Thoughts on Prayer – Cougan Collins

God talks to us through His written Word. However, prayer is how we talk with God, praise Him, thank Him and make requests of Him. In this article, I will show you that prayer is a part of our public worship and our private lives as well. I will also answer the following questions: How do we pray and by what authority do we pray? How should we pray in public worship? Finally, I will give you four steps to a better prayer life.

How do we pray and by what authority do we pray? Study the words of Jesus in Luke 11:1-4. In this model prayer, notice to Whom the prayer is directed: the Father in heaven. Consider also what Jesus said in John 14:13, 15:16, and 16:23. What do all of these verses have in common and teach? Jesus made it easy to see that our prayers are to be directed to the Father, and we are to pray in His name, or by His authority. Based on His teaching on prayer, we are not supposed to pray to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus. Rather, we are to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. This is the example we find throughout the Bible (Ep. 5:20; Co. 3:17; Ac. 4:23-30).

How should prayer be done in public worship? In our public worship, two things happen during a prayer. First, a person leads the prayer. Second, everyone else is listening to the prayer and making it their own.

Who should lead in prayer?   James teaches us that we need a righteous person leading the prayer (Ja. 5:16). We should never want a person living in sin or a non-Christian leading us in a prayer.

“Well, what about a righteous woman? Is it acceptable for her to lead prayer in a worship service with men present? Paul gives us the inspired answer (1 Co. 14:34; 1 Ti. 2:12-14). In doing so, he is not being a chauvinist pig. He doesn’t have a bone to pick with women, nor does he view them as being lesser than a man. He was an apostle of God, and he is teaching us how God wants things done within His church.

Interestingly, the word “silence” in the above passages doesn’t mean absolute silence; if it did, a woman couldn’t tell her children to be quiet or even sneeze during worship or she would violate this scripture. All Paul is saying is that a woman should not take a position of authority over the man in public worship, which would exclude her from leading prayer when men are present. God has chosen the men to lead in the public worship, which is why He inspired Paul to tell Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men prayer everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting” (1 Ti. 2:8).

Since the men are to lead prayer in church, I want to share two tips about leading prayer:

  1. When you pray, pray with reverence and respect for God, keeping in mind that you are praying for the church and not just for yourself.
  2. When you pray, speak loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear you and be a part of the prayer. If you are soft-spoken, then come to the front of the assembly and use a microphone if one is available.

If you will follow these simple steps, you will know that everyone can hear you and take part in your prayer. For the rest of us, we need to make sure we are listening carefully and not messing around with something else. It’s important that we think about what is being said and make that prayer our own. We can agree with the prayer by saying “Amen,” either to ourselves or verbally. We should always keep this in mind every time someone leads a prayer.

Let me conclude by sharing with you four steps to a better prayer life:

First, your prayers must be sincere. Consider as a great example the sincere prayer of David after he sinned against God (Ps. 69:13-17). As you read this prayer, you can hear David’s sincerity. We need to follow this example by being sincere when we pray.

Unfortunately, there are many today who pray without sincerity. The story is told of a wealthy man who went wading out into the ocean when a big wave swept him out to sea. He began to struggle to save his life, but all his efforts failed. When it looked like he had no chance of survival, he prayed. He said, “Lord, if you will save my life, I will give you half of all my money.” A few moments later, he had managed to make it a little closer to safety. He then said, “Remember Lord, I promised you 255 of all my money if you will save my life.” A few moments later, his safety was still questionable; yet it still looked more hopeful so he prayed and said, “Lord, keep up the good work! Just a little more help and I will be safe. Don’t abandon me now! Remember, I promised you 10% of my money if you will save me from drowning.” A few minutes later, the man finally was able to touch the ground. He prayed to God one last time and said, “Thank you, Lord, for saving my life. Don’t forget my promise to you. If you ever need anything, I will seriously think about giving you some of my money.”

While it’s easy for us to see this man’s lack of sincerity to God, many are just like him today. They make little plea bargains with God. Yet when things work out for them, they disregard what they said they would do. People who do this will not be pleasing to God. Therefore, we must be sincere in our prayer life.

Secondly, we must pray with faith. How many times have you prayed to God and doubted He would answer your prayer? Christians should never doubt (Ja. 1:6-7). We must realize that God answers our prayers. After Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He illustrated how they must be persistent when they pray with faith (Lk. 11:5-10). Not only does this parable show how we must pray in faith, it also shows that we must be persistent. God does answer our prayers, but He will answer in a way that is best for us. He might answer a prayer with a “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe later.” Paul gave us a great example of God saying “No” to prayer (2 Co. 12:7-9). His prayer was answered with a “No” because God’s grace was sufficient for him. It is important that we learn to accept God’s answers and trust in His decisions, as Jesus did (Mt. 26:39). Christ prayed for the cup to pass, but He left it up to God’s will rather than His own. Many today try to take matters into their own hands instead of accepting God’s answer. However, Christians must learn to pray with faith and accept God’s answer.

Thirdly, we need to pray with humility. God will not hear your prayer if you are haughty or self-righteous because He wants us to be humble like His Son. Peter wrote, “Be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pe. 5:5).

How many times have you heard of someone praying to God with the attitude that they deserve something because they have done so many good deeds? Jesus gave us a great example of an insincere prayer (Lk. 18:9-14). This self-righteous Pharisee came to remind God of how good he was and how glad he was that he wasn’t like the tax collector. How many of us have prayed to God and told Him how good we are or how better we are than someone else? While I hope that none of us have done this, if we have we are just like this self-righteous Pharisee and we will not be justified in our prayers. However, the tax collector came before God and wouldn’t even look up to heaven. He asked God for mercy with a humble heart. This is the example we should follow. If we do, we will be justified in our prayers as well. Don’t forget to pray with humility!

Fourthly, pray for the right things. Sometimes people think they can pray for whatever they want and they should receive it. They completely forget about the will of God and pray for things which God will not allow. For instance, some will pray before they enter a casino and ask God to help them win big. Some have even prayed for vengeance on those they don’t like.

The story is told of some college students who filled up water balloons and dropped them on people from the third floor. One night, they realized they hit a police officer and were scared to death. One of them suggested they pray about it. However, instead of asking God to forgive them for what they did wrong, they prayed that the officer would not catch them. They were praying for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes when we are selfish, we pray for the wrong things as well. James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Ja. 4:3). If we have the wrong motives and pray for the wrong things, God’s answer to our prayer will always be “No.” Yet when we pray from our hearts for things in accordance with His will, He will acknowledge and answer our prayers to make things work out best for us based on His wisdom. Thus, let us always strive to pray for the right things!

Christians, we need to remember to use prayer in our everyday lives because it is how we talk to God. We must use prayer in our worship and in our private lives. Our prayers should be directed to the Father in the name of Jesus. Men must lead in mixed public prayer and we must take part in that prayer. Let us be sincere, praying in faith and humility for the right things, realizing that God answers our prayers according to His will.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (He. 4:16)

lgchurchofchrist@cableone.net

 

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