The Puzzle of Christian Partnership, Your Prayers

by Marlin Hoover

Your Prayers - The first piece of the puzzle

In any partnership there has to be communication. In today’s world there are lots and lots of ways this is accomplished (text, FedEx, e-mail, snail mail, voice mail, Friendster, Facebook, MySpace). Whatever happened to face to face?

The most basic definition of prayer is “talking with God.” Prayer is a one on one opportunity to talk with God. Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it’s talking with God. It’s the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions, desires, concerns and praises to God.

Prayer is a way to fellowship with God. We’re all guilty of bombarding God with our wants and wishes; gimme, gimme, gimme. We all want our prayers to be “answered,” so much that we only focus on the “results” of our prayers, and we lose sight of the incredible privilege we have in prayer, that people like us can actually speak to the Creator of the universe. Even more astounding is the fact that He listens and acts on our behalf.

Are we required to pray? — Yes, without a doubt.

Do you have a prayer life?

How would it make us feel if someone we love never spoke to us, never responded and turned their back when we tried to talk to them? You never get an “I’m sorry” when they know they’ve hurt you. We showered them with gifts, but never got a thank you? We long for any words expressing their love, but we only get silence. This would be the absence of a prayer life, the prayer piece of our puzzle is missing.

You can’t even start putting your puzzle together without first having the prayer piece, it’s that important. 1 Thessalonians 5:16—18 says: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Who controls the conversation?

We all know one, there are the people that you love that don’t shut up, they talk your ears off. They’re the chatterboxes, loud mouths, windbags, motor mouths, blabbermouths, the yippers - yappers, ramblers and gossipers. They will cut you off or talk right over you to keep control of the conversation. They ask: “Do you think I talk too much? We really need to talk about it if you do.” Matt. 6:7—8 says: “And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Is our prayer life just a means to deliver a wish list?

Another problem we can have with our prayer puzzle piece is praying with selfish desires and wrong motives. There are people like the kids you see in a store, constantly at their parents side: gimme, gimme, gimme, I want this, can I have that, why not, WAANH. Most of us have a BIG wish-bone but very little back-bone when it comes to our prayer life. We pray for an easy life, for God to solve all of our worldly problems, to provide for all of our wants and wishes. James 4:3 says: “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Do we just talk about ourselves?

It might be that a big part of our prayer puzzle piece is missing. Our prayers shouldn’t be just about us. Our prayer life has to include intercessory prayer. What is intercessory prayer? Intercession is the act of intervening on behalf of someone who is having difficulty or is in trouble, pleading or petitioning for their case. Intercessory prayer is simply praying for someone other than yourself. Just as Jesus prayed for his disciples and other believers, Scripture makes it clear that all Christians are to pray for others.

1 Timothy 2:1 says: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…”

For most of us, praying for others tends to run along these lines: Lord, provide my friend with a job, a car that runs, good health, and safety. If we really know someone well, we might pray for his or her marriage or other relationships. There is nothing wrong with praying for these things, however, most of the prayers recorded in the Bible are of another type. When Jesus was praying for others, He prayed for their faith, He prayed against temptation in their lives, He prayed for their unity, and He prayed that they would be freed from sin. Paul prayed for the salvation of the lost; he prayed that the brothers would stay on the right path; he prayed that believers would be strengthened by the Spirit, rooted and grounded in love, able to comprehend God’s love, and filled with the fullness of God. These are all prayers for spiritual blessings; not answers for worldly worries.

Are there prayers that God refuses to hear? Yes.

I’m sure at one time or another we have all been asked to participate in some activity we knew was wrong. Did we? When we find ourselves in trouble because we put ourselves into circumstances we knew we shouldn’t be involved in, first thing we do is pray for help. Proverbs 28:9 says: “If you refuse to obey what you have been taught, your prayers will not be heard.” In this verse, heard means more than God just isn’t perceiving the sound we’re making. Here it means He isn’t listening, it means that God isn’t paying any attention to our prayers. We knew better than to play with matches but did anyway and are now crying because we’ve been burned. God has no desire to hear our flimsy excuses.

What does your prayer piece of the puzzle look like, which side is up?

If this is your prayer life or if your prayer life is nonexistent, this piece of the puzzle is certainly not righteous side up and the possibility of your partnership puzzle being properly put together is on a wing and a prayer.

Just like some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers, some of His greatest pleasures are unspoken prayers. We need to make sure that our prayers aren’t just babbling about a bunch of meaningless stuff or a wish list of pleasurable things that we want. Do we look at our prayer life as a nership, a friends- with- benefits partnership; an ask-and-you-shall-receive-with-no-strings-attached relationship? If you only pray when you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble. There is a lot more to prayer than asking for things. Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one. Pray for each other. We need to pray hardest when it’s hardest to pray.

We have to be fully invested in our prayer life. This requires giving God praise, showing your love, confessing your short comings, it’s sharing with God everything. How would it make you feel if someone you loved never asked for forgiveness; never was thankful; never just shared their feelings, good or bad; never listened to your guidance or encouragement? Prayer is not defined as talking to God, it’s talking with God. Prayer is not a one way conversation. Jesus didn’t just talk, he listened. He listened to God’s answers. He prayed!

How do you pray?

P Praise God for who He is and for all that He has done.
R Repent for all of the sins that you have committed and the commands that you have neglected.
A Ask for the needs of others and for your needs. The key word here is “needs” not “wants”.
Y Yield your will to God’s will. Pray that in all things that God’s will be done.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is prayer?
  2. When should I pray?
  3. Is there a right way and a wrong way to pray?
  4. What is the sinner’s prayer?
  5. Does God hear silent prayers?
  6. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 it tells us to pray without ceasing. How can we do that? What does that mean?
  7. What makes you a prayer warrior?
  8. How many times should we pray for something?
  9. What do we do if our prayers aren’t answered or answered the way we want them to be answered?