Six Bible Studies on
PRAYER ANNE O’BRIEN
PRAYER - 1
“Chatting” with God – a close relationship There are many ways to communicate: n Reading a petition (for example, as you might read a petition to your MP) n Putting forward a formal request, as you might do in a public meeting n Writing a letter, and forming a ‘lasting’ message n Sending a text which contains a quick request, message, thought or sentiment n Using the telephone in order to have a proper conservation n Speaking face to face with a friend – having a nice long chat. Our prayers often reflect all these different forms of communication, ranging from very formal to casual and informal. Which way do you prefer to talk to God? Which way do you think God prefers?
At the beginning of time, God walked and talked with Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3). What we call ‘prayer’ was merely a chat. Maybe they thanked God for the beautiful flowers, birds etc. Maybe they asked him about the best gardening methods – who knows? The thing is, they had a close relationship with Jesus which was expressed in conversation. And the more they talked to Him, the more they learnt about his ways. Sadly, they were to learn the hard way that rebellion and dishonesty were to destroy that closeness with God. Read Psalm 27v7-8 Seeking God’s face is getting close to God. It’s wanting that ‘one on one’ communication; it’s not giving him a shopping list of requests or a fleeting thought. It is time spent with him, just talking to him, seeking his will, and enjoying his presence. Oswald Chambers said: We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know more of God Himself. Read Revelation 3v20 God wants to spend time in our company too! Here we see him knocking on the door of our heart, asking to come in and share with us. Isn’t that an amazing picture? He already knows us and is waiting to be included in every single part of our lives, including sharing a meal with us – this is communion in the sense of us sharing our thoughts with Father God and God sharing his thoughts with us. How often do we wait to hear God’s part of the conversation? Read Jeremiah 29v11-14a So, we know that when we pray – God listens – he promises to here in verse 12. But how often do we listen to him? We could be missing out. He promises to ‘find’ us when we have gone away from him. In fact, if you read Psalm 139, you will see how he is with us in every single circumstance of our lives. So, in this verse God is telling Jeremiah his plans for the future – not just for him as an individual, but for Israel as a nation. God has plans for our lives – we can ensure we don’t miss out by keeping close to him and, like Jeremiah, seeking him and listening to him. Read Romans 8v14-17 Does it sound presumptuous or even a bit disrespectful to say we can be chatty with God? Surely not, if we are his children and heirs (joint heirs with Christ – v17). This is how he wants us to approach him – in the same way that we might approach a loving Father. Maybe your father was like mine – rather strict and not always approachable (although I knew he loved me) – God is not like that. Verse 15 says we need never approach him in fear. We don’t even have to call him Father, we can call him Abba, which means daddy. This is how close he wants us to be. 2
Read Hebrews 4v16 But God is King of Kings and Lord of Lords sitting enthroned in Heaven over all. How can we approach him like a father? Look at the verse again. God is indeed on his throne – but it is the throne of GRACE. This is what is so amazing – amazing grace! Not only can we approach him, but we can do so with our sins forgiven and knowing that he wants to spend time with us. The other great thing is that, although he comes to meet us right where we are, he lifts us up to the Throne room, and we get the opportunity to see in part what it is like to be raised up to where he is. AMAZING GRACE. (It makes me want to stop typing and spend some time in worship now!!) Read Psalm 141v1&2 Do you see prayer as a duty, as a lifeline – or as a joy? These verses tell us that God delights in our prayer time with him. To Him it is like a sweet-smelling incense, rising up and giving him pleasure. We pray for our own reasons, but we also pray to bless God. It is a two-way thing – or should be. Don’t be in a spiritual “Lockdown” – there is never any barrier to stop you from approaching God and enjoying his presence (only sin, but he has dealt with that when we are truly repentant). Conclusion So, the thing is, when we get this prayer thing right – spending time getting to know God better and “chatting” with him - then asking for the bigger things in intercession will become easier. But we need to begin at the right place – which is knowing God intimately through time spent with him.
PRAYER – 2
The Prayer of Faith What does it mean? Is it about trust, belief, confidence, determination, perseverance, authority, hope? How do we know if we are praying the prayer of faith? Maybe we can identify true faith prayers by thinking about what they are not. This study will therefore consider what is, and what is not, the prayer of faith. Bear in mind, I’m no expert! When an answer to prayer is not forthcoming. n Read Hebrews 11v1 Faith is accepting that the answer is in God’s hands, even when we don’t yet have the evidence. The prayer of faith is strengthened by our confidence in, and our knowledge of God. This is not shown by what we feel, but by how we act. n So, faith is not in action when we start asking others to help meet our need because we don’t see an answer on the way soon (just in case God hasn’t heard). Impatience is not faith. (There’s nothing wrong in asking others for help – it just shouldn’t replace our faith that God will act.) Can you think of a time when this has applied to you?
When an answer to prayer is different to what we wanted n Faith is accepting the answer that we are given from God, even if it is different to the result we wanted. We can trust that it is the best one, because God only wants what is good for us. Read Proverbs 3v5&6 When we seek to be in His will it is easier to trust him for the right answer. n Do we want what we want – or what God wants for us? Faith is not a determination to get our own way, that is rebellion. Faith is not faith when we require determination to ‘’pray through’’ to get what we want. Determination is not the same as persistence. When we pray, “Thy will be done” do we really mean it? Praying in private or public Faith can be demonstrated by a willingness to tell someone what you are believing God for. Openly voicing a prayer to a friend or in a public prayer meeting requires confidence that God is hearing and answering prayer. E.g.: “I’ve prayed for good weather and so I will go ahead with the planned picnic.” Or “I’ve prayed for God to work out the timing, and so I will be there for you.”
Saying “I hope it won’t rain”, or “I hope I will be well enough” is leaving God out of the equation and not testifying to the fact that He can make a difference. Personally, I find this a tricky one – I want to have faith, but it’s hard to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ sometimes. Sometimes faith is just about us letting go – and letting God.
Voicing faith can be a good witness to our friends. Faith is understanding the Sovereignty and Power of God Faith is like telling someone who knows more than you, about a problem – and trusting him or her to sort it out. For example – like when I take my laptop to the repair shop for help! I know they have the knowledge and the means to renew it and so I trust them to do it for me. Faith reminds us that God is allknowing and all-powerful – therefore we can trust him to do what is right and best for us. n Faith is not finding a friend to help first – they might make it worse. And certainly (in the case of tech gadgets) faith is not trying to work it out myself! See Eph 3v12 How much do we really believe in God’s sovereignty and power? n
Faith is trusting one hundred per cent What is your faith level? I guess mine varies from day to day and with differing circumstances, if I am honest. I am 100% sure that God loves me and will do what is best and right for me – so it’s not that. I suppose I let worry overtake me sometimes and that becomes a barrier to faith. n So, faith is not evident when we have any doubts, when we are worrying too much, when we are not sure if God will answer. Read James 1v6-8. It is at those times we need to rely on the promises in God’s Word, promises like, “The Lord will fight for you. Be still” (Ex 14v14) and, “God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8v28). Praise God, he does not judge us, He is still there fore us, because He loves us. n
Faith is understanding that God already has the answer n Faith is knowing that before we ask, the answer can be on the way. Read Isa 65v24. If we cannot find a way forward, God will always find a way. Thanking God for what he will do demonstrates that we have put our trust in God. n Faith is not imagining different ways that God might answer our prayer. That could lead to frustration and disappointment. When we pray in the name of Jesus and “in the will of God” we should mean it. And be willing to not just accept the outcome – but to praise God for it because it is His will. God will find a way where there seems to be no way. (Don Moen song) Faith is standing on the promises of God n Faith is claiming God’s promises. The Bible is packed with them! They can be so encouraging, and we know we can depend on them because they are God’s word to us. For example, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa 41v10). n Faith is not neglecting God’s word. He has given it to us for a purpose – to strengthen our faith! The lesson here is obvious! God is good, faithful and true. He can’t go against his own word. We can trust Him.
PRAYER – 3
What happens when we pray When Christians pray, God the Father hears. But what else happens? Well, a lot of wheels are set in action when we pray. So that, we pray to Our Father, in the name of The Son Jesus, and with the help of The Holy Spirit; and sometimes with action from the angels. What God the Father does when we pray God doesn’t have to be alerted when we pray – “He neither slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121). He is aware of our needs, at all times; and is waiting for us to talk with him. Our prayers are 4
special to him: Read Revelation 5v8. The Bible also tells us that the blood of innocent men cries out to the Lord (Genesis 4v10), and that he sees our tears when we cry (Psalm 56v8). Indeed, God is very much aware of our need – we only have to ask. What Jesus does when we pray Jesus is our mediator – the one who intercedes for us. (Read 1 Timothy 2v5) Read Hebrews 7v23-25. Because Jesus is both God and Man, he is the only one who can fulfil this role; he is like the High priest of the Old Testament, the only one who can enter God’s actual presence. He knows and understands us, and he has lived amongst us. But he also knows and understands his Father, where he is now glorified. We pray in the Name of Jesus because Jesus said, “No-one comes to the Father, except through me.” (Read John 14v6) And Jesus taught us how to pray: Read Matt 6v5-8; Luke 5v16; Matt 18v20; Luke 24v30; and John chap. 17 What the Holy Spirit does when we pray While Jesus is in Heaven interceding for us, the Holy Spirit is within us, helping us to pray. We are never alone when we pray. The Holy Spirit is our constant advocate and guide, assuring us that we are heard by God. Read Romans 8v26&27. Make a list of the ways in which the Holy Spirit can help you in prayer
This is great because it means I am not alone when I pray. The Holy Spirit is my friend and advisor. He is even praying on my behalf when I cannot find the words to say. And if he moves me to pray in tongues, he is praying through me with the right words (or even groans or sobs) – and God hears, because “he knows the mind of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit can turn out thoughts to wisdom, our weakness to strength and our darkness to light. So do not worry on days when you find it hard to pray – simply rely on the Holy Spirit. What the angels do when we pray Let me stress - we do not pray to angels. They are there only to serve us at God’s command. They are more commonly mentioned in the Old Testament, before the coming of the Holy Spirit on believers. But they are still there, and very active today. So God uses them as guardians over us (Psalm 34v7 & Psalm 91v11), and as messengers to us. They also fight against Satan’s angels in the heavenlies – although we are largely unaware of this. In Daniel chapter 10 we can read how that, while Daniel was praying, the archangel Michael was fighting Satan. God has a super-mighty, conquering army at his command. Never doubt it. Read Hebrews 12v22 – Thousands upon thousands of angels!!! Sometimes they are referred to as a myriad of angels – that means an indefinite number, they are so many that they are uncountable. And God may use them to answer your prayer. 5
We also have the Word of God to help us in prayer n We can talk to God while we are reading his word n We can ask him to enlighten us n We can claim the promises we read and declare our trust in them n Sometimes the Holy Spirit will highlight a passage to us so that it “jumps off the page” because God wants to answer us or tell us something n When we read God’s words in the Bible, it is him speaking to us n Sometimes, God’s Word will challenge us to action and obedience n Don’t be afraid to underline a verse when God speaks to you (or keep a diary) Why not try pray-reading the Bible this week. I have always found the Psalms are very good for this – but all of the Bible is God’s word to us.
PRAYER – 4
GREEN, RED AND AMBER No doubt, you will have heard before, that answers to prayer can be likened to traffic lights. Sometimes, the answer is “yes” and comes swiftly: sometimes the answer is “no” and we can’t understand why: and sometimes the answer is “wait” – and we maybe get impatient. I have chosen three examples of this from the ministry of Jesus to illustrate something of God’s purpose in the way he answers prayer.
GREEN – GO – YES Read Mark 4v35-40: This parable reminds us of the storms of life, times when we feel swamped and maybe panicky also. The disciples, and Jesus, were in the boat – but Jesus was fast asleep. Why? I guess, first and foremost he was tired! But also, I think he might have been biding his time, waiting to see how the disciples would react, waiting for them to ask for help. Sometimes our storms can be a test to see how much we will rely on ourselves or on God. When things get tough, is it our first reaction to call on God – or maybe our second or third? Jesus could have stopped the storm at any time – but he wanted the disciples to ask him, showing that they believed he could answer. And when they did wake him and ask for help, the answer came immediately (v39). How many times have we been in a stormy situation and (whilst panicking) we have thought, “Where is God, why isn’t he helping?” And all the time, God is there, waiting to be asked. Fear, panic and worry can cancel out faith and reason, if we let them. I think the disciples were surprised when the answer came so quickly, in fact they were terrified! (v41) – but they were also very relieved! God will often answer our prayers like this when we calmly ask him and trust him. After all, when we belong to Him, He is never any distance away - He is in the boat with us.
RED – STOP – NO Read Mark 6v1-6: From this passage it is quite clear to see that we can believe in Jesus, who he is – and yet, still not have faith that God can answer prayer. They knew Jesus well, but they had no faith in him. Lack of faith meant they didn’t ask him. Lack of faith was the barrier to seeing miracles happen. The Pharisees certainly knew who Jesus was. And although they knew the Scriptures about the Messiah, they did not recognise Jesus as the Anointed One. In Mark chapter 8 verses 11-13 we read another reason why Jesus would not do a miracle. The Pharisees wanted one, simply as a sign – as proof. Some people want to see them for entertainment. But the disciples wanted to catch Jesus out and humiliate him in front of others. However, Jesus answers prayer and does miracles, to show love and compassion and to glorify God.
AMBER – WAIT – THE LIGHT WILL CHANGE TO GREEN Read John 11v14-43: When circumstances are dire, and God appears to be doing nothing (Jesus deliberately delayed his arrival until after Lazarus had died!), we get despondent, and we ask “why?”. First Martha (v21) and then Mary (v32), both berated Jesus with the words, “If you had been here this would not have happened”. And Jesus himself, was visibly moved with compassion and tears (v33-35). But … Jesus had a purpose in the delay. Jesus delayed the answer for several reasons: n He wanted to illustrate some very important teaching n He showed himself to be both man and God n He showed mastery over death and decay n He talked about resurrection and new life for the believer n Lazarus had been dead for four days – there could be no doubt that this was anything but a genuine miracle. I knew someone who was very ill for a year, and we were inclined to pray that the Lord would heal him or take him to Heaven. God did neither for that whole year. But in the meantime, many broken family relationships were restored, and when he died – we knew it was the best timing. God has good reason if he delays answering our prayers. If we can pray “Thy will be done”, and trust that God will answer in the best way, and trust him through it – whatever our storms and troubles are – we can be sure that: n He will work things out in the best way for all concerned. n It will be in a way that will bring us to worship him more n It will strengthen our faith n It will help us to learn more about Him n And it will glorify His Name.
PRAYER – 5
Intercessory Prayer A question often asked: “What is the difference between prayer and intercession?” Prayer is talking to God and bringing our requests to Him. Anyone can pray to God … even if they have no knowledge of salvation or the Holy Spirit. God, who is Father of all mankind, is always approachable and will always listen. He loves us to pray. Intercession By definition, intercession means intervening or pleading on behalf of another – “standing in the gap” – for those who cannot get victory and freedom themselves. Often intercession will be for those who cannot pray themselves, through circumstances or illness. But it is also for those who will not pray – for example, heads of state and world events. When no-one else is praying, intercessors can step in and make a difference. Only Holy Spirit filled Christians can intercede, as they pray according to the will of God. Usually, intercessory prayer is led by the Holy Spirit and not by our own thoughts. We are all called to pray, and rightly so, we often find ourselves interceding on behalf of another; but not everyone is called to an intercessory ministry. It is a ministry, and we all need to find the ministry that God wants for us. However, as Christians, we should all be able to pray this prayer: Lord, increase my desire and ability to pray for others. And help me always to pray according to your will. INTERCESSION FOR FAMILY An example of family intercession is found in Genesis chapter 18v16-33 Note: the “men” mentioned in verse 18v16 were actually angels (see more of the story in chapter 19). Abraham’s intercession was backed up by God’s promises. He knew the will of God for all his descendants, including Lot. What seven things had God promised Abraham in Genesis 17 verses 3, 8, 10, 13, 19 and chapter 18 verses 10 and 18?
Abraham could intercede for Lot because God had promised to bless. Knowing God’s promises and knowing God’s will (as we wait on the Holy Spirit) allows us to pray for the seemingly impossible to become possible. How does this impact on us? It means we can intercede for our children and their children, knowing that God’s will is for them to be saved and blessed. Jot down anything that applies to you and your family.
Isaiah 44v3 and 54v13
I Timothy 2v1-4
2 Peter 3v9
These verses do not mean that God automatically saves our family (everyone still has free will and choice), but they do show us that his heart is for household salvation, so we know that we can intercede for our children knowing that God’s Holy Spirit will seek to find a way to speak to them – sometimes even on their deathbed. INTERCESSION FOR NATIONS Whether it be concerning a pandemic (topical!), war, famine, persecution, bad leadership or dictatorship – we are taught in The Bible that we should pray for the nations. What do the following verses tell us to pray for? 1 Timothy 2 v1&2
2 Chronicles 7v14
PRIORITIES IN INTERCESSION To be an effective intercessor, it is necessary to: n Swap our will for God’s will n Put the needs of others above our needs n Change our human viewpoint for a Holy Spirit directed viewpoint n Swap our judgment on a situation for God’s grace Intercessory prayer can make the impossible possible when we pray according to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
PRAYER – 6
Prayer and Glory (John chapter 17) For our final study on prayer, we look at the prayer of Jesus, which John recorded in his Gospel. It’s a prayer which shows us the heart of Jesus, and his deep desire to reveal the glory of God. In this prayer, Jesus prays for himself, then for the disciples and lastly, for us. He uses the word glory/glorified nine times in this prayer – so it’s obviously important, but what does it mean? In the Old Testament, God’s glory was hidden by a cloud. The glory was the splendour of His actual presence for example, on Mount Sinai with Moses, and in the Holiest Place in The Tabernacle (sometimes referred to as the Shekinah Glory – meaning the dwelling place of God). So that, God’s glory is the revelation of His presence. Read verses 1-5: A shared glory Jesus knew that he was soon to go to the Cross. And here, he is praying that he would soon know the intimate presence and glory that he shared with God before the world even began. (Note the eternity of heaven – both past and future.) This shows us how much it cost Jesus to leave heaven and stand as a human being in our place that we might be forgiven. It was not just the pain he suffered physically, but the great loss of that freedom and close physical oneness with his Father. Q. What can this first section of Jesus’ prayer teach us, if we are to be like Jesus? When we pray, how much of our desire is for earthly things and how much is for God’s glory to be manifest?
Read verses 6-19: Glory through the disciples We sometimes think of the disciples as “getting it wrong” when they are learning with Jesus. But in verse 10, Jesus says: Glory has come to me through them. How wonderful! How much would we like Jesus to say that about us? Perhaps we don’t always realise how our actions can bring God the glory. Have you ever told anyone about Jesus and they have believed – or helped them in their spiritual journey – or prayed for them and they have recovered? Then you will have brought glory to Jesus! 10
In these verses Jesus prays for his disciples: n That they would be protected in the world (v11) n That they may have joy (v13) n That they would be protected from the evil one (v15) n That they would know the truth (v17) n That they would be sanctified (holy, set apart) (v19) Why not take time to think of the leaders in our fellowship, and pray these things over their lives – so that Jesus will be glorified through their ministry? Read verses 20-26: Jesus prays for us to know his glory Jesus is praying for us (v20)! He had us in mind when he knew he was going to the Cross. n He wants us to know his glory and presence and unity (v21) n He wants us to remain in God (v21) n He wants us to experience God’s glory and presence (v22) n Because he wants the world to see God in us and believe (v23) n His desire is for us to be with Him in Heaven (v24) n His desire is for more and more to come to salvation (v26) The motivation and focus of Jesus’ prayer was for God to be glorified in us as we spread the gospel of salvation. Why? So that as many people as possible will experience the ultimate glory of eternity in Heaven. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit for all believers. It is through the Holy Spirit that we experience the glory and presence of God. In the light of Jesus’ prayer and motivation, how can we form our prayers so that they bring glory to God? Think about: n Why are we praying? Is it out of sympathy, or because we want to see a life changed and transformed for God’s glory. n What are we praying? Is it simply for a physical miracle, or that the person will accept the presence of Christ into their life? n How are we praying? What is our motive? Do we have the mind of Christ? Let’s aim for prayers that will bring God’s glory down to earth!!
Estuary Elim Church is based in Essex in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil God’s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)