People have very strange ideas about prayer. Many feel that prayer is a certain sound that must terrify the devil or cause God to drop what ever he is doing and attend to them. Some think it should be in Shakespearean English, rich in theological terminology very often spoken very loudly and with a measure of authority. Some believe that the more one shouts in prayer the quicker God will respond to them. Others feel that one should use the Old King James language of ‘thy son prayeth, Lord!” Others feel prayer is something that takes place in a certain place or with a certain posture. Others think you must wear something, cover your head, kneel down, carry a rod, or something that signifies seriousness. But none of these things are requirements for true prayer.
The only helpful thing in prayer is what David calls, “a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Nothing outside the heart can influence God, not even praying with a Bible on your heart! Prayer has to come from a sincere heart and be in line with God’s will. James puts it this way, in The Message Version of the Bible: “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (James 5:16). The New International Version says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Here we learn that righteousness contributes to answered prayer, even if it is a whisper like Hannah did. In fact, you can sound holy and polished in your prayer presentation but if your heart is not right, you are just making noise for God. Paul calls it, “resounding a gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Isaiah also teaches us that God refuses to listen to prayers that come from sinful people. “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” (Isaiah1:15). The heart must just be right. More of this can be seen in Psalm 51 as David was confessing his sin. Because his heart was right, God listened and forgave him.
Speaking to the disciples who had come to him in Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus alluded to Isaiah 1:15. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites...” (Matthew 6:5). Why did Jesus say this? I think it is because God wants us to pray with sincerity. Jesus goes on to instruct his disciples to make sure they forgive their debtors if they request for forgiveness from God
(Matthew 6:12). There are conditions to prayer and we will do well to heed them if we want our prayers to be answered.
The disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray, so Jesus taught them not only to pray but how to pray. Prayer can be learned. We learn to pray by associating with prayerful people. John’s disciples learned to pray from John. That is what motivated Jesus’ disciples to request to be taught to pray. This book is written to be your prayer companion.
May God bless you as you learn from the prayers of men and women who walked with God. You will be encouraged to learn that even great prophets like Moses, Elijah, and even the Son of God himself, have unanswered prayers in their stories.
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