Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Teaching on prayer

I am slated to lead the Bible study this Sabbath. The lesson is prayer. How does one presume to teach on prayer?

Isn't it a very personal expression of faith, worship, and devotion?
Doesn't it depend on the situation?
Are there some better and worse prayers?
Should we even bother?

Firstly, because God tells us to pray.  He wants that communion with us.

Before the worlds were created, God was. There was God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, communing and sending love back and forth.  If you know much about love, you know that when you divide it, you really multiply it. (The more you share, the more there is.)  So God said to Jesus (I imagine), "Hey, let's make people and then we can love them too!"   It's amazing to me that the Almighty Creator of the Universes cares to talk to me and shower me with love and blessings.  This is expressed through prayer.  We worship God, because as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator, He is completely worthy of our worship.  It's so fulfilling to pour out that worship to Someone who is worthy, especially since all around us we see forgery and deception.

Secondly, we express our gratefulness that God does love and protect and provide for us.

When Moses was leading the stubborn Israelites through the desert, their snarky attitude caused the Lord to remove His protection from them. You know what happened? Snakes happened.  Without God's protection, the natural dangers were now able to reach the Israelites. Don't take God's blessings for granted.  Blessing always follows thanksgiving, and thanksgiving should always follow blessing (which causes more blessings - get it?).

Thirdly, we can express our love for God.

God is Love.  Everything He does is done in love. He created us knowing we would sin, knowing all our faults and foibles and fears. He still chose to create each one of us. Specifically me and specifically you. The way you are. God has bestowed talents upon you, and He has given you a measure of faith. You may have a lot of faith, or you may have started with just a wee bit of faith. Fear not! Faith can be increased. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  That means read the Bible. Read it out loud to yourself, or have a friend read it to you, or read it to a friend.  Your faith will increase as you hear what God has promised and see how He keeps His promises.  God knows where you're at in your faith. He won't ask you to take a huge leap of faith that He knows you can't manage yet... He's willing to train you up to bigger and bigger faith steps.  Just let Him show you.  Since God is love, we know that He won't lead us anywhere that isn't for our ultimate benefit, even if we can't see it right away.

Fourthly, we can repent.  This means we see that what we have done has been selfish and sinful, and we 'turn' from it.  We turn to God, and ask Him to make us into new creatures (which He has promised to do if we ask). We let Him take the reins and guide us in a new direction.

Fifthly, we praise God for all the wonderful things He is doing in our lives.

I especially find that when I am getting cranky and negative, it's good for me to take a break and re-examine my perspective.  I may be cranky with my husband for not scraping the dinner plate, but then I thank God that He chose this man for me, and that my husband has a lot of wonderful qualities, chiefest of which is his ability to put up with me. Hurray!  Especially hurray, since he doesn't see it as 'putting up with', but as 'getting to be with'.  Yup, he's a keeper.

Sixthly, we can lift up our petitions and requests to God.

This does not mean a laundry list of 'wants' and 'must haves'.  We are clearly instructed by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (first book in New Testament) not to worry about what we will eat, drink, wear, or where we will live.  God knows we need these things. Has He not magnificently clothed the birds and flowers which don't last long at all? Won't He also care for us?
This is an opportunity to ask God to show us where we may be preventing others from receiving the Good News of God's love through Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.  It's a chance to lift others up to God.  This neighbour's concern for her son, and that friend's lost cat, and the nervous lady in the doctor's office fright about what her x-ray will show.

Prayer can vary in different situations. It can be whispered, or shouted, or sung. It can be a long, in-depth conversation in your room with God, or it can be a quick cry for protection as you feel yourself slipping.  It can be praise, encouragement, wonder, surrender.

It can bring peace, joy, love, tolerance, humility, and self-control. It can disarm fear.

Paul sums it up in his letter to the Colossians, Chapter 3:

 12God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient.
   13Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.
   14Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.
   15Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful.
   16Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
   17Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.

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