Do you struggle in connecting to God? Learn how to build and maintain a more effective and meaningful relationship with Him.
Over the years I have sat with people suffering great distress as they make statements like: "My prayers seem to go no higher than the ceiling," or "Why doesn't God answer my prayers?" or "I know I should pray more, but life is just so busy."
Have you ever struggled with those kinds of issues? At the very core of your being, you are designed with a need for an intimate relationship with God. I mean, you want God to hear your prayers, understand and answer your needs.
But how can we relate to God? God is all-powerful. We are weak. God is eternal and our physical lives are just a blink in time.
Well today, we're going to help you work through those times when you feel like asking, "Where Are You God?"
[Announcer] Join our host, Gary Petty on Beyond Today!
[Gary] Where are you God? Have you ever asked a similar question?
Sometimes all of us struggle with how to relate to God. I mean He is the creator of the universe--the Almighty--while we face our physical limitations and seemingly unsolvable problems all the time.
Well today, we're going to look at six important building blocks of prayer that will help you have a more effective and meaningful relationship with God. You can have the faith that God is always there--even when you don't understand maybe what He's doing.
What is your motivation for approaching God in prayer? Are you a "genie in the bottle Christian" who primarily approaches God to fulfill your personal desires and needs? Or maybe, you're a "stormy day" Christian who ignores God until something bad really happens in your life and then you run to Him for help. Then there's the "well, when I get around to it" Christian. This person always intends to pray, but is constantly distracted with the immediate issues and problems of life.
If you have any of these approaches to prayer, then you will not experience a daily, meaningful relationship with God. You know in reality, all of these approaches to God, they take Him for granted.
God inspired the prophet Isaiah to write, "‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place [of] My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the LORD. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word'" (Isaiah 66:1-2 Isaiah 66:1-2  Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me? and where is the place of my rest?
 For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×).
You know, you can't be a "genie in the bottle," "stormy day" or "when I get around to it" Christian and tremble at the Word of God.
Do you really understand what it means what it means when the Creator of the universe, the perfect righteous God, allows you to come before His throne? Prayer is not a right. It's a privilege granted through the mercy of God. I mean let's face it, who of us has the power to climb up to God's throne, knock on the door and demand an audience?
Our first building block of prayer is: You must approach God with a sense of humility and awe.
In Revelation 4 the apostle John is given a vision of the throne of God. In this vision, John sees a majestic Being of light sitting before what he calls a sea of glass with sights and sounds he could only describe as lightnings and thunderings and voices. Angelic beings are constantly coming and going before this throne.
This is the God you come before when you pray. Before you mumble the next sleepy-time prayer, read Revelation 4 and know that this is God.
You know another important thing you can do in grasping the wonder of God is to take time in your busy schedule to think about the vastness of God's creation. When you approach the Almighty--be small.
The second building block is: Don't make prayer a ritual.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7 Matthew 6:7But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
American King James Version×).
If you struggle with what to say to God, instead of just reciting the Lord's Prayer over and over, or repeating some ritualistic words, it may be helpful to create a prayer list, or even keep a prayer journal, which will help you express your thoughts and emotions to God.
I mentioned what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructed His disciples on how to pray. He told then to pray in this manner: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13  After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×).
Jesus didn't mean that these words were to be recited as some kind of magical formula. Before giving this outline for prayer He had just told His disciples not to repeat the same words over and over. Notice, what Jesus is giving is an outline of how to pray--not just to recite so many "Our Fathers." You begin your prayer by honoring God, praying for His Kingdom to come and asking for His will to be accomplished in your life.
It is then that we ask for our needs. It's not selfish to ask God for your physical needs or wants, but it must be in the context of first honoring Him and asking for His will to be done in your life.
You are to pray for forgiveness, and in this heartfelt request for forgiveness from God, also forgive those who mistreat you. How many times do you go to God really acknowledging your sins and asking forgiveness? How many times have you gone to God asking for forgiveness for someone who mistreated you?
Jesus then said to pray to God for protection against sin and evil. He ends His prayer outline by acknowledging the power and majesty of God--the One you're praying to.
You know, I've talked with people who spent years reciting the Lord's Prayer every day, but it wasn't until they realized that God wanted them to personalize their prayer, using Jesus' teaching as an outline, that they finally experienced a connection with God.
Jesus doesn't give us a ritual that magically causes God to react to us. What He gives us is an outline that helps us relate to God.
Now some of you will be asking, what is the best position for prayer? Well you should spend time on your knees, praying in humble appreciation and worship of God. There are times when you stand in respect towards God especially in a public prayer. There are also times when you talk with God as you walk, you work, or lay in your bed.
An older minister who was very wise, who I respected from men years ago was asked the question, what is the best position for prayer? He answered, "If you fall in a well and get your foot caught in a rope so that you're hanging upside down with no way to get up or down, at that time and that place, that's the best position for prayer."
Seek God's guidance in every endeavor. Take time to thank Him for those daily blessings that you know, we so often ignore. Realize that God wants to be included in your everyday activities. He actually wants to answer your prayers.
Now if God wants to answer your prayers, then why does is seem like He many times doesn't answer our prayers?
We'll be dealing with that question, and more with our next two building blocks of prayer, but first I want to tell you about today's free offer.
If life just isn't working for you, you must seek God's priority in your life. God wants to bless you. He wants to turn your life around and many times we forget that.
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So far we've looked at two of our six building blocks of prayer. First, you must approach God with a sense of humility and awe. And secondly, don't make prayer a ritual.
Now as a pastor I often talk with people who are struggling with what seems to be unanswered prayer. I am often asked, what is God's answer to my prayer? You know sometimes we can sit down and find the answer by looking at basic biblical teachings. Other times, when the issue is deeply personal, my response is, I don't know. I'm not God. Many times, at that point we pray together, seeking God's answer.
Which brings us to our third building block: You must believe that God will answer your prayers.
An often quoted teaching of Jesus about prayer is found in Matthew 21. Jesus and His disciples were walking through the country and came upon a fig tree that had no fruit. Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered right in front of the astonished disciples.
Jesus was using the fig tree as an object lesson. He turned to His bewildered followers and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, [that] you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:21-22 Matthew 21:21-22  Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
 And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.
American King James Version×).
Is uprooting mountains proof of faith? If that's true, then it should be easy to find true Christians; they're the ones throwing mountains into the sea.
The truth is that sometimes it seems that in spite of our faith God doesn't answer our prayers. Or that the answer just doesn't make sense. All of us struggle with why does God allow people to suffer? Or, why does God seem to bless one person and not another or heal one person and not another?
If you've asked these questions, you're not alone. Anyone who wants a meaningful relationship with God has at times struggled with the inability to understand His ways.
How can you have faith when God doesn't seem to answer? What is this faith that Jesus is talking about anyway?
How many times have you heard someone say, well the solution to your problem is, just have more faith. Faith in what? Faith is only as powerful as the person in whom you have faith. Your faith must be in the power, love and mercy of the almighty God.
You can't move spiritual mountains because you have faith in your own abilities to move mountains. Spiritual mountains are moved, leveled, built-up, torn down or obliterated because you have faith in God's ability.
Now let's go back to the three wrong approaches to God we talked about earlier. The "genie in the bottle" Christian relates to God only in relationship to his or her wants and needs. This person has little trust in God as Father who is concerned with the ultimate well-being of His child. Demands are made and if God doesn't respond then the person's faith is fractured.
The "stormy day" Christian doesn't want God involved in his or her life except in emergencies. The rest of the time, this person wants God to stay out of their daily activities, sort of arm's length away. The "stormy day" Christian exhibits little obedience to God in day-to-day life.
I'm reminded of a movie I saw many years ago about a man who swims into the sea in hopes of committing suicide. Once out at sea, exhausted and remorseful, he cries out to God to help him get back to the shore. So he begins swimming back and as the man begins to swim back, he promises God that if He helps him get back to shore, he will give Him a hundred percent of his income. As the man gets closer to shore, the amount promised to God gets a little smaller--50 percent, then 20 percent, and then 10 percent. When the man finally arrives at the beach he decides that God really doesn't need his income anyways.
You see faith involves daily obedience to God, not just making a deal when times get rough.
The "when I get around to it" Christian really doesn't believe that God cares about his or her personal life. Their priorities and agendas are based in their choices, not God's choices.
Faith is more than belief. It is trust that leads to submission to God's purpose in every aspect of your life.
And this leads us to the fourth building block: In your faith, you must seek God's purpose.
I think it is safe to conclude that it is not God's purpose for His followers to destroy the earth by throwing mountains around willy-nilly like so much garbage in the wind. When you humbly approach the great God, you must first seek His purpose, not your own.
The apostle John wrote, "Now [this] is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15 1 John 5:14-15  And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us:
 And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
American King James Version×).
To seek God's will is to have confidence in His mercy, His love, His wisdom and His faithfulness. You know the truth is many times we don't trust God because we don't believe that He is going to do what He says He will do. You can find strength and comfort in the assurance that God has a greater purpose for your life. When you seek His purpose then He will produce what is good for you even when the outcome isn't what you immediately desire.
Our problem is that it's a quirk of human nature to think that when we present our requests to God that He will always receive, or we will always receive a positive answer. When we don't get a yes from God we think that He is ignoring us. Well sometimes God's answer is no. Sometimes His answer is not in your time, but My time.
Many years ago I knew a man who was dying from cancer. I prayed for Him. I prayed with him asking God to please heal him and deliver him. When the man's condition worsened, I struggled with why God didn't heal him. One day I went out to visit him and I was thinking about him as I drove out in the car and when I got there, I went in and I sat down and I looked at him and I said, "You know, I've never thought about this before but maybe, maybe God's answer is no." He smiled and he said, "I've known that for a while, I've just been waiting for you to figure it out."
You see, sometimes the no answer from God takes more faith than the yes answer.
How do you respond to the no or wait answers from God? We'll deal with that question by exploring the next building block of prayer, but first let me tell you about today's free offer.
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Now we still have two more building blocks of prayer that we're going to cover. But first let's review the four we've already put into place:
First of all, you must approach God with a sense of humility and awe.
Secondly, don't make prayer a ritual.
Number three, you must believe that God will answer your prayers.
And number four, in your faith you must seek God's purpose.
Because of our human limitations, it is difficult for us to appreciate that God's timetable is not always our timetable. God sees a much greater vision and purpose for your life than the immediate problems.
Listen to this parable told by Jesus for this purpose that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.
There was a city, "in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'"
"Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?'" (Luke 18:1-8 Luke 18:1-8  And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
 And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.
 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
 Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said.
 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them?
 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
American King James Version×).
The point being made isn't that we can pester God into doing what we want. The test of persistence is for the individual, not God. The lesson of this parable is to be patient and persistent in our interaction with God.
This is the fifth building block: You must be patient and persistent in your prayer.
How many times have you watched a child become frustrated and distraught because she wants a drink, or a bite of food, but the adult is just a little slow in fulfilling her immediate needs? Now the adult knows that the child won't starve in the next few seconds, but the child is absolutely sure that the adult's delay is a major crisis.
It's the same way between us and God. His long term purpose for you is your eternity as a member of His family. Sometimes days, or weeks, or months, or even years are not that important in the greater scheme of God's plan for you.
A biblical example of someone having to learn God's timetable is that of Abraham and Sarah. God told them that He would give them a son, but when years went by without a child, Abraham and Sarah decided that God's answer of wait meant that they had to speed up the timetable. Sarah offered her handmaiden to Abraham and soon Ishmael was born. The problem was that God intended that His blessing come to Abraham and Sarah through Sarah. After many more years, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son--Isaac.
Abraham and Sarah had to learn to be patient and persistent in their faith. Be patient and persistent and God will answer your prayers. You just have to have faith in His timetable.
The last building block is one that is often said, but its meaning is often ignored: You must pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
People often end a prayer in the name of Jesus, but it carries no real meaning. It is a ritualistic conclusion, sort of a way of saying, "So long God."
Jesus told His disciples, "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" (John 16:23-24 John 16:23-24  And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
 Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.
American King James Version×).
Notice what Jesus says. We are to pray to the Father in His name. When we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Father personally answers our prayers. To pray in the name of Jesus Christ is to acknowledge His necessary presence, sacrifice, resurrection and work in your life.
Jesus continues, "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you..." Now notice, "because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father" (John 16:25-28 John 16:25-28  These things have I spoken to you in proverbs: but the time comes, when I shall no more speak to you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.
 At that day you shall ask in my name: and I say not to you, that I will pray the Father for you:
 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
American King James Version×).
Unfortunately, many times praying in the name of Jesus Christ is nothing more than a footnote tacked onto the end of a prayer. Jesus said that God will answer us because we love His Son. To simply mutter "in Jesus' name," without heartfelt honor for Jesus Christ, is not acceptable to God. When we pray in Jesus' name we are to express appreciation for what God has done and is doing in our lives through Jesus Christ.
So, let's recap the six building blocks for more effective and meaningful prayer:
1. First of all, you must approach God with a sense of humility and awe.
2. Secondly, don't make prayer a ritual.
3. Number three, you must believe that God will answer your prayers.
4. Number four, in your faith you must seek God's purpose.
5. Number five, you must be patient and persistent.
6. And the last point, you must ask in the name of Jesus Christ.
Apply each of these building blocks of prayer in your daily talk with God.
Remember our special free offers today. Make sure you call, or go online, for our free study guide: Making Life Work. It is a very important booklet that will help you understand how to have a close relationship with your Father in heaven. We'll also sign you up for a free subscription to The Good News magazine if you're not already a subscriber. Each issue will give you much needed biblical direction in your life.
Call right now: 1-888-886-8632, or go online to BeyondToday.tv and get your free booklet and magazine subscription. If you're watching us outside of North America, you'll need to order from our website or write us a letter to the address that's shown on your screen.
Whenever you face those times when you ask, "Where Are You God?" remember, God is still on His throne. He knows what you are suffering, and He wants not only to relate to you, but He wants you to relate to Him.
We'll be back with a final comment right after this:
[Narrator] Christ came to earth with a central message of the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? Most have never heard or understood what Jesus actually taught on this subject. The United Church of God is hosting free seminars held simultaneously around the world.
[Steve] That Kingdom is coming to earth--that was the message of Jesus Christ. It's not a Kingdom that's off up there in heaven but it's a Kingdom that Christ is going to establish right here on this earth.
[Narrator] Go to KOGSeminars.org for details to find one near you. Kingdom of God Bible Seminars--giving the message of hope for tomorrow, beginning today.
[Gary] Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today I'm Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!