Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013

How then Shall we Pray? –

                     Reflections Regarding True Prayer (Part 2)

sheepfollowing

My sheep hear my voice …

.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)

.

.

.

My Fellow Pilgrims and brethren in Christ,

In the introductory scripture Jesus makes it very clear that if we are to be His disciples (His sheep) we must be able to: (1) hear His voice, (2) have a personal intimacy with Him, and (3) follow Him by obeying the directives He gives us for our lives.

We cannot do this without prayer – true prayer that is, prayer that enables us to fulfill our roles as His disciples.  The scripture cited also indicates to us that the primary purpose of true prayer is to affirm our spiritual union with Him and establish a clear and intimate channel of dialog so that He can communicate His person and His purposes with us in such a manner that we may come to know Him personally. In this way, by becoming His intimate partners in establishing the Kingdom, our obedience to His guidance will be performed out of a love-enabled spiritual relationship and NOT by obligation!

However, we cannot interact at the spirit level with Him, unless the spirit-self within us has been reborn by the Holy Spirit (Cf., John. 3:3-5). Without such a rebirth we humans are insensitive to the voice of our Shepherd. So the first thing the Holy Spirit does, when He draws us to Himself, is to awaken our spirits and lead us to Christ through conversion and baptism so that He may baptize us in the Holy Spirit and thus revive our spirit nature so that we can hear His Voice and thus enable us to respond to Him as truly His Sheep!

Unfortunately, due to the deleterious influence of the world, the spiritual awareness of all Christians has been dulled into insensitivity so that even most of our churches never really teach us laity how to move into the spirit realm but mainly teach us at the intellectual and devotional level in the hope that somehow our head knowledge will open the doors to a deeper spiritual awareness.

Because of this deficit of a truly reborn and mature spiritual sensitivity in us, our prayer life for most of us, has been stunted in that our prayers never enter the realm of the spiritual but, sadly, remain at the soulish mental and emotional level of expression and awareness, seeking only our own self-fulfillment rather the fulfillment of the Father’s will and purpose in our lives.

In general, for most of us, as a result of our current state, our communications with the Lord has become mainly routine one-way expressions of petitions or supplications for healing or assistance in our very day problems but lack the heart-felt loving intimacy of a child asking his or her father for help. Prayers, that, because of the Father’s loving faithfulness to His Promises, are answered according to His loving providence, but are nonetheless lacking in spiritual depth on our part.

Do not hinder themWhile there is no doubt we are in desperate need of His help in our affairs and, that He, as our Father, is more than willing to come to our assistance, our prayers become for us mainly a routine practice that lacks the intimate yielding, in love, of a child to the Father. And that, above all, is exactly what the Father is seeking of us, in our interactions with Him! It is as Jesus pointed out to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven”(Matt.18:3).

Remember, our spiritual growth is directly related to maintaining our child-like intimacy and relationship with Jesus and His Father – this can only be accomplished through “true” prayer.

In order to help those of you who feel a need to assess the state of your prayer life and are seeking to go to a deeper level with Jesus, I thus present to you a sequel to Jorge Madrid’s previous introductory article on the nature of prayer that may incite you to continue on your spiritual journey and a more intimate and personal relation wit the Divine.

With the author’s approval, Part 2 of his “Reflections Regarding True Prayer” follows this preface.

May the Lord move in you as you pray and read through this latest posting, all the while reconciling everything that comes into your mind and your heart with His Holy Word. Amen.

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013] )

+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+

Reflections Regarding True Prayer (Part 2)

By Jorge Madrid Sr. (AMDG)

Faith: The Foundation For Prayer

Faith is the prime requisite for prayer for scripture tells us that “…without faith it is impossible to please God because those who come to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).  Now one might then argue, “How is it then that unbelievers can become believers? Or how is it that God will answer the prayer of the skeptic: ‘God, if you’re there, help me now when I need you’”.

My words are spirit and they are truth

My words are spirit and they are truth

Let us answer the latter challenge first. His word tells us that He has placed the light of faith in every man (Jn.1:9, Rom.12:3). Even though it is as small as a mustard seed every person is born with at least the faith to cry out to God for help. However, each person can ignore that grain of faith and let skepticism and doubt control him/her and so quench the faith needed for prayer. There is a limit as to how far God will strive with man to keep this seed alive. Once this seed is dead through man’s own decision to reject God, the Lord is not obliged to revive faith again in that person. But God in His mercy and grace has given us His Word of Salvation to be proclaimed so that real living faith can be revived in the those who hear the word and receive it into their hearts (1Ptr. 1:23). This answers the first challenge as well because it is through the hearing of the Word of Life that unbelievers are brought to life through faith.

Now, although faith is necessary to enter into prayer, it is also true that prayer is needed for our faith to increase (Lk.17:5). For those who are seeking spiritual growth, prayer is essential. Prayer is the means through which our relationship to the Father comes to maturity, it allows us to be one in mind with Him and thus permits Him to work through us as He worked through His Son Jesus. In this way, true prayer permits us to discard the self and enter in through the narrow gate. Of course, in true prayer, we gradually surrender ourselves to His Grace so that we live out the results of our prayer by His strength and not ours. I say true prayer, because it is possible to deceive ourselves into thinking we are praying when we deny the Lord the privilege of working through our lives to produce fruit. Prayer that is not fruitful is merely quasi-prayer such as that of the Pharisee talking to himself (Lk. 11:18).

The Elements of Prayer

Communion in the Spirit

The next and foremost principle of true prayer is communion with God.  This is a communion that can only take place in the realm of the spirit. It is a communion that is unique because it is derived out of the spiritual relationship that we as Christians have with God as our Father through Jesus, His Son. Unfortunately, that level of communion is not often reached because we are unaware of the distinct modalities between spirit and soul. This lack of awareness keeps us from placing ourselves at the spirit level when we are praying. Children are able to pray more easily in the spirit because they are not hindered by the intellectual inhibitions with which we are afflicted as adults and thus have no problem in doing things strictly by faith (Mk. 10:14). As we mature as human beings, our rational faculties get in the way of interacting in the spirit because our minds begin to demand a reason behind everything we do whereas our spirit is an intuitive faculty. We also have certain expectations, which are engendered by our limited knowledge of God and His Word, and by the experiences we are having in the world.

Just as man is composed of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23), so also prayer may be thought of as comprising of form, content, and spirit. Just as in man, God intended the spirit to be the main driving and motivating force, so also in prayer, spiritual dedication is of the essence.  This is so because God is spirit and it is only in the spirit that we can attain communion with him (Jn. 4:24) situation without really getting down to our spirit level. That is, we are usually only at our soul level (rational or emotional) when we say this type of prayer. Because of this, the effectiveness of our prayers is very much diminished. Remember what Jesus quoted from Isaiah regarding the religious people of his day:  “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts (spirits) are far from me”(Mk. 7:6) When we pray therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we enter into the Presence of the Lord with all our hearts, for it is only in this state that our prayers will be truly effective. It is only when we are attuned to that Heart of God that our prayers will be His prayers. And if they are His prayers we can be assured that there will be a response.

Now, getting to the “spirit level” is where most of us have problems because the distinction between spirit and soul has usually not been clearly made in our religious education. As a result we confuse the “religious” efforts of our soul as being “spiritual” and thus we usually enter into prayer usually at the soul or mental level because that is where our intellectual faculties are focused. Without going into an abstruse theological discussion, just remember that, as baptized, converted Christians, all we need to do to enter into the spirit is to make a decision of the will by “faith” to enter into that dimension where we are in His Presence. It is by faith because we are making the decision not on what we have reasoned or what we feel, but on the Word of God, which tells us “ Come near to God and He will come near to you”(Jm.4:8). As Christians, by making such a sincere act of the will, in faith, can we enter into His Presence, because the Blood of Jesus has purchased the way to the Father.

When we make take this step make sure that you are in a place where you can honor your decision by quieting your soul and placing yourself apart from distractions. Once we are in His presence we should place our desire on Him and Him alone – yielding even the desire we had to pray to Him.

intercessory_prayer-1By yielding to His Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself is now free to pray through us (Rom. 8:26). Even though we begin our prayer in the natural, the Spirit begins to take over our prayer so that by the time we conclude, it has been His prayer and not ours.  The Spirit will do this gradually, thus imbuing our prayer with the appropriate content and form. The Word tells us that the Spirit assists us in our prayer because we are limited in knowing exactly what and how to pray in certain situations. Because we are so used to expressing ourselves in formula prayers, this may at first appear difficult. But once you experience the Spirit working in your prayers you will not only delight in it but you will be edified by what the Spirit is working in prayer through you.

If you wish, you could begin with the prayers you are comfortable with. Invest them with your yielding to the Holy Spirit, only don’t let yourself be bound by them. As you repeat them slowly and meditatively, let the Holy Spirit express himself through your words. Don’t be surprised if you begin praying something different than with what you started, As you continue in prayer, you will also find yourself at a point where there are no words to express what you sense is in your spirit. At this point don’t resist the Holy Spirit if there are words coming out of your mouth that don’t make sense to you. Express the words as they come. Don’t hold back. You will than find that the Holy Spirit is praying through you the sentiments that are in your spirit but for which you don’t have the words. This is called “praying in the spirit”. In this mode your spirit is bypassing your mental faculties (i.e., your soul) to express to God those precious sentiments that God himself has placed there just for that moment (1 Cor.14:14)).

Of course everything I have just stated is with respect to personal private prayer. However, without understanding the basis for private prayer and learning to pray at the spirit level, your ability to effectively participate in group or public prayer will similarly be diminished. In the personal mode of prayer, our conversations are between the Lord and ourselves. We need to set aside quality time for these conversations. If possible we should find a nice quiet spot where we will not be interrupted and most of all we need to quiet our soul so that our spirit is able to discern the Lord and what he is communicating to us. Initially, our time in prayer may be short. However, you will find that the more you practice this mode of prayer, time will become irrelevant to you as you delight yourself in the Lord and lose yourself in the Glory of His Presence. Praised be His Holy Name!

Content

When we pray, the content of our prayer embodies our objective. Underlying that objective, and usually unspoken, is the motive behind our prayer. When I speak of content, therefore, I imply both the objective and the motive of the prayer. When we are praying, even though we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, it is important that we form in our minds the content or objective of our prayer is in accord with the will of God. In judging whether the content is in God’s will, we must also assess our motives. An objective, by itself, might appear to be something that God would approve, but if our motives are self-centered, you can be sure that it is not God’s will (Jm.4:3). In general, if your motives and your objective are not based on love (the God kind of Love), it cannot be God’s will.

Word-of-GodFor this reason, it is very helpful if your prayers come out of your meditation on the Word of God. In this manner God Himself, through the Holy Spirit will form the appropriate content for your prayer so that it is in line with His will. Jesus tells us that “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (Jn 15:7). The key to effective prayer is to lead a life that is in Him. Before we pray for specific objectives for others we need to examine ourselves to ensure that we are “abiding in Him and in His Word”. This is another reason why the daily reading of the Word of God is indispensable. If you still find difficulty in assessing whether your motives are pure or whether your prayer objectives are in His will, you merely, initiate your prayer time with a prayer for wisdom. Asking for wisdom is clearly in His will (James 1:5) and your desire to be in His Will ensures that you will have an answer if you will only open your heart and listen to what he tells you.

Another concept we must also understand is that those prayers of petition that are motivated by the responsibilities the Lord has placed on our lives are usually free of self-centerdness and go straight to the Throne of God. As for instance, the prayers of parents for their children, of pastors for their congregation, and doctors for their patients. In general, prayers for others tend to have purer motives than prayers for ourselves. That is why James exhorts us to “pray for each other that you may be healed”(James 5:16).

When praying for healing we need also to ask for the wisdom as  to how to pray in these cases because, although our God is a Healing God, He alone knows the full circumstances of a person’s life. Pray that the Holy Spirit lead you into the appropriate prayer for that person. Sometimes through a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom you may see what might be hindering God’s work in that person and through your prayer seek release from the bondage holding that person from the fullness of the Lord’s Grace. It may be that in a particular case, He may permit the illness to take its course, not because He doesn’t wish to heal, but because it may fulfill something greater He wishes to accomplish in that person. Like his/her salvation. The Lord does indeed desire healing for all. The only question is how and when that healing takes place. Either here or in eternity.

Form

As one who appreciates the poetic, I find myself admiring well-written formal prayers, wishing I could pray that way.  Although I sometimes use formal prayers, I do not use them without a little bit of preparation. The reason for this is that the Lord wants our prayers to be from the heart and in order for formal prayers to be from our heart, we first need to meditate on each prayer until we can adopt it as our own. When you do that, the form becomes secondary. For that reason, although I may use the formal prayer to inspire me, I usually end up modifying the prayer or making up my own prayer as the spirit takes over. It usually does not read as well as the formal prayer but it is MY prayer from MY Heart and that is what is important to the Lord. Form is mainly important to us because it provides the framework for the content, it keeps us from uttering sheer nonsense, and it permits us to create a beautiful expression that glorifies the Lord. However, there are no explicit guidelines for the form of personal prayer in scripture. Instead we find that the form of the prayer is whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to pray when we are in submission to His leading. Daniel, when He prayed for discernment regarding the Seventy Years of captivity that was prophesied for Israel (Daniel 9:2-3 ), was led into the form of prayer that was appropriate and necessary to intercede for his nation. Similarly when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), Jesus provided them with an outline for a prayer that would enable them to minister in the Kingdom. In another place, Jesus indicated to His disciples that they needed to pray to the Father in His Name that they might receive. Jesus also told his disciples to keep their personal prayer private (Matt. 6:5-6) and to keep their prayers simple (Matt.6:7), other than that, He placed few constraints on form, His teaching on prayer mainly emphasized a heartfelt purity of objective and motive.

Now, we must keep in mind that praying to the Father in Jesus Name (Jn. 16:23-24) is not just an expression that we can tritely throw out at the end of our prayers without understanding its full implications. In the Hebrew culture, to use this idiom meant that you were the fully authorized representative of the person whose name you were claiming to speak for. So if you used this expression to do business for some important landlord it meant that you could transact any business in his name the landlord would fully support any decision you made. In using the Name of Jesus in petitioning the Father, you are basically asking the Father as if you were Jesus Himself! So before you can pray in His name you must be abiding in Him and He in you. If your spiritual state is such that you are not currently in fellowship with Him (1Jn1:6-7), then quickly and sincerely repent, confess your sin, ask forgiveness, and put yourself back in fellowship with Him. Then restate your prayer and boldly go before the throne because now you approach the throne not with your righteousness (which is garbage) but with the righteousness of Jesus (which is infinite holiness)! This is why praying in the Name of Jesus is all-important and why this should be the main guideline on form that is placed on our prayers. Praised Be His Holy Name!

From the examples of scripture, we see that we have a great deal of flexibility in the specific form of personal prayer as long as we are connecting with God, and our objectives and motives are pure. So be bold in your praying knowing that the Lord is not grading you on grammar, pronunciation, sentence structure, or poetic meter He only wants all of your love and He treasures the personal expression of that love in our prayers.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013])

+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+

 

For those whose spirit has been aroused and are hungry for God, I recommend the following links to continue your instruction in true prayer. May the Holy Spirit Guide you on your way. …  Bartimaeus

Recommended Links to an Enhanced Spirituality

The Promise of the Father

The Promise of the Father is for all that believe.

Prayer of the Inward Man: Praying in the Spirit

Releasing The Spirit

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Spirituality and The Mystic Dimension

The Art of Meditative Prayer

Music as an Aid to Transitioning to the Spiritual

Advertisements

Read Full Post »