Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Motivations for Prayer

(Note: I just read over this and perceived that it comes off like I’m trying to sound “Mr. Spiritual.” Please don’t read that. Truthfully, I’ve been under conviction for many months about my prayer life. It has not been what it needs to be. I’ve been going through the motions, sometimes rushing through prayer after reading the Word in my daily devotional time. This discipline is good for me, and my hope is that somehow it will encourage you!)

The first week that I prayed at the church from 6-8 AM from Monday until Thursday really was great. I have absolutely NO regrets—in fact, it has made a difference in my life. You’ve got to understand that I’m not naturally a morning person. I start early because I need to, not because I want to. My brain typically starts hitting on all cylinders around 10 AM and I tend to get really productive toward the end of the day. All my adult life I’ve asked God to help me be a morning person—and I envy those who naturally are!

So I say all that to say this: Thursday of last week, I struggled during the morning prayer time. I “fought” for the first 15-30 minutes. I’m not sure why. My thoughts were unsettled and I chased rabbits everywhere in my mind. I worked through the Lord’s Prayer as a model outline to “cover the bases” (I’ll try to blog on that method later). I finally “broke through” and had some really good heart communication with God for the next hour before becoming a little groggy. Note to self: I was up late Wednesday night—don’t need to do that again! So I took a break and walked out to get a drink of water. Then I was good for the last 15 minutes.

Since Thursday, I’ve been reflecting on my motivation. I’m determined not to let this become an empty discipline or a legalism. I’m not waking up this early for NOTHING!!

So I’m asking myself the question: WHY SHOULD I BE MOTIVATED TO PRAY? I’ve thought of a few things that might actually motivate Christians, and I think they are both historically and biblically sound, too!

Motivation #1: FEAR.
People tend to pray when they are scared. Some fear for personal loss: afraid they will fail a test, lose their job, have to sell their home; or worse, afraid they will lose a child or spouse. Some see the news and become afraid for our nation. Closer to home, we SHOULD fear what we see happening to our kids when they are enticed by the world. When we read the Bible (particularly books like Amos), we should fear God’s judgment of the lost, the wayward church, or ourselves because of sin! I’m not sure fear is a bad thing-in fact, I’m pretty sure this is a very GOOD thing. Sometimes God uses fear to drive us to pray.

Motivation #2: OPPORTUNITY.
If God is really moved by our prayers and actually acts in response to them, we are CRAZY not to pray. Millions of people lay down billions of dollars to play the lottery hoping they get wealthy, when they know their chances of winning are next to impossible! We, however, as God’s children, have the ear of Almighty God, who is the all-powerful, Maker of the universe and beyond! There’s nothing he can’t do and nothing he doesn’t own. And we have been told that he hears and responds to our prayers!

Motivation #3: INTIMACY.
When I pray, I commune with God and spend time in his presence. In other words, I hang out with HIM and talk to HIM! One big concern I have of our technological/informational age is the way it crowds out the simple, quiet time with God. God said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psal. 46:10). This is the opposite of our tendency today. We need our iPod blaring in our earbuds at all times we’re not engaged with people. We need to keep up with all 999 “friends” on facebook. We need to answer the constant stream of emails and watch youtube videos. We need to spend hours in front of our flat-screen HDTVs watching news, sports, comedy, and hundreds more channels that we pay hundreds each month to see! Sure, our enemy lures and tempts us with some of the content of the many different media to which we expose our minds. But more than the content, it is the time away from God that is just as hurtful. If the enemy can keep us distracted...occupied...busy, he’s got us. But when I put away the distractions and spend time alone communicating with God, I know him more and better. When I pray I “hear” from God’s heart. Not new extra-biblical revelation, but meditation concerning what I know about God—things I’ve learned about him in his Word—I understand him more. I sense his holiness. I feel his pleasure and his presence. When I know him more, my love for him grows.

Motivation #4: PLEASURE.
This one is linked to the previous. It does not take long in prayer before my priorities and tastes begin to change. When I am saturated in the world, I find myself longing for the things of the world. When I am in the presence of God I begin to see the world as it really is: shallow...stale...hollow...unsatisfying. Not so God’s presence. As Paul said, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
” (Rom. 11:33), and David:
“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).
When we pray, Not only do we begin to realize the vastness of God’s infinite attributes—we actually begin to take some of them on. We walk in his peace. We act in confidence. We show his meekness and gentleness. We start “dressing” like our Father. Again quoting Paul, “as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts... And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.... And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:12-17).
It is FRUSTRATING to be a Christian who continues to fail to become more like Christ, and EXHILERATING to be one who continues to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). The Christian who spends time with Christ has a distinct advantage of increasingly bearing Christ’s identity.

Motivation #5: POWERLESSNESS.
“Prayer is an unspoken confession of our utter dependence upon God. Prayerlessness is an unbroken testimony of our dependence upon the flesh” (R. Sprinkle). Truth is, I can do nothing on my own. I can’t even do what’s right when I try. I can’t insure my own safety, let alone that of my wife and kids! I am so feeble and helpless. So many things are out of my control. My health, the future, virtually everything! I certainly can’t change anyone else. I can’t do anything about our country. It’s depressing when I think about it. The only thing I can do is to ask my Father to act. He CAN do ANYTHING. In fact, he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). If I can’t do anything...and he can do everything...I am insane if I don’t pray.

Motivation #6: OBEDIENCE.
God has asked that we pray, and told us that he would act when we do. Here are just a few of the passages in the Bible that encourage us to pray:

Matthew 7:7-11
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Luke 18:1
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Ephesians 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

1 Timothy 2:1-8
1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray continually;

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

James 5
13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore 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.
17Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer

1 Peter 4:7
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

I want you to know that the last few mornings’ prayer time have been incredible! The time has FLOWN by. I’ve actually been shocked when I looked at my watch and saw it was past 8:00! I hope this encourages you to pray.

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