Instructor: Dr. Raymond T. Matthews
Developing Intimacy with God
· It would be hard to imagine having a healthy marriage relationship without a husband and wife talking to one another on a regular basis. Yet it is even more impossible to comprehend how people could claim to know God, without talking to Him regularly. The key to intimacy with God is through a disciplined, regular pattern of communication with God through prayer.
· While godly people in Scripture approached God in prayer in various ways, the one common characteristic of each was that they put a priority on prayer. Daniel made it his practice to pray three times a day. David prayed through psalms and music. Jesus, even though He was fully God, made communication with His Father an absolute priority.
· The biblical record indicates a variety of postures in prayer. Kneeling, laying prostrate, raising arms, and even dancing before the Lord reflect the diversity of expression in prayer. People pray loudly, quietly, in unknown languages, through musical instruments, and in singing. The issue in prayer is not necessarily how it is done, but rather where it comes from. While communication from the heart of man seems to touch the heart of God, external prayers that have no personal meaning do not seem to make any connection.
· God desires His children to draw close to Him through prayer. Through prayer, we tap into the resources that God has for us to grow into His likeness.
· Why we need to pray may spark us to become more deliberate and passionate in our prayer life. But why pray? Since God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, what purpose does prayer serve?
· Prayer is not needed to inform God about personal circumstances. God knows what His people need before they ask (Matt. 6:32). Likewise, it is not for people to try to change God's attitude towards them. God is not a cosmic bully intent on harming people. Although pagan prayer often were designed to appease a hostile deity, the true God does not desire this (Matt. 6:25-34). After all, God gives only good gifts (James 1:17).
· Furthermore, prayer in not talking God into something that He does not want to do. The Christian's proper attitude in prayer is submission to God's will, not achieving his/her own (Matt. 6:10). Jesus' prayer as He awaited His impending crucifixion made this clear, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me". Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matt. 26:39). The believer's assurance in prayer is, "if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1John 5:14).
· The purpose of prayer is not to change God's mind. Rather, it is to align one's will with God's will. When we pray to God's will it is designed to teach us His children a valuable lesson (Gen. 18:16-33).
· Someone has well said, "Prayer is for our benefit, not God's." Being sovereign over everyone and everything that exists, God did not need human prayer to accomplish His eternal purposes. Yet He chose prayer to be a vehicle He would us to deliver His blessings to His children. Prayer unlocks the door to the storehouse of God's riches.
Components of a Rich Prayer Life
· When we study Scripture as a whole, we find several aspects of prayer that characterize godly men and women with rich prayer lives: worship, confession, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and requests.
· Worship-Entering God's presence should impress believers with His worth. A sense of awe and reverence is the natural response to the presence of the greatest being there is. When believers meditate on who God is, a feeling of esteem for God fills their heart.
· Because "God is a Spirit", He desires that His children worship Him "in spirit and in truth"; spirit, according to God's "will", truth through His Son Jesus Christ (John 4:24). God must be value above all else as we approach Him in prayer.
· Confession-Every believer needs cleansing that comes from acknowledging guilt (1 John 1:9). This means that God is absolutely right in forgiving sin every time believers truly confess. People often stop growing spiritually because they fail to accept God's forgiveness. A healthy prayer life is an antidote to spiritual paralysis.
· Adoration-Reassured by the loving forgiveness of the heavenly Father (1 John 4:10), believers need to tell God how much they love Him. Expressing love to God by word and obedient action is the only appropriate response to one who loves believers so much (1 John 3:1; 4:16). Jesus taught that your first responsibility is to love God with your whole being (Matt. 22:37).
· Praise-Whereas worship appreciates who God is, praise pays tribute to what God does. He deserves praise "for His acts of power…for His surpassing greatness" (Ps. 150:2). Believers should speak highly of His great goodness and gracious compassion (Ps. 145:4-9). Because "the Lord is God to all; he has compassion on all he has made"…God is honored and Christians grow when they credit Him.
· Praise projects a positive outlook on life by remembering God's favors.
· Thanksgiving-No aspect of prayer is more essential than thanksgiving. Having received God's forgiving grace and sustaining strength, Christians owe Him a deep sense of gratefulness. Ingratitude lies at the heart of rebellion against God (Rom.1:21).
· Arrogant, proud people ignore God, choosing rather to credit themselves for the blessings of life. This ungrateful attitude has no place among believers.
· Thanksgiving is an attitude for all seasons. Hard times are as much an occasion for gratitude as good times (1Thess. 5:18).
· Thanksgiving gives inwards peace (Phil. 4:6, 7).
· Knowing that God is in control and will use this hardship to promote spiritual growth, a sufficient reason to pray thankfully (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2-4).
· Intercession-Prayer is a time to ask God to meet the needs of others (Phil. 1:9-11; Eph. 1:16-23, 3:14-21).
· Through prayer you can contribute positively to the lives of others way beyond the limits of your personal resources and capacities (Phil. 1:19). 4.
· Prayer Results-Prayer played a vital part in the lives of God's people in the early bible days in the Old Testament. In every case God followed no single pattern in responding to His people requests. He had direct involvement in their lives through prayer.
· Whether the loving divine answer was "Yes, Wait, or No," prayer greatly affected their lives and the lives of others.
· Granting of Requests-Israel's early leaders knew the power of prayer. When Abraham prayed for Abimelech, king of Gerar, the king's life was spared and his family was able to have children again (Gen. 20:17, 18).
· David's confession concerning his sin with Bathsheba is a pattern for all subsequent generations (Psalm 51).
· In His earthly ministry Jesus' prayers were directly connected with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22).
· Through prayer the early church received guidance in the choice of an apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1:24).
· Courage to witness during times of persecution (Acts 4:31).
· Men of God released from prison (Acts 12:12; 16:25-40).
· The appointment of church leaders (14:23).
· God guided, equipped, and enabled the early church for effective ministry in response to the prayers of godly disciples.
· Delaying Until a better Time-God does not always answer His people requests immediately. He sometimes waits for His right time.
· His delay is not a no but a lesson to be learned as with Job. God taught him a valuable spiritual lesson through suffering (Job 3:11-23; 7:20; 42:8-10 and James 5:11. His lesson could only be learned through adversity.
· Married couples unable to have children waited and yearned and waited again, despairing of ever having a family.
· In God's perfect time Hannah conceived her son Samuel (1Samuel 1:5-7, 20) and Elizabeth and Zechariah bore John the Baptist (Luke 1:13).
· Affirming a Superior Way- At times believer's wiser heavenly Father lovingly denies a request because He knows what's best for His praying child.
· Only a cruel parent would have granted Elijah's (1King 19:4) or Jonah's (Jonah 4:1-10) prayers for death. Being depressed, the prophets were not thinking clearly, so God said "NO". Death was no solution for prophets who had just been instruments for revival.
· Often God denied a specified request not because it was foolish or bad, but because He had something better in mind.
· Apostle Paul discovered that the spiritual blessing supplied by God's grace in times of adversity far surpassed any inconvenience or pain (2 Corinth. 12:7-10).
· Definite Answers to Prayer-Testimonies abound to God's faithful answers to the requests of His children. Believers imprisoned for their faith report receiving courage and spiritual strength when they prayed.
· The church has grown in nations where Christianity is illegal or suppressed in answer to prayers of foreign believers not even allowed in those countries.
· People lives that have been wrecked by sin and drugs have been transformed by a conversion experience that has come after years of faithful prayer by a relative or close friend.
· Confident Assurance in Prayer-From a limited human perspective, there seems to be no value in experiencing disease, hardship, adversity, and persecution. Given the option, Christians would veto having these experiences invade their lives.
· Yet these problems are a part of the sinful, fallen world in which both believer and non-believer live.
· God hates these terrible results of the fall and has acted decisively defeating Satan who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14). Knowing that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20), believers should pray with confidence. Nothing is too hard for God.
· God will answer prayer just trust Him.