Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: learn to pray

Intentionally alone

Repetition is always an indication of importance.  Whether we’re practicing the fundamentals of a sport, committing information to memory, or giving instruction to others…if something is repeated, there is significance.  God works the same way when He communicates with us.  When we study the Scriptures, look for things that are repeated.  You’ll find out what God sees as most important.

When we look at Christ’s prayer habits – what he prayed, how he prayed, and what he taught others about prayer – a specific theme is constantly repeated.  This habit was noted multiple times by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; not that they were making a big deal out of it, but rather they spoke of Christ’s behavior as if it were perfectly normal, natural, and common for Him to pray this way.

Almost every time Jesus prays to the Father, he is alone.

Some examples:

Matthew 14:23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.  When evening came, He was there alone.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place.  And He was praying there.

Luke 5:16 Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spend all night in prayer to God.

There are two major observations from these verses – where Jesus prayed and when Jesus prayed.

Notice how Jesus’ preferred places of prayer were remote.  Jesus looked for quiet, isolated places so that He would not be interrupted or distracted by the needs of others.  In these places, Jesus could pour out His heart and not worry about who else was listening or needing Him next.  His choice of location helped keep His prayer time focused entirely on the Father.

Whether it was very early before anyone else was awake or very late after everyone went to sleep, Jesus also sought uninterrupted chunks of time with the Father.  Jesus was willing to sacrifice a commodity that most of us hold in high regard – because He was finding His rest in His time with the Father.

Our own application from these passages is obvious.  If our prayer life is going to be properly focused on God, then we need to follow Christ’s example and carve out time away from others to purposefully spend in prayer.  Whether your best time is early in the morning, or late at night, or during your normal driving time (with the radio off)…the point is that we need to be intentional about getting alone time with God.

Keep Pressing,

God-focused prayers

When I read the model prayer that Jesus gave, one observation that sticks out to me is how much of the prayer is focused on God.  Take a look, and notice how many times God is mentioned:

Matthew 6:9-13 Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Jesus instructs us to pray that God’s name and reputation be honored, that his kingdom would come to earth, and that God would rule the earth just like he does in heaven.  The prayer ends with us telling God that he has the highest position, above all people and things, for all eternity.

That’s a lot of information about God in a prayer that is to God.

Why should I pray God’s attributes and qualities back to him?  It’s not like God doesn’t know these things about himself, nor do I expect that Jesus would be instructing us to say these things just to stroke God’s ego.  However, we cannot escape Jesus’ direction to spend roughly half of our prayer time focusing on who God is and what he is like.

Jesus is instructing us to remember exactly who it is we’re speaking with when we pray…the God who imagined and created the universe.  God designed subatomic particles and then stitched them together to form everything from plants, to people, to planets.  He imagined weather patterns and constellations.  God is the author of everything we can see, taste, hear, touch, or smell.  His authority and power are unlimited.  God is responsible for all these things and more…and he is the person we are instructed to bring our prayers to.

This kind of praying – a deliberate focus on who God is and what he is like – is an antidote for the modern insistence that “prayer works”…as if the fact that “I’m praying” or that “many of us are praying” will provide someone healing or financial rescue.  It’s not the number of people praying or performing the act of prayer that creates a change to our circumstances…it’s the one we are praying to that enacts the change! 

Our prayers are only as effective as the one we are praying to!  We tend to focus on the act of prayer as being effective, rather that remembering Who it is that we are praying to.  Remembering that we are talking with the God of the Universe makes us feel small…but that’s because…we are small.

But if I’m small, then how do I know that God will actually listen to anything I have to say?

We can be assured that God hears us, for two reasons.  First, Jesus is telling us to pray to God, and Jesus only gives true instructions.  Secondly, look at the first two words of the model prayer – Our Father.  Even though we are significantly small, we are invited to speak to the great God of Everything, and address him as father.

With our perspective set for who we are, and more importantly who God is, we can then approach God with our requests and needs.  It’s a whole lot easier to trust God with the outcome of our requests and situations when we have a clear picture of the person we’re praying to.

Keep Pressing,

Much ado about prayer

I remember when I was in grade school, I was told by my Sunday School teacher that I shouldn’t end my prayer the way I was saying it.  She gently told me that what I was saying wasn’t exactly theologically accurate…now while I don’t remember verbatim what my first grade mind came up with, I do remember thinking that I didn’t want to say what everyone else said at the end of a prayer.  I wanted to say something different, my own way of signing off or saying “see you later” to God.  She said that it would just be better for me to say “In Jesus’ name, Amen”.

Truthfully, she may have been correct that what I was saying was inaccurate…but to this day, I’ve often wondered what’s the “right way” for us to pray?  Later in my childhood, I was told by another adult that prayer was simply “talking to God”, but that statement still leaves me feeling unsettled. 

When my boys were young, they specifically asked me “Dad, what’s the right way to pray?  How do I do it?”  Not wanting to burden their young minds with the doubt and questions I had as a child, I reiterated what was told to me…Don’t worry about it, son.  You’re just talking to God, that’s all.  No formulas, no requirements.  Just tell God what’s on your mind…your worries, your hopes, anything that’s going on.  God can handle it.

However, as I’ve grown and matured…both in life and in my relationship with God…I still have the same lingering questions rattling around the back of my mind.  Is there a “right way” to pray?  Is it really “just talking to God”?  Am I doing this right?

It’s a good exercise to face the questions within us.  It’s also good to talk with other Christians about these things.  But when we have questions about our relationship with God, it’s even better to see what God has to say about it.

A survey of the Scriptures shows that prayer is everywhere.  Seems almost every person we encounter, from all walks of life, prays at some point.  From Job to Paul, David to Peter, Moses to Jabez, and Jonah to John it seems that everyone is either praying or talking about praying.  There are scores of example prayers to look at, and we could spend some time looking at the situations each of those prayers came from.  There would be plenty of benefit to looking through other believers’ examples in the Bible; however, I’m going to narrow the focus a little more in the hopes of answering my own lingering questions.

C.S. Lewis said that God’s aim is that “Every Christian is to become a little Christ”, and the Apostle John had this to say when he wrote about the health of our relationship with Christ:

1 John 2:6 the one who says he remains in [relationship with] Him should walk just as He walked

If these accurately describe God’s purpose toward those who have accepted Christ as Savior, then when it comes to prayer…I want to know how Jesus prayed.  Not only “how”, but also “when” and “why”.  If becoming like Christ is the goal, then he should be the first one we look to as our example.  Jesus’ own disciples also recognized this:

Luke 11:1 [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

The disciples wanted to be like their teacher, so they naturally wanted to pray like him too.  We’re going to take a close look at what Jesus taught his disciples, as well as Jesus’ own prayer life – when did he pray and what did he pray?

As of this writing, I don’t know the answers to all of these questions…so we’re going to walk down this path and learn together.  Perhaps our best starting point is to have the same request the first disciples had

Lord, teach us to pray.

Keep Pressing,