Understanding God's Word... 'Teach Us to Pray'

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When my employer first instructed me to learn to use a computer, my mind went numb. My idea of high tech was using a mechanical pencil. Now I felt overwhelmed, plunging into an unfamiliar world.

A friend, however, gave me a few pointers in the basics of computer technology, and, as I began to increase my skill and comfort level, the simple documents I produced got more sophisticated. Today I don't know how I would do without computers in my work.

God uses a form of spiritual technology, a system of communication that may seem baffling at first to many people. It's called prayer. Effective prayer also requires training. Even Christ's disciples, knowing they needed to pray, asked Him to teach them how. In this study I hope to give you some pointers concerning this dynamic spiritual technology. As with my computer experience, although your first attempts may seem basic, as you become more comfortable with this communication tool it will enhance your life as it changes it.

 

Discussion: What, exactly, is prayer? Simply put, it is our line of communication with God, a precious gift of time that the awesome Creator of the universe longs to have with His children. This is a time we can look forward to each day as we express our love and thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for His calling and grace. It is during this special time that we come to our loving spiritual Father to talk about our needs, hopes, fears and concerns for others.

 

Discussion: What role did prayer play in the lives of some of the great men and women of God through the ages? Consider the prayers of Abraham (Genesis 20:17-18 Genesis 20:17-18 [17] So Abraham prayed to God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bore children. [18] For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
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), Isaac (Genesis 25:21 Genesis 25:21And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
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), Jacob (Genesis 32:9-12 Genesis 32:9-12 [9] And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which said to me, Return to your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you: [10] I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have showed to your servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. [11] Deliver me, I pray you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. [12] And you said, I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
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) and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10-18 1 Samuel 1:10-18 [10] And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD, and wept sore. [11] And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head. [12] And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. [13] Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. [14] And Eli said to her, How long will you be drunken? put away your wine from you. [15] And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. [16] Count not your handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken till now. [17] Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant you your petition that you have asked of him. [18] And she said, Let your handmaid find grace in your sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
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; 2:1-10). In these prayers we see certain common threads:

• These people of God were sincere, trusting and open with God.

• They recognized the power of God to miraculously intervene in their time of need.

• They had genuine conversations with God, not recitations of memorized wish lists.

The ministers and other members of the early New Testament Church had a vibrant prayer life and were obviously close to God. Note such scriptural examples as Acts 1:14 Acts 1:14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
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; 9:36-42; 12:5-17; 16:13; 21:5 and Romans 1:9 Romans 1:9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
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.

Note: Some of these people were the same ones who had earlier asked Christ to teach them to pray! Through the power of prayer they developed an intimate relationship with God, and He often responded to their requests in miraculous ways.

 

Discussion: The examples above are only a few to illustrate the effectiveness of prayer. But are there any prerequisites, skills to be learned or limitations in the use of this spiritual technology?

• Do humans have an automatic ability to tap into this power source, or can certain conditions interrupt the flow of power? (Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 [1] Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [2] But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
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; John 9:31 John 9:31Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he hears.
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1 Peter 3:12 1 Peter 3:12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
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).

Note: God does not hear those who by choice are actively involved in sin. Sin creates a barrier between ourselves and God in which the working of His Spirit within us is diminished (Psalms 31:10 Psalms 31:10For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
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; Isaiah 63:10 Isaiah 63:10But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
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; Ephesians 4:25-32 Ephesians 4:25-32 [25] Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. [26] Be you angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath: [27] Neither give place to the devil. [28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs. [29] Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers. [30] And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed to the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: [32] And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.
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; 1 Thessalonians 5:19 1 Thessalonians 5:19Quench not the Spirit.
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). Obedience to God aligns us with God's will and opens up the channels of communication with Him.

• What factors does God view as necessary for a successful prayer life? (Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For 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.
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; John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 [23] But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. [24] God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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; 1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
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).

Note: God does not hear us when we are proud and thinking only of ourselves. However, He reaches out to the humble (James 4:6-10 James 4:6-10 [6] But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. [9] Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. [10] Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
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) and those who worship Him from the heart in humble obedience.

• When one's attitude is right, what does He promise to do? (2 Chronicles 7:14 2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
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).

Note: God will always hear those who genuinely seek Him according to His will (1 John 5:14-15 1 John 5:14-15 [14] And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: [15] And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
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).

Now let's examine even further some of the basic applications of prayer.

• What principles did Christ tell the disciples, and us, when they asked Him how to pray? (Luke 11:1-4 Luke 11:1-4 [1] And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. [2] And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. [3] Give us day by day our daily bread. [4] And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
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; Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 [9] After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. [10] Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread. [12] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. [13] 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.
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).

Note: The "Lord's Prayer" quoted here was not designed to be stated as an end in itself. Jesus Christ specifically noted that we are not to "use vain repetitions" (verse 7), repeating such words from memory without giving thought to their meaning. This prayer is actually an instructive outline or a model prayer, designed to show the broad areas of life that we need to discuss with God. One can greatly expand into details the various points on this prayer agenda.

• We humans have our own perspectives of prayer, but what about God? How does He view the prayers of the saints? (Acts 10:4 Acts 10:4And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said to him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God.
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; Revelation 5:8 Revelation 5:8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
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; 8:3-4).

Note: Incense, "an aromatic compound which gives forth its perfume in burning" (Unger's Bible Dictionary), is symbolic of prayer (Psalms 141:2 Psalms 141:2Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
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). The view here is that God enjoys our conversations with Him as we would enjoy the fragrance of a fine perfume! Also note that this conversation that God so richly enjoys can be about any topic that we bring to Him-as a loving Father He simply wants us to share our lives with Him.

• Giving God thanks would be a second use of this tool. What reasons would there be for us to give thanks to God? (Luke 17:11-19 Luke 17:11-19 [11] And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the middle of Samaria and Galilee. [12] And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: [13] And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. [14] And when he saw them, he said to them, Go show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. [15] And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, [16] And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. [17] And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? [18] There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. [19] And he said to him, Arise, go your way: your faith has made you whole.
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; Ephesians 5:20 Ephesians 5:20Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
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; Philippians 4:6-7 Philippians 4:6-7 [6] Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
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; Colossians 4:2-4 Colossians 4:2-4 [2] Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; [3] With praying also for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: [4] That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
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; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 [17] Pray without ceasing. [18] In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
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).

Note: We owe everything to God, and we are totally dependent on Him for everything: our physical existence and sustenance, the blessings we enjoy and a fabulous future. God alone is worthy of our continual thanks for all He has done, continues to do and will do in the future.

• Praise to God is another important aspect of prayer. What do these scriptures tell us about praising God in prayer? (Luke 24:44-53 Luke 24:44-53 [44] And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. [45] Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, [46] And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [47] And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [48] And you are witnesses of these things. [49] And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high. [50] And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. [51] And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: [53] And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
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; Acts 16:25 Acts 16:25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them.
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; Psalms 28:6-7 Psalms 28:6-7 [6] Blessed be the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplications. [7] The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.
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; 100:1-5; Hebrews 13:15 Hebrews 13:15By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
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).

Note: God has given us so much and has astounding plans for us. He is worthy of our worship and praise. Worship-from the Old English worth-ship-means to express our acknowledgment and appreciation of God's worth to our lives.

• God expects us to make our needs known to Him (1 Peter 5:6-7 1 Peter 5:6-7 [6] Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: [7] Casting all your care on him; for he cares for you.
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). What other examples and instructions regarding this element of prayer does He give us? (Psalm 142; Isaiah 38:1-5 Isaiah 38:1-5 [1] In those days was Hezekiah sick to death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, Thus said the LORD, Set your house in order: for you shall die, and not live. [2] Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, [3] And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech you, how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. [4] Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, [5] Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus said the LORD, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold, I will add to your days fifteen years.
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; Jonah 1:17-2 Jonah 1:17-2
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:10; Proverbs 2:3-6 Proverbs 2:3-6 [3] Yes, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; [4] If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; [5] Then shall you understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. [6] For the LORD gives wisdom: out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
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).

Note: God is our loving, faithful Father (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
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). He loves us and cares for us. He is our helper who will always be there for us in a time of need (Hebrews 13: 5-6).

• Praying for others (sometimes called "intercessory prayer") is one of the greatest ways to serve and love our neighbor as ourselves. What does God tell us regarding such prayer? (1 Timothy 2:1-8 1 Timothy 2:1-8 [1] I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; [2] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. [8] I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
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; Colossians 1:9-12 Colossians 1:9-12 [9] For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [10] That you might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; [11] Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, to all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; [12] Giving thanks to the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
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; Numbers 14:11-20 Numbers 14:11-20 [11] And the LORD said to Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? [12] I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a greater nation and mightier than they. [13] And Moses said to the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for you brought up this people in your might from among them;) [14] And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that you LORD are among this people, that you LORD are seen face to face, and that your cloud stands over them, and that you go before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. [15] Now if you shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying, [16] Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness. [17] And now, I beseech you, let the power of my LORD be great, according as you have spoken, saying, [18] The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. [19] Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. [20] And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to your word:
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; Ephesians 6:18 Ephesians 6:18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
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; James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
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).

Note: When we pray for others, God is in no doubt that we are following more perfectly His way of giving and outgoing love for others (1 Corinthians 12:31 1 Corinthians 12:31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I to you a more excellent way.
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- 13:13). God especially delights in such selfless prayers.

• Because humans are imperfect and sin, we need to come boldly before God and pray for His mercy through forgiveness. God is compassionate and wants to share His love with us in this way. What common thread runs through the following verses and what does this tell us about the relationship God desires to have with us? (Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14 Luke 18:9-14 [9] And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
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; Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16 [14] Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. [15] For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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; 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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).

Note: One of God's names is Faithful (Revelation 19:11 Revelation 19:11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
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). God is faithfully and permanently committed to those whom He calls (Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
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). When we sin and fall short of God's standard of perfection (Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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)-as we all continue to do-we can totally rely on God's mercy and forgiveness as we humbly confess and turn from our sins.

 

Discussion: Any tool can be used to accomplish a great deal of work provided it is put to use! The same is true of prayer-an intimate relationship with God cannot be achieved, nor can powerful answers to prayer come, until we actually pray! With this in mind, let's remember a few items that will enable us to more effectively use this tool.

Prayer is a tremendous opportunity to talk to the Almighty God of the universe. Therefore, when we pray we should "labor fervently" to not allow ourselves to treat God disrespectfully with half-hearted effort. In that sense, prayer is work (Romans 15:30 Romans 15:30Now I beseech you, brothers, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
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; Colossians 4:12 Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
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).

Effectual prayer is also from the heart. God is especially attuned to earnest, heartfelt prayer (Luke 22:39-46 Luke 22:39-46 [39] And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. [40] And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray that you enter not into temptation. [41] And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, [42] Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done. [43] And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him. [44] And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. [45] And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, [46] And said to them, Why sleep you? rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
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; James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
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).

We must commit ourselves to the effort of prayer (Luke 18:1-8 Luke 18:1-8 [1] And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; [2] Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: [3] And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. [4] And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; [5] Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. [6] And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. [7] And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them? [8] I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
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). Many people carry personal planning calendars to remember important appointments. In our prayer life let's remember to schedule time with God! (Daniel 6:10 Daniel 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
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; Psalms 55:16-17 Psalms 55:16-17 [16] As for me, I will call on God; and the LORD shall save me. [17] Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
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).

Further Bible study about prayer

We suggest you use this material as a springboard for further study about prayer. A study of prayers in the Bible (especially in the book of Psalms) will help you see how David and others talked with God about every situation in life. You'll identify with many of these thoughtful prayers, and they will lead to your developing a more effective and personal relationship with God.

We hope that through this study you have come to better understand the basics of God's spiritual technology of communication-prayer!

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