+ Prayer: Unleash the Power + " Don't be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you pray to Him! Pray like this: ' Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory; forever and ever. AMEN." +MATTHEW 6:8-13+ + POSTURE + Early on in my walk of faith, I struggled to grasp simple concepts like: how to pray, what to pray, what wording to use, how to approach prayer, whether I was to pray aloud, or whether I should do so silently. True, Jesus gave us an excellent standard; but it seemed to me very limiting and impersonal to simply repeat this same prayer over and over. All too often believers have become tradition focused, simply going through the motions for the image of obedience rather than having true, heartfelt communion with God. That being said, I felt conflicted; on one hand Jesus literally said "Pray like this," yet on the other hand, I did not want to become another ''automaton," who simply reiterated the same mantra over and over. It confused me, because just before this passage in verse 6 we are told to be separate and solitary so that it is just us and God; and yet Jesus often prayed aloud right in front of folks. It baffled me that though He said to pray this specifically, not a single other prayer of His repeated this word for word. Furthermore, I saw some believers pray aloud, others insist it must be done silently, and yet others told me it makes no difference. For quite a while I felt clumsy, embarrassed and simply uncomfortable praying. However, as I grew in Christ, studied the scriptures and simply received things of God; the picture became far clearer. At some point I finally realized that while there is benefit in simply reiterating this prayer word for word, whether aloud or not; Jesus wasn't telling us "the one proper way to pray," but giving us a pattern to follow, so our prayers would be intentional and directed in orderly fashion. He was also making a statement about priorities in prayer, and giving us an example of spiritual posture. Let us break this prayer down into its elements so we can understand what was actually being taught. First, note that the priority in beginning prayer was ensuring we direct prayer to God, its proper recipient. Second, note how the next item is to give credit to God for who He is; praising His hallowed and holy nature. Third is acknowledging His kingdom, and praying that it be His will alone that is done; not ours, not man's...His will. Fourth, is finally asking after our particular needs; "daily bread," isn't exclusive to a loaf of barley, but is symbolic of our basic needs and specific petition. Fifth, we ask for our own forgiveness; but only in the same measure we forgive others. Many believers in the past have robotic-ally uttered these words completely unaware that it’s actually a stipulation for our own forgiveness. Sixth, is a request for His providence and protection against sin, Satan, and the evil that threatens us constantly. Seventh, once again; is simply redirecting the focus, praise and glory back to God. It is important that we grasp the critical nature of beginning and ending with God. While this prayer is a general pattern, illustrating that we need not endeavor to fill our supplications with needless filler; the first and last priority is giving God His due and praising/worshiping Him for who He is. The "in between," is not as critical, so long as the elements are all there. The primary principle here is not the wording, but the posture of prayer. It’s being humble and remembering that we are man, He is God; and only in a reverent and worshipful posture can we approach God with any hope of favorable answer. + INTENT + " You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you cannot possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure." +JAMES 4:2&3+ Anything we ask of God that is contrary to His will is a petition we are sure to have returned with a big "NO!" stamped on it. The intention of our heart and the attitude of our approach are critical to our ability to find power and providence in return on our prayers. Much of the time we feel God has not heard or answered our prayers; the reason is simply because we are asking the wrong things, or the right things for the wrong reasons. In these times we must realize that simply because we don't get our expected response, that doesn't mean God didn't hear or didn't answer; it simply means the answer was no, or not yet. This is why we must be brutally honest with ourselves when we take a moral and spiritual inventory; else we will develop and retain the wrong attitudes and intentions. There are times we might be hurting, angry, jealous, bitter or otherwise in the grips of ungodly emotions and attitudes; and in those times it is easy for us to blindly send prayers that reflect these things, or at the least compromise the integrity of our prayers. I know I've encountered moments where I have allowed emotions to dictate the prayers and prayer approach as I sent petitions up to heaven. We must use caution in this manner, because in wishing ill upon others, prayer brings us under the need for discipline; and the Lord is quite stern when He must reprove us in this area. There are however, a few things we can do to prevent this type of scenario from playing out. First, if we are experiencing extreme emotion of any sort; it may help to seek the Word of God so that the Spirit can wash and renew us, to break the hold these emotions have on us. Second, when we first begin our prayer; let our first priority be to confess our weakness and inability to let the emotions go, and ask for His help releasing us from their hold. Third, (and this is my favored method,) spend some time listening to spirit filled worship and praise music. There is simply such a chain breaking power in the attitude and posture of praise and worship towards God that negative emotions just cannot stand against. Additionally, if we pray prayers that are according to God's will and character; we can be sure to receive a response. Daily and persistent bible study is the best way to know how God feels on a matter; to see the character and approach He employs in His actions and interactions. When we know what He says, the promises He has issued;( since his word cannot come back void, Isaiah 55:11) He literally has no choice given His nature to be accountable to Himself and answer. This may seem “manipulative,” but I would remind us of the fact that when an item is according to God's will, and based on His Word/promises; it is His own Word providing the leverage. + Faith and Trust + " But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds..." +JAMES 1:6&7+ This principle is perhaps the most widely covered and oft repeated or implied principle relative to prayer; and for good reason. In LUKE 8:40-48 we see a beautiful illustration of the type of faith that is sure to invoke a response from God. A woman who had a blood issue for 12 years was healed when she merely touched the fringe of Jesus' robe. His exact words to her in response were, " Daughter, your faith has made you whole." There is also the story of the gentile woman, whose daughter was possessed by a demon, in MATTHEW 15:21-28. The woman was a gentile first of all, which meant she had no business even talking with a Jewish person; much less petitioning one. Even though Jesus initially rejected as the gift was first to be given to God's chosen people, she kept begging him. She had such complete faith, that she believed even the smallest virtue from Christ would deliver her daughter and she simply would not be deterred. Another example is in MATTHEW 8:5-13 when a Roman officer's servant was healed without Jesus even being present. The soldier felt that he was not worthy to have Christ enter his home, so he implied that if Jesus merely said it was done; that it would be. You see, when Jesus simply said it was done, the official didn't argue, he simply trusted Jesus at His word; and due to that faith, the servant was healed. Jesus not only healed the man's servant, but He made it a point to proclaim to all the Israelites nearby that the Roman officer's faith was '“greater, “than that of anyone He had found in all of Israel! There is a common saying, which goes: " The power to believe is the power to achieve." This simple adage is a perfect and blunt reflection of the law of faith in regards to prayer. How great is our faith? Do we trust in Jesus...in God no matter what the circumstances are? Well these three did, and they received exactly as they asked. We do well to keep these examples in mind. It is at this point I must temporarily change course, because there is a critical concept here that may be peripheral; yet it is critical to understand the nature of faith in regards to prayer. In this last example, note that Jesus called the officer's faith "great." Now let’s look at an opposing situation. In MATTHEW 17:14-20 the disciples failed to remove a demon from a boy, and asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon. His response was that it was due to their "small, " faith. However, right after that He said that if they had the faith of a mustard seed, they could make mountains move. Now keep in mind, a mustard seed is quite a tiny thing, so if they only needed tiny faith; how was it that their faith was "too small,"? The principle here is not relative to size, but quality of faith. By using the words "great, " and "small," Jesus was not referring to the actual "size," of their faith; but the quality. In all three examples listed above, the recipients had completely unwavering, sold out faith in Jesus. They all believed in Jesus' power and willingness so strongly that nothing would deter them. With the disciples, one gets the impression that they were still adjusting to the power given them; and thus, there were doubts that prevented the expected reaction. Quality of faith is paramount. + Patience and Persistence + " Don't be afraid Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for 21 days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way." +DANIEL 10:12&13(a)+ Before we delve into this principle, please allow me to give some background information that is relevant. Daniel had remained in prayer for 21 days straight; fasting and drinking only water. Even though he did not receive a response right away, he remained in prayer the full 21 days; which happened to be the exact time it took for the angel to fight through the enemy to deliver the response. Even then it took the aid of Michael, an archangel; simply to break through the enemy lines. Though it would seem to most that God didn't hear or was not answering; Daniel did not let his faith waver and continued praying, confident God would respond. I praise the Lord Almighty for that kind of faith! Truly I would be hard pressed to go 21 minutes in prayer without wanting a doughnut or something! There was a season in which I was having difficulty finding work, but I took a peculiar approach. Each day I would thank God for giving me a job. I would thank Him for directing my steps, for opening doors, for allowing me to find favor, and for granting me the job He wanted me to have. Each day, even though I had yet to see any response; I would repeat this process, thanking God in advance. Sure, I had to fight the urge daily to give up, and stop praying thanks for something that apparently wasn't coming; but I didn't. After a few weeks of praying this prayer daily, I was given a job at the church I was attending. I was on payroll simply for serving God! There are times when our answer will also be obstructed by the enemy, but we cannot let the outward appearance dictate the state and direction of our faith. There will be times when our answer is immediately given, but the receipt of it is delayed in order for God's greater plan to be accomplished. There will be times when our answer is given; but it is given according to God's timing, not necessarily our own convenience. There will also be times when we are given an answer, but it is not what we expected, so it may be harder to recognize it for what it is. We may ask for money, but God may give us a new job; we may ask for a car, but God may give us a carpool option; or a job opportunity closer to home. Our answer is not always what we expect it to be; and God often gives us more of what we actually need as opposed to what we think we need. Just because it is not what we expect does not mean it isn't an answer. There was a time early in my walk I really struggled with addiction; and I just couldn't find the strength to resist. So I prayed daily for two months to be delivered of the chains of addiction, but the answer wasn't what I had anticipated. I ended up getting arrested on an old misdemeanor warrant and had to spend a couple months in county jail. At first I was mad at God, feeling like it was unfair; here I was, going to church, praying and studying daily, holding a job, and at least wanting to quit the drugs...and He lets me go to jail. However, 24 hours in I realized, God had answered my prayer. Knowing I did not have the strength to quit on my own; He removed me from the environments and temptations altogether! The time spent in jail provided the foundation for sobriety I could not get outside those walls. Though it was not what I expected or preferred; God did answer my prayer. Additionally, in LUKE 18:1-8 we see another concept in the parable of the persistent widow. This widow sought a judge for vindication against a man who had hurt her, but the judge didn't want to hear it at all. However, she kept going back in front of the judge time and time again; and eventually he gave her what she wanted simply to be free from her daily pestering! How many of us have told our children "No," again and again on a matter; but eventually gave in to simply have peace? Our Father is not so different. I was once told the story of a man who wanted to see things in the spirit realm as God saw it. He prayed for the spiritual sight to see, but God said no. Yet the man kept praying and praying and praying; to the point that eventually God granted his request. However, once his eyes were truly opened, the man saw just how surrounded by evil and demonic spirits he was. Long story short-he prayed until God removed the spiritual sight! In the end folks, we can have a life of powerful, fulfilled prayer; the power may be in God's hands, but the potential is in our own. We can lament the lack of answer to our prayers, or we can actively do something about it. It is up to us to have the right preparation, posture, attitude, intent, patience, persistence, trust and faith in God; in who He is and what He is capable of. It does not matter whether we pray out loud or in the quiet stillness of our hearts; as God knows what we need and what we intend to ask. It doesn't matter how fancy or crude our prayers are, for as we are told, "We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit lives continually to intercede for the saints...,". It is not the wording that matters, it is not the eloquence that matters; it’s the quality and direction of our faith; it’s the attitude and intention of our requests; it’s the patience and persistence with which we petition of God that matter. May our Father in heaven lead us into a life of fulfilled promise, abundant blessing, and perpetually answered prayer. May His presence, providence, and love always grant us a good return on what we ask of Him. WE pray these things in the blessed name of Jesus...AMEN!!