, without committing some sort of heresy.

Dad is Dad – we have our own banter.  But God runs the universe! Where do you even start?

And usually when you talk to someone, you don’t fall asleep mid-conversation.  Or tell them your spiritual shopping list.  Or suddenly start to think about all the things you have to do.  Five minutes later – oh, I’m so so sorry God.  Now where was I?

I can’t just say one sentence to Him.  Especially not out loud in prayer meetings.  What will people think?  They’ll think I’m being irreverent.  

And speaking of prayer meetings, I feel so stupid praying out loud.  I’m not as eloquent as so and so sitting next to me.  What if people judge me, because I can’t really get my words out right?  I feel like I’m constantly thinking about how to impress other people I’m there with, rather than speaking to my Creator.  He sees into my entire heart and knows all my thoughts!

And what’s the point anyway?  If God is sovereign and has planned what’ll happen, then surely prayer makes no difference!

These are all thoughts I thought last year.  There were months when I would pour my heart out continually, and see God answer me.  There were months when I prayed regularly but not so fervently.  And there was a period when I struggled to talk to God at all.  (Two books really helped me in this time.)

Why it’s great to pray

My supervisor advised me to write a list of reasons why it’s great to pray.  And as I flicked through the pages of my Bible, it was so helpful to look back at what God says about speaking to Him.  I had a rummage through all my notes from last year to share it with you, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

But here are the verses I remember, which debunked a lot of my doubts about prayer, and make me joyful that we can speak to God.

a) We have incredible access to God

’14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[e]of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’ Romans 8:14-17 ESV

Everyone who has trusted in Jesus has God’s Spirit living in them.  God has brought them into His family.  I’ve come across a couple of brothers and sisters who refer to God as ‘Daddy God’.  And it makes me cringe.  But it shouldn’t.  We CAN call God ‘Abba!’  Daddy.  Because we are His children, His heirs.

It’s like we’re little Prince George in the British Royal Family.  He’s not barred from the Queen, his great-grandmother. He’s allowed full access to her.  He has every right to stand before her, and converse with her, as one of her heirs.

Likewise, if we’ve put our trust in Jesus, we can speak to God.  We can stand, head held high, in His throne room.  We have full access to the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings, and our Loving Father.

b) The Spirit helps us talk to God.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[f] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 ESV

Sometimes I dislike prayer meetings, because I want to speak to God, but can’t speak eloquently on the spot.  I speak before I think.  And run out of things to say.  And then end up repeating myself.  And saying ‘Errr’.  And then sheepishly saying ‘Amen’.  And then if I don’t hear anyone else echoing ‘Amen’, I always think Oh no! What have I done? Did I say something wrong?  Or heretical? Oh, that was probably a totally rubbish prayer and that’s why they didn’t say Amen.  Humph. Oh well. Phew that we’re saved by grace and not by works.

Well Paul continues on to say that all the earth is waiting, groaning, for Jesus’ return, and it’s tricky to wait.  And the Spirit helps believers to pray when we can’t get the words out.  He intercedes for the saints (i.e. all Christians) – He takes our prayers, and conveys how we’re feeling to God.

So when we don’t know what to say to God, we don’t need to worry about it.  Not that we shouldn’t make the effort to speak coherently in corporate prayer.  But if we can’t find the words, it’s okay.  The Holy Spirit gets across the message to God the Father.

c) Prayers of the righteous are powerful

’13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[b] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.’ James 5:13-18 ESV

I used to misunderstand these verses.  I thought that because Elijah prayed lots, that made him righteous before God, and that’s why his prayers were powerful.  But I went back to what is recorded about Elijah in 1 Kings.  It was all in my head.  God chose Elijah to be His mouthpiece to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (the end of 1 Kings is a cracking read), because that’s just what God does.  There’s no mention of Elijah meriting this task.  He is like anyone who’s trusted in Jesus.  He is like us.  He truly was a man with the same nature as us.  God made Him righteous because of His grace, not because of His works.

And God listened to Elijah’s prayers, and answered them powerfully.

I’m not saying that God will answer ALL our prayers.  But we can have confidence of our standing before God, if we trust in Jesus.  We are righteous before God in Christ – God cannot ignore our requests.  In fact, He wants to answer those who have been brought back into right relationship with Him.  He wants to help them, and draw them close to Him.

So we should go for it, and pray boldly.  I often give up praying for things which seem too out there, or I don’t even try.  But we can! As Christians, God is our Father, in Heaven.  We have this restored relationship with God as our Father.  He’s listening to us right now!

Let’s not worry or feel guilty about all the thoughts and distractions which prevent us from praying.  God knows our weaknesses, and wants us to talk to Him regardless.  Let’s not hold back!

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