Prayer and worship

1. Introductory thoughts

1. The House of Prayer

Isa 56:1-7 (NIV) This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayerfor all nations.”

The purpose for all nations upon the earth. The Lord’s house would be a house of prayer. Jesus quotes this thought in Matthew:

Mat 21:13 (NIV) “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
(Mat 21:13 KJV) And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be calledthe house of prayer;but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Some translations use the word ‘a’ but KJV is better as it uses ‘the’. Not just a house but THE house in which is found THE prayer. That is the prayer to the Lord Almighty, the only true God made to Him in the only true house which He endorses.  This speaks not speak of buildings of stone or brick but the temple of the Living God, fitly framed together, made of living stones, the body of Christ, the Ecclesia. A holy house of prayer, called out and assembled together.

2. Understanding meanings

Prayer is worship. Worship that includes all the attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. Communion with God by the Holy Spirit is the highest activity of the human spirit. Without prayer i.e. touching God in the spirit, all our activities lack His guidance and blessing. They are not fruitful.

Prayer is not a natural response. Natural man has no place in prayer. Natural, man is separated, cut off. For the spiritual man prayer is supernaturally natural It is as much a part of him as breathing. Prayer is not some special thing we do.It is a continual state of being.

1 Th 5:17 (NIV) pray continually

This state of continual contact with our heavenly father enables us to be instant in season and out of season. It constantly equips us for the challenges and surprises of this great adventure called life. We are not caught napping. As with physical exercise there are special times of strong exercise, e.g. games, jogging, weights etc to keep our bodies fit so also there are times in prayer when a special effort is required to keep our spirit life fit. However, notice that it is the daily physical moving on and getting things done that keeps us constantly healthy. Immobility results in the physical body wasting away. So also for the spiritual.

The word prayer has many meanings in the Scriptures. You will come to realise that the act of prayer involves the total life. Some of these meanings are:

i. to petition. to make a formal request, to make supplication. Dan 6:11 (NIV) Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.

ii. to intreat unmerited favour (grace is unmerited favour). Being sinful they did not deserve the grace of God. 2 Chr 6:37 (NIV) and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly

iii. to intercede: to plead on behalf of another. James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

iv. to bend low: Dan 6:10 (NIV) Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.Three times a day he got down on his kneesand prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

v. to cry out: Psa 55:17 (NIV) Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

vi. to ask: Psa 122:6 (NIV) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.

vii. to wish or desire: 2 Cor 13:7 (NIV) Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.

3. The Teachings of Jesus.

Jesus taught about prayer principally in the parables.

i. Be Importune. (Importunity=constant begging,solicitation)

(Luke 11:5-9 NIV) Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, {6} because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. {7} “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. {8} I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. {9} “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

The word ‘seek’ in verse nine has the sense of ‘seek and go on seeking’.

ii. Show Tenacity, persistence and continuity

(Luke 18:1-8 NIV) Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. {2} He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. {3} And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary. {4} “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, {5} yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” {6} And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.

iii. Show Humility and penitence (remorse for past conduct).

(Luke 18:10-14 NIV) “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. {11} The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. {12} I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. {13} “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. {14} “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

iv. The Need for Charity. (charity = kindly,lenient,forgiving)

Prayer by a forgiving spirit is the prayer God will answer

(Mat 18:21-35 NIV) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. {23} “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. {24} As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. {25} Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. {26} “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me, he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything. {27} The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. {28} “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me! he demanded. {29} “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back. {30} “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. {31} When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. {32} “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant, he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. {33} Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? {34} In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. {35} “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

v. Be Simple

(Luke 20:47 NIV) They devour widows houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”
(Mat 6:7 NIV) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

vi. Be in Unity

(Mat 18:19 NIV) “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

vii Expect a result

(Mark 11:24 NIV) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

4. Being Effective

We all need/want to have a prayer life that has reality and impacts upon those we love and ourselves in the bringing of God’s grace into our lives. We all seek the how ‘

James said about this problem: James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective..

Perhaps this is a good place to start. Notice how James follows this comment with a story about Elijah and uses it as an example of effective prayer. James points out that Elijah was human like us all and no different in his make up.

Elijah, a great prophet of God, yet he prayed for 31/2 years for rain before the rains came.

James 1:6-8 (NIV) But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

These words draw out another aspect of prayer. So we have three points

i. the need to be righteous. (right standing with God)
ii. the need to know God. (no communication if we are not known )
iii. no wavering about and changing our minds

Note that knowing about God is not knowing Him and being righteous is not being/doing our idea of what is right.

5. Thoughts on the ‘how to’

The disciples asked this of Jesus and His answer was: Mat 6:5-15 (NIV) “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This is well known as the disciples’ prayer. But note that there are two ways we can approach this teaching. The first as an instruction to use these words or second, as an instruction to pray using the ideas and simplicity of the example. We can of course use both understandings but there are dangers to be considered.

Mat 6:7 (NIV) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Mat 6:7 (KJV) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

a. We need to understand the meaning of what we are saying, i.e not use words and clichés out of unthinking habit. e.g. do we know what halleluiah means?? do we know what that oft used phrase in your name really means?

b. Our words needs to have relevance to NOW.

c. Just saying words; even the disciples’ prayer without any personal involvement in the meaning of what is said is hypocrisy.

d. What is worse:  saying of words without understanding is the way of witchcraft and the occult. Witches and warlocks use words without understanding to call on dark powers. The words have no meaning to them but are spells and charms in the spirit realm of the satanic.

e. No recited formula or vain saying of words can be called Christian prayer. We need to know what we say, mean what we say, believe what we say and and, most of all, sincerely desire to do and to be what we are saying.

For example: Do we know what we are saying when we say the disciples’ prayer? If not, better not to say it. It’s not a magic spell, but an act of worship and committal. (These remarks do not apply to prayer in the Spirit and the consequent use of tongues. These words do not come from YOUR mind they are given by the Holy Spirit as He chooses.)

6. Practical Things

Matt 6:7 (above) speaks about babbling like the heathens and vain repetitions. Watch for the following:

Habit Praying:
It is not meant here making a habit of praying, this can be helpful: Daniel is a good example of this dutiful aspect of our prayer life. We refer here to the ways of behaviour that liken us to a Tibetan prayer wheel. Turn it round and round with little or no awareness in our hearts.

—always sounding the same: this is vain repetition, we seem to develop a special prayer voice. Apart from being vain, it is also lacking in honesty. There is a need to be open and transparent before God.
—always doing the same thing: e.g. hands up in the air, standing up, sitting down, folded hands, eyes shut. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct you !
—pattern praying: always saying the same thing. e.g. beginning with the same words, using the same phrase over and over, using the same ideas, Please think about boring God. We know love suffereth long but there are courteous limits.
—don’t have a speed governor: vary the speed. Have a change of pace. Sometimes gaps in the delivery can be resting places for all.
—Try to be interesting and musical. Prayer is WORSHIP.

1 Cor 14:23 (KJV) The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Not good enough to say “I couldn’t help it”, or “The Spirit took over”, etc.
— The heavy breathing prayer.
— Shouting unreasonably. i.e. some find they need to have a shouting match with God as if He can’t hear. It can happen too when praying against the dark forces of evil. Note I have said ‘unreasonably’.
— Sonorous tones as if to impress all who hear as to their piety.
— Copying the big ministry or anyone else for that matter. Have you noticed that certain denominations tend to sound alike. Particularly within the Pentecostal groups.

— particularly of words. ‘Lord’, ‘Father’. This is a very common failing. I don’t think the Lord needs to be told that He is Father a dozen times in one short prayer. Mostly its just a bad habit and the speaker is using the word or words in place of ‘aah’ or ‘err’ while they get their thoughts together. PLEASE just be silent and think what the next word will be. God will not go away.

7. Be Definite

Decide what you want to say and don’t embellish the thought with any of the above. While praying speak as briefly and as clearly as you can the thought that is IN YOUR HEART. Pause and let the Holy Spirit instruct you further. He will if He has more to say. Finish with words from your heart NOT from your habits.

In all of 5 and 6 above there are many ways of behaving which are quite acceptable IF the Holy Spirit guides you to so behave. We can be moved to shout, or to behave in many different ways

Be careful to realise we have been talking about VAIN REPETITION not the very genuine and profitable manifestation of the Holy Spirit, which are given that the church may be edified.

8. Out of the abundance

Mat 12:34 (KJV) for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

This is the key to a victorious prayer life. This is the way to be constantly in touch with God because the heart that is full of good things overflows in praise and joy heavenwards.

The companion Scripture is: Mat 5:6 (KJV) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. We need spiritual food and spiritual drink in order to maintain an abundant heart, to be filled with the Word of God, to be filled with the Spirit of God.

If this call is answered in your experience then,Your heart will be filled and out of that abundance your mouth will speak as a righteous person. The result is effective and powerful prayer. Notice that the mood is active and imperative: no sitting and hoping, and no options.