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Many times, we don’t even recognize we have all these weird ideas when it comes to prayer. It’s like when you ask someone about the weather, marriage, money or ask them about whatever, everybody has an opinion.
The challenge is that we think that having an opinion and being an expert are synonymous. They are two separate and entirely different things. There are a lot of myths that we have surrounding prayer that need to be deconstructed and debunked so we can really understand the essence of what prayer is all about.
Why? Because we want to pray and we want God to answer our prayers.
We begin to discover the essentials of prayer in Luke 11:1, where it says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ ”
This disciple, who was questioning Jesus about prayer, recognized that he was lacking something that Jesus had when it came to prayer. And he wanted to be able to talk to God in such a way that he would have the confidence that God was hearing him.
Put yourself in the position of this same disciple as he said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This tells us that prayer can be taught. And learning how to be powerful on bended knees can be taught.
Let’s look at three essentials of prayer.
PRAYER REQUIRES A RELATIONSHIP
Jesus taught that before you ask God for anything, you need to acknowledge that you indeed have a relationship with Him. Remember Luke 11 where the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.’ ” Notice the order. The requests for daily bread, the meeting of your needs, is secondary.
What’s primary is a relationship. When you pray, you must be able to say, Father. Jesus isn’t saying that in terms of religious jargon. Jesus is saying that you frame a request not based on you asking a request, but you first acknowledge a relationship with God.
The word “father” is a Greek word “patéras,” which means one whom has begotten you by whom you have been begotten. When you have become begotten of God, born of God, you have a relationship with God that gives you the right, the responsibility, the legal basis to go and ask God for whatever it is that’s on your heart.
John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did accept Him and believe in Him He gave the right to become children of God. They did not become His children in any human way—by any human parents or human desire. They were born of God.”
The Bible is making a distinction between God’s creation and God’s children.
When you are a child of God, it means that you’ve believed in Christ. You have
accepted Christ as your savior. And by believing in Christ and accepting Christ as your savior, you then become categorized as being born of God.
When I accepted Christ as my savior, I was born of God, which moved me from being God’s creation into becoming God’s child.
Let me ask you the question, are you a child of God? Or are you merely His creation? When you’re a child of God, you’re a creation of God, but you have another status, a higher status. You’re a child of God.
Jesus says that when you pray, prayer doesn’t begin by making a request. Prayer doesn’t begin with religious jargon. Prayer begins with a relationship with God.
When you’re a child of God, you can go to your heavenly Father, and layout your requests. And your heavenly Father doesn’t look at you as transactional. If you’re not a child of God, any request is transactional and just based on the kindness of God. God has no obligation towards you. But when you’re a child of God, that puts you in a whole ’nother category.
Think about it this way.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is arguably the richest man in the world. He became
the first centibillionaire, meaning $100 billion. It’s a lot of money, a lot of shekels. Imagine Jeff Bezos walking on a city street and some kids come up to Mr. Bezos and ask for a hundred bucks. A hundred bucks is nothing to a centibillionaire. Do you think for a moment that Jeff Bezos will go into his pocket and give those children a $100 bill or even a dollar bill?
He has no obligation towards them other than the kindness of his heart, which is not obligatory. But what if any of his four children approached him and said, “Dad, we want to go to the mall. Can you give us some money?” He would go into his pocket and pull out some money. Why? Because those four young people are his children.
I want you to see the difference. Jesus is making it plain that the beginning part of prayer is not your request, rather, it is your relationship.
God wants you to become His child. He’s totally committed to helping you transition from being one of his creation, to becoming one of his children. If you make that jump, then you have all the bases in the world to pray to God and experience God’s big heart towards you.
If you stay in the category of merely being His creation, you’ll get angry at God. You’ll get upset because prayers are not answered. You’ll get upset because you say God doesn’t care. You’ll get upset because you will say God is disinterested and you look at prayer like a lottery that maybe you’ll pray the winning prayer and get the answer.
You don’t have to look at life in that kind of broken way.
Make the switch and become not just a creation of God, but a child of God.
PRAYER MAKES A REQUEST
It’s not prayer if there’s no request. It’s not prayer, if there’s no ask. It’s not prayer if there’s no need that you have. Jesus taught us that praying is asking God for our daily bread. Think about it.
The disciples approached Jesus in Luke 11:1 and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Then Jesus unpacks His answer more fully in Luke 11:9-10. He says, “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. For everyone who ask receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we ought to have confidence. But when you take a step back from these verses, what you see is there’s nuances to prayer, levels of prayer. It’s oftentimes like human conversations. Our conversation varies based on the level of maturity of the person that we’re conversing with.
Think about when we talk with children. My kids are adults now, but when they were toddlers, I would not know anything about their needs unless they would either point, cry or make gargling sounds. I had to decipher their cry and decipher their gargling, because they weren’t able to speak.
But as a father, my heart is so big and full of concern for my children that I’m not concerned about their ability to articulate their requests or even frame the request in a right way or in a way that maybe even pleased me. I’m so concerned with meeting their needs that when they ask, they receive.
Jesus is giving us three levels of how we make requests that is based on our maturity and on our understanding of prayer.
When you’re a spiritual babe, you ask. And it’s almost as if, as you’re asking, that it’s happening. Through that, God’s building your confidence, God’s building your faith, God’s building your trust in Him.
But watch now. Just like with human conversation, that toddler becomes a teenager. If my children, when they were teenagers came to me and gargled, I would think they’re crazy. If they came to me and cried, I’m not going to be moved by that. Because I want them to mature and grow up so they can articulate their concerns.
My children were very shy growing up, and when my wife and I and our two daughters would go to the restaurant, they would look to us to place their order for them because they didn’t even want to talk to the waitress or waiter. And it got to the point where we said, we’re not going to place any orders for you. If you don’t speak for yourself, you’ll just sit there hungry.
The next time we went out, we sat down with our daughters and they looked at the menu and figured out what they wanted. The waitress came around and I placed my order after Marlinda, my wife, placed hers. Then it came to Jessica, one of our daughters, and it was her turn. She looked at me and I looked down to ignore her. She looked at her mother and she looked down. And then Jessica was forced to articulate her request in a way that made it plain. And if she missed certain things, she had to correct it. So the same thing with Danielle, our other daughter. We had to do that in order to help them mature when it comes to prayer.
God doesn’t want little squeaky kids running around not knowing how to pray. You have to understand prayer requires you to move from just understanding how to ask, and at times, knowing how to seek.
When my children were teenagers, I gave them $50 to go to the mall. That was a lot back then, 50 bucks is like $5 nowadays. If they misused it, the pockets are closed, I would say to them. When they come to me, and asked for more money, I would say, it looks like you have a problem. What are you going to do?
My job is to train my children up in a way that when they become adults, they can be self-sufficient and live within their means. That’s my job.
And so I want you to see when it comes to prayer, God wants you to be able to function in such a way that when you’re praying and you ask, and there is no response, you move it to another level which is seeking, which requires discovery.
It requires searching out just like what has to happen when you’re a young adult. You’re searching out, you’re investigating, you’re questioning and you’re looking for an answer.
You have to recognize that sometimes God is not answering you as quickly and straightforwardly as you’d want Him to. He’s answering you by giving you wisdom, by giving you strategy, by giving you insight, by giving you the issue to understand long-suffering patience and discipline.
There are many ways that God’s answering our prayers, but it requires maturity to understand. Jesus says, ask and you shall receive. And if you don’t receive, when you ask, move it to level two. Seek and you shall find. And when you seek, it means that you’re looking in an investigatory way.
Jeremiah spoke to this. He says in Jeremiah 29:12-13, “When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you if you seek me with all your heart and all your soul.”
Level one, praying, I ask. Almost like a toddler, almost like someone who is immature and God answers.
Level two, I seek. If God wants me to pursue Him in order to find an answer in prayer, I can’t argue the structure of prayer or the principle of prayer, or the methodology of prayer. My job is not to argue with how it was designed. God designed. My job is to recognize that I need to seek God and then seek Him with all my heart.
How do you seek God with all your heart? I make sure that I’m not distracted. I turn off the television, I turn off my noise-making devices. I turn those devices off. I give my full attention to God. And when I’m seeking God in prayer and worship, I’m asking God for insight and strategy as to what I need in order to be able to see the Lord answer prayer.
Then there’s level three of prayer.
Knock and the door shall be open to you.
Jesus is telling us, in essence, that there might be some resistance, there might be something blocking and hindering your prayer. It’s almost as if Jesus is framing this third level of prayer as if there is spiritual warfare going on. And when you have sought God, but not received an answer, you must turn up the heat, so to speak, and go into this spiritual warfare mode where it may require fasting.
It may require extended time periods of praying. It may require those kinds of things. Why? Because what you need is spiritual fighting and hitting at this thing every day until it breaks.
PRAYER GAINS A REWARD
God gets no glory out of an unanswered prayer. Could you imagine God strutting around heaven and saying, “Today, I didn’t answer five billion prayers”? There’s no glory that God gets out of unanswered prayers.
Jesus said this in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go to your room. Close the door. And pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private will reward you.”
There it is. Prayer gains a reward. Jesus promised it to us.
He’s saying, don’t let prayer be something where you’re looking to gain attention or looking to have public notoriety. He points to the private side of prayer, the side of prayer that speaks of authenticity. The side of prayer that speaks of someone having a devotional life with God and who is in a relationship with God in private. God sees you and he will reward you. I want you to recognize how prayer gains a reward.
I want you to see prayer gains a reward.
That’s why I’m asking you to establish a relationship with God and then make your request.
James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
What are the results that you need, that you have sought and you’re seeking God for? Be confident. We serve a God that says your prayers move me. Your prayers have authority in My throne room. Your prayers can move Me to do things and make a way that nothing else can do.
I want you to be so assured in this reality.
God calls you and me to move Him through prayer. And the essentials of prayer are simply this:
Prayer requires a relationship.
Prayer makes a request.
Prayer gains a reward.
May you become a champion on your knees and seek the face of God in prayer.