PRAYER- Part 1
This is a first in what will be a six-part series, addressing the most fundamental and most misunderstood structure in the beam and foundation of Christianity- prayer. It is the most effective and lethal weapon every Christian possesses. Yet, over time, it has in effect been relegated to a redundant, toothless, bark that has become at best, an exercise of passionless litanies, or at its very worst, the anchor of our spiritual failures and social defeats.
James 5:16 - The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
If this is true, that the prayers of the righteous have great powers to effect, then what does it say that so many of us commit this same “Act of Prayer” but to no desired effect. Indeed in a lot of cases, our prayers are doomed to infertility long before we begin. So, what, then, is the problem? And what type of a Christian can we call ourselves when the very weapon that empowers us in our struggle is the very element we lack? We are much like soldiers going to battle with empty guns and broken compasses, and like broken ships cast adrift in the midst of the sea, without direction or anchor, we wait, praying over and over again, while beaten down by the tempest and storms of disaster, sickness, childlessness, socio-economic failure, illness, death, with no help in sight but the echo of our own defeat and the gagged silence of our hopelessness, baiting us to jump into the sea, where we may finally drown in the tears of our own despair. Have you ever found yourself at this point, where there seems to be no point to your struggle any longer? Or are you in fact at this point? Do you sometimes find yourself praying to no end for a reward that seems to drift only farther and farther away each time? Well, the Lord has laid it in my heart to send this out to you- that while you may find yourself wallowing and wasting away in the same situation, with the emptiness in your heart and this seeming interminable stretch of sea, darkness and disillusionment, there is a lighthouse up ahead.
But you must come to an understanding of how to get there. Because sooner than later, Satan, your enemy, like a wolf sniffing out the scent of blood or a vulture the sight of the dead, will come charging and swooping down upon you; not to relieve you of your sorrow, but to finish off the little of you that is left!
“But not on my watch”, says the Lord of hosts.
We do it. We preach it. We talk about it. But what is prayer? Is it simply the act of supplication and crying unto the Lord or is there much more to it that that? I say the latter! There are six letters in the word P R A Y E R. And each letter is a step, a sub-division and ammunition in the totality and composition of prayer. One cannot exist without the other. Remove, if you will, any of the letters from prayer and instantly you have an incomprehensible word or a completely different word. So also when we fail to accompany our prayers with these six elements, our prayers become incomprehensible to God and ineffective in the purpose for which we say them.
So I begin with the first- the (P) in prayer.
1. P (Petition) with (Piety):
Petition or supplication is an earnest request. Earnest, denoting seriousness. Piety is a state of mind of godliness, seriousness, spirituality and meditation. A spiritual state of mind where the interference, noise and distractions and distortions of the world are banished! It’s a state of spiritual grace, humility and submission to the piety, sobriety, spirituality and holiness of God.
It’s not a moment for you to have a casual conversation with God or a moment to talk to him or simply make your requests known to him. No. It’s a process where you become completely imbued with the spirituality of God.
Simply stated, it’s a state of mind; a moment and place – spiritual and physical – where the flesh is murdered and the Spirit is giving sole existence.
For instance consider how when once upon a time in school, you got to class, chatted with your fellow mates about your weekend or whatever it may be, and it seemed like you were in a market where everyone spoke at once. A hundred different conversations in each corner. But then, the teacher walked in and started handing out your exam pamphlets and suddenly, everyone was hushed. You tell your friend to hush up or I will talk to you later. Because your mind is no longer in social mode, but now switching to exam mode. Serious business. And it’s not a group exercise. It’s an individual moment. Likewise, the moment you determine to pray, that “P” in prayer, commands first and above all else that you switch from Party or social mode to Pious or Spiritual mode. It’s time for your examination with God. The flesh and the world must die and the Holy Spirit is now the only voice you hear.
It’s a moment of focus. FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL ACCURACY. If you have ever seen an archer shoot an arrow or a sharp shooter shoot at a long-range target, you see one common denominator in all of them- absolute and undisturbed concentration and focus at the target ahead. Because the slightest distraction affects the result. In the same way, praying to God requires the art, skill and temperament of archery! There has to be a complete and unencumbered focus on spiritual accuracy with God. You have to completely disrobe yourself of the cares and burdens and bustle of everyday life and focus on God, without which it is impossible for you to obtain and retain his attention.
John 4:24 - God is spirit, and those who worship him (seek him) must worship (pray, seek him, praise him) in spirit and truth." And it is simply impossible to achieve that when you come before him in the flesh; still burdened by what happened earlier today, what shocking scene you saw on TV, the guy or girl you just met, the short-skirt your neighbor or co-worker wore today, the soap opera you are about to miss, or the difficult situation you are concerned with. Understand that as human beings, we cannot help but be plagued by problems. Indeed the reasons that usually usher us onto our knees in prayer are sometimes and usually some of our problems. Yet, there are issues and there is noise. Issues are the problems that plague your mind and world. The problems and situations you hope to resolve through God. Issues are catalysts, fires that inspire and heat up our prayers. Or they should be. They should not become distractions or hindrances, but motivators and stepping stones that inspire us and lead us up in our fervent and pious prayers to God. Noise, on the other hand are those idle thoughts that do not inspire but hinder. For instance, your anger at a co-worker who betrayed you; the driver who almost swiped you in traffic; the girl you saw undressing on TV or across the window; the game you are missing or the food you can smell; the deadline you have to meet at work, the email you have to reply, or the phone ring which may be a call you are eager to take or curious to take. These thoughts are hindrances and murderers of our Spirituality and prayer. If they live, then your prayer is dead. They simply cannot co-exist as indicated in the bible verse below. Galatians 5: 16-17 – So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
So you must suppress these idle thoughts or better, annihilate them. Or sooner or later, they will annihilate you. You do it for examinations, job interviews, meetings, even while watching a great movie. Then, why not for God? If God is Spirit, how, then, do you intend to gain an audience with him if you remain in your carnal thoughts and sinful or idle mindedness? It is impossible! Yet, and for this reason, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 - We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. Now, having said all this, consider the following scriptures and how they support the theory of “Petition with Piety.”
Matthew 6:6 - But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret- “Room,” meaning leave your social, carnal and worldly state of mind and enter into my Spiritual state of sobriety and piousness! Meaning shut the door to outside distractions, “noise,” and misdirection of the flesh.
Matthew 14:23 - And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone- again “mountain” denoting a higher plain, a spiritual elevation. That Jesus first lifted his mind up into that higher Godly state of grace and piety to call upon the father. And when evening came, he was alone. Meaning there were no distractions. He was focused on spiritual accuracy! It doesn’t mean you can’t pray with another person or a group of people, it just means you all have to lift yourselves up individually into your respective spiritual state of grace or class according to the level of faith at work within you. So, Piety or Holiness is the first key to prayer which is what the “P” stands for.
Romans 8:26 - Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Again, this verse indicates without ambiguity that our prayers, emanating from mouths, tongues and bodies of flesh, of sin, and of carnal desires, are most unworthy of coming before the Father. Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit at work within us that receives our prayers and sanctifies them and converts them into an acceptable spiritual patois worthy of coming before the Lord’s throne of Grace. And it impossible for the Holy Spirit to exist or abide in a heart or mind that is intoxicated with inequity and noise. So, if you do not have the Holy Spirit or if you grieve the Holy Spirit, it’s the equivalent of telling your supervisor at work that he/she is an idiot and an incompetent at their job, then accosting them a few days later about going to the president of the company and asking for a raise on your behalf. It cannot be done. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf through Christ Jesus. Without it, your prayers are powerless! And this is why Paul says again-
Ephesians 4:30-31- 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice…”
Again, the day of redemption as referred to in the verse above does not only refer to that final day of salvation, but refers also to any day when the Lord has determined to hear your prayer, consider it and redeem you from whatever the trouble may be. So, the Holy Spirit is there, sealed within the hearts of the believers as an umbilical cord to God, through which exists – between the sinner and God – the spiritual commerce of demand and supply. The Holy Spirit is that exchange or the market in which the exchange exists. So, living with all the negative elements as stated above, or “noise” as I define it, is the proverbial equivalent of biting the hand that feeds you.
Finally, I will end the part I of this six-part series with this quote from Paul, regarding Jesus Christ. It is the summation of this lesson: Hebrews 5:7- In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Hebrews 5:7
Piety= Godly fear. Simple.
Your Humble Servant of the Lord,
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