Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.
Through nature and revelation, through His providence, and by the influence of His Spirit, God speaks to us. But these are not enough; we need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual relationship with our heavenly Father. Our minds may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In order to commune with God, we must have something to say to Him concerning our actual life.
"Steps to Christ" E.G. White pg. 93
A Bible Study on Prayer - Heathen vs. True
Heathen concepts have crept into our thinking when it comes to religious practices and prayer is no exception. Many have heard that there is power in prayer. We may begin to think that in order to get God to hear us or move in our behalf, numbers are needed, or a way to prove our sincerity.
As an example we see in the story of Elijah upon Mt. Carmel that the king gathered many prayer warriors, called prophets, to invoke god to answer them by Fire. In 1 Kings 18:22 Elijah said
“I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
The prophets had been teaching the people of Israel that they were children of the true God, that god was the creator, the provider, the one that made the sun rise, the rain fall, and grew their crops. We see that the heathen prophets had large numbers, all gathered together in one place as the people watched and listened. They cried aloud and cut themselves all afternoon in an attempt to influence the god Baal to hear and answer. Surely he (Baal) could bring fire from heaven, right?
Let us take a look at the teachings on prayer from Jesus and look at examples in scripture. In Matthew Jesus said
"And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles (heathen) do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Matt 6:7&8 AMP
Notice that Jesus draws the contrast between the heathen approach to prayer versus talking to him from your private prayer closet in the attitude of speaking to "Our Father".
Our Father, the One that knows you so well He has counted the hairs on your head. He knows what you need even before you know it. Not only does He know what you need, He is working on helping you know. His desire is that you will ask for what you really need. He wants you to open your heart for Him to work in. Then He will delight in answering your request and accomplishing his work in and through you.
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus added this idea. After saying how parents desire to give good things to their children, like food instead of a stone, he said
"If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who ask Him!" Matt 7:11 AMP
“Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, but your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all." Matt 6:30 AMP
Then Jesus wanted to assure his disciples that they were loved and encourage them to ask in prayer for what they needed. He encouraged them with the knowledge that he and the father would be listening, ready to work with them, for them, and ultimately through them.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." Jn 14:12,13 NKJV
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
Jn 15:7 NKJV
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." Jn 16:23
Finally, just before He is arrested, He tells his disciples that the time is coming soon when their faith will be sure and steadfast in the Father's love and in His desire to help them. He says to them,
"At that time you will ask (pray) in My Name; and I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf [for it will be unnecessary]. For the Father Himself tenderly] loves you" Jn 16:26 AMP
So, is there power in prayer? Or is there power in the hand of God Almighty who will work for us if we will come to Him in faith? Where did this idea come from that we need to convince Him or talk Him into something?
Perhaps we should look into the story of Moses when it appears that he has to convince God to spare the people. We often misunderstand what is happening in the story where the people make a golden calf and worshiped it even after everything God did to bring them out of Egypt. The narrative in Exodus 32 shows God saying to Moses;
"I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation. ”Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people." NKJ
Read Daniel's prayer in Dan 9:1-19. Read it in multiple versions.
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