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  • Braden Rodriguez

"I Hope You're Somewhere Praying"

Please allow me to take a none worship songs as my title for this week’s blog. I hope you are somewhere praying, even now. I hope your soul is changing, even now. When you pray things change and your soul is one of them. As I mentioned last week and the week before, Acts 2:42 talks of four key things that grew the earliest believers in Christ. For time’s sake and word counts, they are simply, God’s Word, Fellowshipping with Believers, Praying and the Lord’s Supper. We have discussed the first two and this week I would like to discuss prayer.

I am sure that you are probably thinking, “This is my favorite topic. This is the discipline that I have down the most.” I would probably agree that most people would find this topic the most pleasing and probably do this more than most spiritual disciplines in their life. I want to stretch us here however, and to be honest, I personally I find this to be one of the hardest disciplines in my walk with Jesus.

What We are Before God. What Prayer is Before God.

I genuinely find that these are two of my favorite verses from the Psalms and they are both about prayer. The first is this, “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:2 ESV) Allow me to set the scene for you. You have a holy God that is in and above all things. It is pretty fantastic to think about, but then you have us. We are finite, unholy, human, bags of dust and water. This is not what this passage is saying though, what this Psalmist says is, is that if I pray, Lord you listen to me. This word “inclined” can and has been translated to this idea of God bending down to listen to us. This is a pretty special thing when we have perspective of how big God is and how small we are. God is bending down, inclining his ear to us.

I like to imagine it in this way, imagine that a little girl walks into the room with her parents and her parents’ friends. She makes her way shy-ly across the room and wants to tell her dad something, so she tugs on the tail of his shirt and cups her hands around her mouth. Well the father being a good father, instead of forcing her speak aloud in front of the crowd, he refuses to embarrass his daughter. He inclines his ear to her, he bends down and cups his hand to his ear and lets her speak. This is what we are before God when we pray, we the shy girl and he, the benevolent father, listening.

When we do pray, he hears. The Psalmist later says this, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2 ESV) More beautiful Old Testament imagery here. He is saying God, not only do you hear my prayer, but this is what I ask my prayer be like before you, incense and sacrifice. In the Jewish temple they would come before the Lord and do a couple of things out of necessity to be forgiven. This is before Christ came and fulfilled the law. They would offer sacrifice, of all sorts of things, and they would burn things like incense to make a pleasing aroma before the Lord. The prayer of the believer before God is like that, it is like a sweet smell before God and it is like a lamb being slaughtered, which we know is what covered their sins. A prayer of honesty before the Lord is something that he desires and that he wants from us, So pray as long as you have breath.

Frequency of Prayer

Speaking of praying as long as you have breath, track with me. Paul writes two different things in scripture that we will take and use here for the frequency in which we should pray. You probably already know them. First, “pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV) and second, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ( Philippians 4:6 ESV) You have got to love the apostle Paul here. He says one, pray all the time, don’t stop, and he says pray about everything, anything. So how much should you pray, whenever and about whatever, all while never stopping. I found encouragement here because I know that God hears me and I know that he cares, but I also find that I do not pray nearly enough.

This is personally why I feel like I struggle in this discipline. I have great aspirations to pray for extended periods of time, but what so often happens is that I get so distracted. I try and pray my whole way to work every day, about 15 minutes. This so often turns into 5 minutes of actual praying and 10 minutes of blank mindedness or what I have to do at work that day. Can someone else relate?

I want to encourage all of you with these two things. First, the Lord loves to talk to you and he wants to talk to you. So do not worry about how long you are praying, just pray. That is where I feel that I am most days. However, my walk with Christ has grown so much, and believe me, I pray a whole lot more than I used to. Spiritual disciplines are about growing with Christ and having relationship with him, and if you are doing any kind of growing, be encouraged. Just look back over the last 5 years of your life; where were you and where are you now? I pray all throughout the day now, any given moment about any given thing. This is growth from hardly ever praying.

The second thing is this, when you find yourself in a state of not praying or not knowing what to say when you are praying, read this and remember this, “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 the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV) I hope this gets you like it gets me. The very God we believe in has made provision for us in all things. Not just salvation, but with helping us pray. When you find yourself like me on my 15 minute drives and not knowing what to pray or attempting to pray and it just isn’t working, the Spirit is praying for me with groanings too deep for my words anyway.

The Model of Prayer

Maybe some of you have heard of the Lord’s prayer, I had not until I joined a sports team in middle school, and it really did not mean a whole lot to me at the time. In my college years, this passage came to life, I saw it for what it was; it is our Lord Jesus teaching us how to pray. He is modeling what it should look like, not an exact replica of every prayer, but a great starting point. So if you do not know what to pray, take the tips of Jesus himself, and see how you grow with him.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:6-8 ESV)

First, find a place. This place Jesus talks about is alone. This is a good practice, because there is less distraction and it may just help you focus more on the one you talk to. So take off the apple watch, put down the phone and pray. Disconnect from the world and then when you pray, it doesn’t have to be fancy prayers. Jesus tells them not to lift up those empty phrases that go on and on. Just pray realistically before God. Pray honestly. Talk to him as if you were talking to anyone else. Those have been the best prayers for me. The ones when I get before him and I just tell him what is going on.

I tell my student group literally every week, “ask God to give you more of himself, and then you give him something in return. Give him yourself, something good and something bad.” This is the prayer challenge I walk them through at the beginning of every service. Give God a good thing that happened this week and a bad thing that happened this week. He cares. (Stop now and do that.)

“9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9 ESV)

Jesus tells us to pray personally here to a big and holy God. It says to pray to your Father, the one who loves you, your dad. He is the dad of all dads, he is in heaven. He is hallowed, which I like to define as “holier and bigger than everything.” So when you pray to him acknowledge him for who he is.

“10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ( Matthew 6:10 ESV)

This part of the prayer is asking that personal Father to align his will and your will. To change your heart to the things of his heart. Asking that God would be reigning and his will being done, rather than your kingdom and will.

11 Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11 ESV)

This is asking the Lord to give you exactly what you need. Daily bread, not bread for the week, but what you need for right then. Provided for daily, in reliance on him daily. So when you pray, know this, you need him every day. So tell him you need him every day by praying that he give you exactly what he wants for you that day. This brings reminiscence to the Israelites eating manna in the wilderness daily, gathering what they needed for the day. God provides daily, ask him too.

“12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 ESV)

This is a prayer for the blood of Jesus over you. His blood cleanses you and is the reason why you are forgiven. Pray that blood over you so that you can continue in his way of salvation. Then pray that you would be like him, loving, especially with those who sin against you. You don’t have to clap back and be mad back at that person, Jesus actually calls to forgive them, just as he forgave you. He bore sins of others, would you be willing to do that? Willing to forgive them, even if they sin against you? This is a dangerous prayer.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13 ESV)

Last but not least, this part of the prayer coincides with the last part of the prayer. He is saying “Lord don’t even let us be tempted by the same things you have forgiven us for.” Let us be changed people. Then it shows the spiritual battle we face, asking God to “deliver us from the hands of the evil.” There is a spiritual enemy out there that we need deliverance from and only one thing can save us from that, God.

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