How to Change: Pray!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Conclusion and Recap

We started the week with a memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’ve been trying to show why this verse, to me, is so closely tied with prayer. So let’s go over everything from earlier this week and try to tie it all together.

2 Corinthians 5-17

We started by talking about why we need to pray. The main reason I pointed out is that Jesus explicitly commands it. According to our verse in 2 Corinthians, if we are doing what Jesus said to do, then we will become a new creation, leaving our old selves behind.

 

Then we moved on to talking about what we should do with our bodies when we pray. This was a little different because the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should or shouldn’t pray, although it does give us some examples. Jesus would pray alone, some people prayed in front of others, some prayed in their hearts and some others prayed kneeling. Find the way that you can have the most productive prayer time and follow through with it.

 

On a similar note, we talked about what things we should pray for and what our words should sound like. Our prayers should consist of praises (things we love about God), petitions (things we want and need from God) and Repentance (asking for forgiveness and pledging to turn from our error filled ways). It’s important to hit all three categories and not exclude one because this is how Jesus himself taught us how to pray. We also need to be sure to pray, not to be heard (like the hypocrites who babble) because God already knows all of your prayers, but rather to make these prayers known to yourself.

 

Making the prayers known to yourself is what I claimed the entire purpose of prayer is. When we prayer, it’s not like God thinks “Oh, so that’s what Nathaniel needs from me!” No. He already knows what I need. We pray to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to change ourselves and also to be able to turn from our sin. This is how the change comes about; it is how we become a new creation.

 

And finally, I tried to tackle a very big, very difficult question: Why do some prayers go unanswered? My thoughts on this are that the way God set up the world to work many years ago was to be able to function without his direct influence. He created humans with the capacity to learn and to love and he created a universe that makes sense and follows logical rules. I believe that he very rarely chooses to intervene and grant miracles to those who pray for them. Instead, he gave us, his servants, the tools to carry out his will. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.

 

All of this together wraps up my thoughts on prayers. Maybe you have additional thoughts or even different opinions. That’s great! Just keep studying and looking to Jesus, because when we are in him, we are a new creation.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

(Editor’s Note: We apologize for the picture that was included on Sunday.  It gave an incorrect reference for the verse.  Today’s is accurate.  Thank you for reading!)

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What Happens When We Pray?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

psalm 145 18

We know that God already knows our thoughts and prayers before we ever lift them up to him (Matthew 6:8), so why do we still need to pray? Yesterday, I promised you an answer to this question and today I will do my best to provide you with one.
I first want to start with a story from when I was in elementary school. Back in those days, I was too young to drive, so I would use my bike to get around. For my birthday one year, I got the coolest green bike from my parents. I loved that thing and would ride it up and down my street or take it to my friend’s house. Then one day while I was at my friend’s house, my green bike was stolen out of his driveway. After this happened, I prayed for weeks that God would give me a new bike. Firstly, I don’t know what I expected God to do. Did I expect a new bike to show up in my garage overnight? Did I expect him to take control of my parents and have them go and buy a new bike?  Regardless, what ended up happening was not what I asked for. Instead of getting a new bike, I had a change of heart.

 

After days of praying about this, I realized that what I was praying for really was not necessary. So what does prayer do? God works through prayer to change us. Whenever we pray in Jesus’ name, we are actively being made into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now there are certainly special cases where God physically interacts with the world to answer our prayers. This has a special name: miracles. I absolutely believe that God has the power to grant any kind of miracle, but I also believe that he rarely chooses to do so. He is our Father that knows what is best for us (Matthew 6:30), and will not neglect us. However, most of our prayers will be a medium for God to work in our own hearts and minds to change us. This is why we must commit ourselves to constant prayer. On the one hand, if we have important issues on our mind and in our prayers at all times, then our actions will start to reflect those things and through our actions, God can answer our prayers. On the other hand, if we spend our time praying for frivolous things, we will be able to realize that by the amount of time we spend thinking and praying about it.

 

This of course leads to one more very difficult question: if God knows what we need and won’t neglect us, than why do some of our prayers, especially those for healing, go unanswered? We will dive into that topic tomorrow. But for today, focus on prayer and being made into a new creation.

 

-Nathaniel Johnson

How to Pray: Words

Wednesday October 4th, 2017

Lord's Prayer

Unlike when we discussed the posture you should have when you pray, the Bible actually has a lot to say about what words you should use when you pray. Jesus gives a great lesson on prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. I want to start by looking at what the Lord’s Prayer can show us.

We can split the topics of prayer into three categories:

  1. Praises (Matt 6:9)
  2. Petitions (Matt 6:11)
  3. Repentance (Matt 6:12-13)

You might notice that this is one category more than we usually talk about when we pray at church. Jesus himself says that we need to pray for repentance, so make sure you don’t forget to add this to your prayers. Praises and petitions are a lot more familiar to most of us, though. When we praise, we thank God for who he is and what he has done and petitions are when we ask God to provide for us.

Another thing Jesus says is to not babble (Matthew 6:7). Repeating yourself does not make yourself heard. Keep your prayers to the point. Especially when you are praying for a group of people. You don’t need to make your prayer sound special and eloquent. God already knows what needs to be said, so you don’t need to repeat yourself. This is not to say that you shouldn’t continue to pray for something.  If something is on your heart, you should pray for it continuously. In my opinion however, the reason for this is not so that God will be more likely to consider your prayers. More on that tomorrow.

Here a few interesting things to note. Discussion can be a form of prayer. In Luke 9:18, Jesus is praying and talking to his disciples. I believe that when we discuss our prayers with each other, we are participating in a form of prayer. Another form of prayer is music. We can praise God in our songs or we can ask for His help; we can even repent through song.

Jesus gives a few more commands regarding how we should pray in Matthew 6.  For one, he says that we should pray in private. But he also says that God already knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8), so why do we need to make these prayers in private? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear the answer to that one, but I’ll give you a hint now. It has to do with our memory verse: being changed.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

How to Pray: Posture

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2017

PRAY!

Today we finally get into how we should go about praying. I’m sure we’ve all learned different ways of prayer; some of us grew up bowing our heads and folding our hands or perhaps kneeling to pray. For some people, what we do when we pray changes depending on where we are or who we are with. Maybe you hold hands when you pray before a meal. When a group is preparing to leave on a mission, it is common for a church to put their hands on them as they pray.

But what does the Bible say we should do?

As it turns out, there is no single way that the Bible tells us to pray. We can find some examples of how people in the Bible prayed, however. In Genesis 24:45, it says that Rebekah prayed in her heart. If you read this with the understanding that ancient Egyptians (and by implication, the Israelites) believed that the heart was the center of thought and knowledge, the verse says that Rebekah prayed in her mind. So silent prayers are absolutely fine! Matthew 6:5 speaks of praying while standing and in Luke 22:41, Jesus prays while kneeling. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me.

Personally, I have never understood the practice of closing your eyes and bowing your head. If prayer is a conversation with God, then I want to stand tall and meet his eyes, as I would for any person that I respect. If I were to meet the President of the United States, I would stand, shake his hand and maintain solid eye contact. For me, this is the highest form of respect in our culture. For me, when I close my eyes, I look at myself. How can I have a conversation if I’m only thinking about myself? At that point it is a monologue and no longer a prayer.

The long and short of prayer posture is: it all comes down to you! Pray in such a way that you can keep your focus on the prayer. If closing your eyes causes your mind to wander, than open your eyes. If having your eyes open causes you to get distracted by what you see, then shut your eyes. Maybe some of us need to try praying in a different way than we have before. After all, anyone who is in Christ should be a new creation!

-Nathaniel Johnson

Why Should We Pray?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Luke 18-1

I don’t want to spend any time talking about what prayer is or how we should go about it before I even convince you that we should be praying.

So why should we pray?

I think this is a pretty easy question to answer. Jesus commands it. There are a few verses that explicitly command prayer: Matthew 6:5-15, Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:18 and Luke 18:1. I want to look a little closer at the verse in Luke today.

”Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).  If we strive to be disciples of Jesus, then we should always pray. Being a disciple is essential to being “in Jesus,” just like our memory verse says. If we commit ourselves to constant prayer, than we can become a new creation.

Seems like a pretty easy step right? All we have to do is pray! Tomorrow we’ll talk about what that looks like.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Transformation!

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

2 Corinthians 5-17

Weekly Introduction by Nathaniel Johnson

If any of you have known me for very long, you know just how awful of a child I was. I was a little fireball of emotion. I would kick and scream when I didn’t get my way and I would hurt anyone that got in my way. Thank God for the transformation that occurred when I decided to be baptized! However, baptism wasn’t the only thing that changed me. A life filled with Bible study and prayer is what changed me. Paul described my situation perfectly in his letter to the Corinthians when he said, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

 

Our memory verse for the week will be one that I have always felt very close to, 2 Corinthians 5:17. Throughout the rest of the week, I look forward to spending some time talking about prayer and how it is intimately related to this verse in 2 Corinthians.