They invite you to bring a talk, lesson, or sermon about prayer. Your first thought when you are normal is, “Who am I? What little I know about prayer could be put in a thimble. “
We all believe in prayer. We try to do it. We don’t see ourselves as role models.
Truly God-fearing men and women who are known as prayer warriors will tell you that they feel enrolled in kindergarten right now.
I doubt our Heavenly Father is happy that one of His children claims to know how to approach him, how to get things from God, how to use prayer to your advantage, and how to be on his good side comes.
Jesus Christ did everything necessary to enable us to enter the throne room of heaven. See Hebrews 4:16.
Jesus Christ opened the dividing line between man and God, and we have an open invitation to “enter”. See Hebrews 10: 19-22.
If you and I do not step into God’s presence and raise our needs and requests, and intercede on behalf of those in our hearts, it is not God’s fault. It is not the fault of Jesus, who did everything necessary to enable us to pray effectively.
Everyone can pray.
So come on in. Enter humbly for this is the throne room of the universe. Come in adoringly, for He who sits on the throne is the Lord of lords. It is okay to enter courageously because your authority is the blood of Jesus. You should come regularly because you live in a needy, fallen world. Come through the Lord Jesus: in his name, by his blood, for his sake.
This and a few other things we want to teach others through prayer.
But there are some things we don’t want to teach no matter how tempted.
Here are three warnings for anyone trying to teach prayer:
I offer these warnings carefully and humbly, as someone who knows very little about prayer. Any authority I have to say anything about prayer is more likely because I have prayed for so long – I met the Lord in 1951 – and served Him for so many years (I was called to the ministry in 1961 ).
1. Be careful in making your experience the norm.
We can be grateful for the example of the New Testament authors in this regard. After his experience on the Damascus Street, we might have expected the apostle Paul to proclaim that the way to salvation is to see a blinding light to strike us down, to hear a voice from heaven turning us around, and the laying on of hands received, that restores our eyesight.
Instead Paul said: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It couldn’t be simpler or purer.
The apostle Peter does not advise us to go boating on stormy seas to experience the power of Jesus, but there he put it on display. He does not command us to go fishing for the wisdom of Jesus, but he knew it there. It is not necessary to have a vision of unclean animals lowered from heaven on a bed sheet to overcome prejudice, but this is how the lesson was taught to Peter.
God loves diversity – in creation, in people, in the churches, in his methods, in everything. He will not limit himself to something that we found worked best for us. He will not limit himself to our “tried and tested” principles of prayer or stewardship or anything else.
2. Use caution when telling others what works and what doesn’t in prayer.
I haven’t counted the number of books on prayer I have, but they occupy two full shelves. Many go into detail with recommendations for prayer routines. Some call the Lord’s Prayer “God’s Roadmap of Prayer” and discover outlines such as praise, priorities, precautions, and the like in this well-known and very popular passage.
Others take the ACTS form: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
Are they helpful? For sure. Are They Required? Not at all.
A pastor I know wrote that “praying while walking” should not be considered authentic prayer. In his opinion, to really enter the throne room of heaven, to offer adoration and supplication, the solitude of one’s own room and silence are required. My answer is that this must be news to the Lord and His disciples who we are sure communicated often with Heavenly Father as they walked the dusty streets of Galilee and Judea. (I pray a lot on my daily walks. But that is only one of five thousand ways to approach the Father.)
3. Be careful when you insist that prayer be performed in a certain way.
Rigidity on any subject is questionable, especially when it comes to prayer.
Now we say in advance that our prayers should be said in the name of Jesus Christ. We get this from scriptures such as John 14:13: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do that the Father in the Son may be glorified.” (See also John 15:16 and 16: 23-24 for a start .) But…
We must be careful with blanket announcements that “Almighty God does not hear prayers that are not offered in the name of Jesus”.
Some will remember a leader from our Southern Baptist Convention who started a theological firestorm a few years ago by making this very statement in a public religious / political setting. His words were recorded by a choir of “Amens” and I suppose all he was looking for was. But for the next year our people had to defend and explain his statement and apologize.
Was he wrong? someone asks.
Well, friend, for my part, I am not going to tell God which prayers he can and cannot hear. “Our God is in heaven; He does what he will. ”Psalm 115: 3 should be the cornerstone of everything we say about God. It is not locked in by our theology, It is not restricted by our denominational pronouncements, It is not restricted by our understanding.
Nowhere in the scriptures I can find that God does not hear prayers in a certain way. Isaiah 59: 1-2 is one of several passages that identify “sin” as the culprit when our prayers don’t get through. James 1: 7 names “doubt” another problem with unanswered prayers.
But if there is a place in the Word that identifies certain forms (including or missing key words, phrases, etc.) as essential in prayer, I have not found it. At long last…
A quick look at the New Testament prayers shows that they do not have to be literally offered “in the name of Jesus” to be accepted, accepted and heard. Even what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” does not contain these words! Case closed, I should think.
Does this mean we have nothing to say to believers who ask us to teach prayer?
No, we have a lot to teach. Most of the time, however, we teach lessons that….
… loyalty to it. “We should always pray and not lose heart and stop” (Luke 18: 1).
… persistence in sticking to it. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
… to praise and worship God through prayer. “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6: 9).
… Humble ourselves in repentance and faith before God. “O God, have mercy on me as a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
… stand up for others. “Pray … for all the saints and for me …” (Ephesians 6: 18-19).
… to be specific in our questions. “What should I do for you?” (Luke 18:41).
… and entrust the result to the father. “However, it is not my will but yours that be done” (Luke 22:42).
These are basic beginnings of prayer that seasoned believers can agree on, benefit from, and devote themselves to learning and practicing.
They are the principles that we must teach and repeat.
There are certainly truths of prayer that many of us have to learn and re-learn every year of our lives.
It helps to note that even the apostle Paul, possibly the best of all, said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). If he has not, it is not difficult to conclude that none of us should pose as experts on the matter to enter the throne room of Heaven to communicate with the Lord of the Universe.
We are children and we help the other babies on their way.
This article originally appeared on joemckeever.com. Used with permission.
Photo credit: © GettyImages / Lemon_tm
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ for more than 65 years, has been preaching the gospel for more than 55 years, and has been writing and drawing for Christian publications for more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.