Prayer - powerful, effective prayer - what is it? What kind of prayer pleases God? The disciples said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray...." (Luke 11:1) Most who are reading this message would love to be faithful in prayer - but don't know how. The problem is, we don't understand the purpose of prayer.
Most of us pray only out of a sense of obligation, or when tragedy strikesor a crisis hits. Prayer is not just for our own benefit, but for the delight of our Lord! We are not to intercede only for things we need, but to ask for the things HE desires. Our primary purpose in praying ought to be fellowship with the Lord. We need to enjoy sweet communion with Him.
So few Christians enter God's presence with delight. Some think of it only as "work." Yet, when we communicate with friends and loved ones here on earth, do we think of it as work? No, it's a pleasure to us! If you are happily married, you don't think of your times of intimacy with your spouse as "work."
How many marriages have been ruined by a mate who thought of intimacy as a duty? Yet Christ compares His relationship with His people to that of a husband and wife, and the Bible says Jesus delights in us! We need to get to the place in our lives where we would rather be with Jesus than with anyone else on earth. We need to long to be shut in with Him, because He is the only One who can satisfy us.
Christ is the Living Word of God. And when you are shut in with Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit will always lead you to God's revealed Word.
Coming to the Lord with delight does not mean we cannot come to Him with sadness and grief. Hannah is an example of a woman who came daily into the Lord's presence. She came to the temple, weeping with sadness. "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore." (1 Samuel 1:10)
Hannah shared her husband with another wife, Peninnah, who had borne several children. Hannah had remained barren, and Peninnah harassed her about it day and night. Hannah was dearly loved by her husband, but even he could not comfort her or solve her problem. He said to her "am I not better to thee than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8)
Part of God's plan for Hannah involved postponing her years of childbearing, thus God was moving ahead with His plan (her "night season").
Hannah was not afraid to come into the Lord's presence with her sadness, consequently we don't need to hide from the Lord. We don't need to run anywhere else. We need to run straight into His presence, and weep it all out before Him, telling Him everything we're going through and letting Him have all our sadness.
Each of us has faced times of barrenness when nothing comes to birth in our work, service, or relationships. It is difficult to pray in faith when we feel so ineffective - ineffective to the point where we are weeping continually and not eating (1 Samuel 1:7).
But, as Hannah discovered, prayer opens the way for God to work. The strength, power, and encouragement we receive from the Lord while shut in with Him must see us through the trials ahead. The victory we get in the "prayer closet" has to give us victory on the battlefield. Many of us see only half-answered prayers because we don't allow what we've received from the Lord in prayer to carry us through our trial.
When we go to prayer we must learn to listen. Throughout Scripture, anyone who was used by God remained in His presence until they heard from Him. I had the privilege of mentoring a precious sister in Christ during the last four years of her life. Dorene learned that she had cancer at the young age of 23. She was married with a young daughter. Chemotherapy, radiation, and long hospital stays became a way of life for her and her family. Through it all she grew intimate with the Lord, but she struggled in one area of her relationship with God. She held on to a lot of guilt from her past and had a hard time believing God had forgiven her.
Many days and nights we went to the Lord and cried out, not only for physical healing but for healing from the emotional wounds from her past. As she neared death's door, she struggled with the thought of dying and meeting the Lord with all of her "garbage."
While in the hospital the Lord gave her a dream. In the dream HE replayed her life with all the sins and hurts of her past taken out. What an awesome God we have! When she left to be with Him, she had total peace because she prayed through her struggle. She was determined that she was not going anywhere until HE had spoken to her heart! Our Lord is so faithful.
Dear Lord, help us to pray through all our trials and to listen closely to Your Spirit in our secret time with You. Help us to put all our confidence in Your revealed Word. Let our prayers be pleasing to YOU. Amen.
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