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Praying With Paul – #2

Posted on by Bill Mann

A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at King’s Grace Fellowship.
James 5:16

Introduction

I was going to share this scripture last week, but I may have forgotten to, yet it is an important verse when we consider prayer in general. 

James 5:16

“ . . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [person] avails much.” –(NKJV)

I decided that the fundamentals of prayer are so important that I wanted to continue to expand this introduction to include some very important aspects. You will remember from the first teaching these 2 areas:

  • We End Up Not Praying Much Because We Don’t Plan To Pray
  • Learning To Stay Focused (beating mental drift)

So, let’s pick up where we left off as we look at what we might learn from mature believers about prayer.

#3 – Develop A Prayer Partner Relationship

At various times in your life developing a prayer partner relationship is a very helpful thing. Of course, care must be taken in choosing a prayer partner. Concerning this D. A. Carson had this to say:

“If you are not married, make sure your prayer partner is someone of your own sex. If you are married and choose a prayer partner of the opposite sex, make sure that partner is your spouse. The reason is that real praying is an immensely intimate business—and intimacy in one area frequently leads to intimacy in other areas. There is good evidence that after some of the Kentucky revivals in the last century, there was actually an increase in sexual promiscuity.”[1]

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 4). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Of course, this can take on many forms. Prayer times you plan for on a consistent basis. Once a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc. It can also be combined with prayer walking. (as long as you can stay focused on praying) There are no real rules, just some guidelines and your own creativity.

Here are some things to look for in a pray partner:

  1. Their commitment to praying with you consistently. Set a measurable amount of time to meet. (3 months, for the Summer, 6 months, etc.)
  2. They should be spiritually healthy, mature believers. The exception to this would be if you are mentoring someone in prayer. (this is one aspect of discipleship)
  3. They should not be gossips. During WWII the US War Advertising Council coined a phrase on posters that were created by the United States Office Of War Information. It meant that one should beware of unguarded talk. That phrase is “Loose Lips, sinks ships.” Of course, The gist of this particular slogan was that one should avoid speaking of ship movements, as this talk (if directed at or overheard by covert enemy agents) might allow the enemy to intercept and destroy  the ships. This is readily applied to information that is passed on in the form of “prayer request” but really, it’s a manipulative way of gossiping. (which we are emphatically command to not do) So look for a “good” prayer partner.

#4 – Choose good prayer mentors/models—but choose them well.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of this, but we all could learn to pray better. One way of doing this by actually listening attentively to others pray. Of course, this does not mean that we should copy everything we hear. Learning to pray more effectively should be a goal for all believers. 

Some people use an informal and chatty style in prayer that reflects their own personality and perhaps the context in which they were converted; others intone [to say or recite with little rise and fall of the pitch of one’s voice]  their prayers before God with genuine erudition [the quality of having or showing great knowledge or learning] coupled with solemn formality, deploying vocabulary and forms of English considered idiomatic 350 years ago.

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 7). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

We have all heard prayers that are very wordy, which use the names of God chronically, and other coined phrases. I would say that the vast majority of those prayers are sincere, but one can always learn better how to articulate their prayers to the Father. So as to not belabor this small point, choose you prayer mentors/models, but choose them well. Study their content, their breadth, their passion, their unction—but don’t go crazy mimicking everything they say and do.

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 9). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

#5 – Develop functional prayer lists.

I won’t spend a great deal of time here because it’s not about copying someone’s system. It’s to encourage one to organize their prayer efforts in some type of functional plan that covers and reminds them of the things they should be praying for. (this sounds a lot like [“prayer journal”, doesn’t it?)

Some things to consider are:

  • People you should pray about regularly (those you are connected to deeply)
  • Short-term needs and requests

There are no real rules for this, it just has to help motivate you and keep you on track.

#6 – Pray until you pray.

This old Puritan advice does not simply mean that persistence should mark much of our praying—though admittedly that is a point the Scriptures repeatedly make. Even though he was praying in line with God’s promises, Elijah prayed for rain seven times before the first cloud appeared in the heavens. The Lord Jesus told parables urging persistence in prayer (Luke 11:5–13). Carlson mentions this:

“God is not particularly impressed by long-winded prayers and is not more disposed to help us just because we are” incessantly chatty. . . . “Our generation certainly needs to learn something more about persistence in prayer, . . .”

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, pp. 17–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

So what did the Puritans mean when they encouraged one another to “pray until you pray?” And again Carson has this to say:

“ . . . they meant . . . that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying. We are especially prone to such feelings when we pray for only a few minutes, rushing to be done with a mere duty. To enter the spirit of prayer, we must stick to it for a while. If we “pray until we pray,” eventually we come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will. Even in dark or agonized praying, we somehow know we are doing business with God. In short, we discover a little of what Jude means when he exhorts his readers to pray “in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20)—which presumably means it is treacherously possible to pray notin the Spirit.[5]

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 18). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

My prayer is this, “Lord, teach me to pray until I pray! One author made this observation:

“ . . . in the Western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front doorbells and run away before anyone answers.

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 19). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Remarks

These, then, are some of the lessons that we can learn from mature Christians. But I would not for a moment suggest that they constitute a rule, a litmus test, still less a “how-to” manual. So here they are again:

  • We End Up Not Praying Much Because We Don’t Plan To Pray
  • Learn To Stay Focused
  • Develop A Prayer Partner Relationship
  • Choose good prayer mentors/models—but choose them well
  • Develop functional prayer lists
  • Pray until you pray

Let me bring this section to a close with this quote from JJ Packer:

I start with the truism that each Christian’s prayer life, like every good marriage, has in it common factors about which one can generalize and also uniqueness which no other Christian’s prayer life will quite match. You are you, and I am I, and we must each find our own way with God, and there is no recipe for prayer that can work for us like a handyman’s do-it-yourself manual or a cookery book, where the claim is that if you follow the instructions you can’t go wrong. Praying is not like carpentry or cookery; it is the active exercise of a personal relationship, a kind of friendship, with the living God and his Son Jesus Christ, and the way it goes is more under divine control than under ours. Books on praying, like marriage manuals, are not to be treated with slavish superstition, as if perfection of technique is the answer to all difficulties; their purpose, rather, is to suggest things to try. But as in other close relationships, so in prayer: you have to find out by trial and error what is right for you, and you learn to pray by praying. Some of us talk more, others less; some are constantly vocal, others cultivate silence before God as their way of adoration; some slip into glossolalia, others make a point of not slipping into it; yet we may all be praying as God means us to do. The only rules are, stay within biblical guidelines and within those guidelines, as John Chapman puts it, “pray as you can and don’t try to pray as you can’t.”

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, pp. 19–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Remember, it’s “ The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [person that] avails much.” –James 5:16(NKJV)

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