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Taking the Lord at His Word
"Don't Skip Over Your Privileges and Rights!"
by Barbara Smith

For me, explaining prayer is a lot like me trying to explain how a telephone works: I can tell you who invented it. I can define it, describe it, and tell how folks use it. However, I cannot tell you how it works. I can tell you this, however: God the Creator and sustainer of the Universe delights to hear His children pray from their hearts where Christ rules. I cannot explain how the Sovereign Lord receives the prayers of mortals, but He does - actively.

"Call upon me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me." (Ps 50:15)

"He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him." (Ps 91:15)

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." (Jer. 33:3)

Hundreds of verses in Scripture answer these questions; I warrant many of us have volumes of helpful and thought-provoking material about prayer on our shelves at home. However, I will focus on the first thirteen verses in the eleventh chapter of Luke.

First, however, before Luke recounts the Lord Jesus' teaching about prayer, the good doctor reports that the Lord Jesus and his disciples were dinner guests of a woman named Martha. Luke reports that she was a frazzled hostess, distracted with all her preparations. (I wonder who was Luke's source for this story?)

While Martha worked, her sister Mary chose to sit quietly at Jesus' feet, listening to His words. The Lord Jesus commended Mary's priorities. (Perhaps the memory of Mary's posture, peacefully sitting at Jesus feet, prompted the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray?)

And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples."
And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."
And He said to them, "Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he shall answer and say,' Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything. '
"I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him {anything} because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
"And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
"For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.
"Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?
"Or {if} he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall {your} heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
(Luke 11:1-13)

Jesus gave His disciples a PATTERN for prayer and illustrated how to use this pattern by telling them a PARABLE about PERSISTENCE. Next the Lord gave them a PRAYER PROCEDURE: Ask, seek, and knock. And with that PROCEDURE, He explained its PURPOSE: the one who asks receives, and one who seeks, finds and to the one who knocks, it shall be opened. Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ gave His disciples a great and precious PROMISE: That God would send the Holy Spirit to those who ask. God gives to those who ask and seek and knock, the power and purpose of His Holy Spirit.

Picture, now, Mary, composed and attentive at her Lord's feet, not busy, bustling accomplished -- Martha, and let's explore briefly the pattern of prayer that can bring us peace.

Christ's Pattern for Prayer
With five simple sentences, Jesus gave His disciples such a simple prayer pattern.

  • Father, hallowed be Thy name.
  • Thy kingdom come.
  • Give us each day our daily bread.
  • And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
  • And lead us not into temptation.

His pattern is as easy to remember as your phone number. However, when we frequently dial a familiar phone number, we rarely think about the complexity of the phone connection. So too, when we pray through this pattern, it is tempting simply to overlook the deeper and broader implication: we too often forget how Christ established our connection to the Throne of God! When we apply the pattern for the disciples' prayer to our prayers:

Hallow God's name
Don't dishonor Him by taking God Almighty for granted, especially when we pray. Spend time thinking about Who God is and the wonder of what He does. Let what you learn change your conversation with your Heavenly Father. If I began most conversations with my husband the way I launch into my prayers, he would be turned off! (See I Kings 19:28)

We spend more hours reading newspapers, reading magazines, "chatting" with folks to understand our world, than we spend with God, don't we? How much time do you spend marveling with the Creator of your world? This might be a clue if you "feel" like you aren't getting through to your Father. The *truth* is He is always listening: "Now . . . My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place." (2 Chr 7:15)

Obey His word. We may not know the whole Bible but what we do know we must obey.

Pray about GOD's Kingdom -- not our own
The needs and limitations of our own little fiefdoms consume so much of valuable prayer time. Do you doubt this? Review your prayers for this day. Are you praying about His Kingdom or yours if you never get around to mentioning your church or pastors or our missionaries? If you do not routinely pray for your neighbors or your enemies, are you praying about God's Kingdom, or your own?

Genuinely longing for HIS kingdom to come, means we must be willing for ours to go.

Pray that HIS will is done
Pray that HIS will is done because if we cannot expand our horizons beyond the boundaries of our personal peace and affluence, we cannot know what others need!

Express gratitude and contentment with your "daily bread."
"Thank you, God, for my toast?"

Yes! Remember to thank God especially for the little things specifically that you think you are buying for yourself. Perhaps because of affluence and Biblical ignorance, gratitude for even the next breath we draw is a low priority on many modern prayers before the Throne of Grace.

  • Are you content with the daily ways in which God answers and provides for you?
  • Make a little list and thank God for everything He has done for you in the past twenty-four hours. Can you think of 24 praises?

And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
Are you accepting God's gift of forgiveness, but withholding your forgiveness from those who wronged you in real or imagined ways? If so, you don't understand Calvary's cost.

If you have something against a brother, or suspect someone has a grievance against you, go and make it right! (Matthew 5:24; 18:15-20)

The most common temptation is wanting *our* way in place of God's rule.
Sometimes this is blatant, but sometimes our rebellion is oh so subtle and oh so deadly. Unforgiveness is sin and cherishing sin in our hearts displeases God; hanging onto the chains from which Christ freed us leads to more temptation and more sin.

Shouldn't we pray then for God to keep us off the throne of our own hearts?

Christ gave us such a simple pattern for effective prayer, yet, we will spend the rest of our lives learning to pray His words, truthfully! So, something more is required to pray something more than just knowing the right words.

Exercising Your Rights: Becoming a Woman of Prayer
God has shown us what HE wants HIS women to be like, so he carefully recorded information about many women for a reason. They were not perfect they had problems they struggled with unbelief but they obeyed at a critical point in their walk with God and HE blessed them. Their faith was the assurance of the things they hoped for, the conviction of things they could not see. For by faith in God the women of old gained approval. (Heb 11:1-2)

What He said about these women may help you to pray more intelligently. In your small groups, discuss one or two of these women for thirty minutes.

What about her life impresses you?

How does the record of her life encourage your prayer life?

Then break up and pick one or two women and listen for God to form some specific prayers about issues in your life:

  1. Tamar: (Her name may mean "like a palm." Because of the value of palm trees in the East, the idea of this name connotes wealth and beauty)
    Scripture references Genesis 38:6-30; Ruth 4:12; 1 Chronicles 2:4; Matthew 1:3

  2. Rahab:
    Scripture references: Joshua 2:1, 3; 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25

  3. Ruth:
    Scripture references: The Book of Ruth, Matt. 1:6
    What about Naomi's life impresses you?

  4. Bathsheba:
    Scripture references: II Sam. 11:2,3; 12:24; I Ki. 1:11-31; 2:13-19; I Chr. 3:5; Matt.1:6

  5. Hannah:
    Scripture references: I Samuel 1; 2:1-21
    How does her prayer life inform yours

  6. Abigail: The woman with beauty and brains and a troubled marriage
    Scripture references: I Samuel 25:1-42; II Samuel 3:3

  7. In Gen 21:1: "Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised." What do you know about Sarah's life? Her life was recorded by Moses in Genesis. She became the mother of nations.
    Look up Isaiah 51:2; Romans 4:19; 9:9; Hebrews 11:11; I Peter 3:6

  8. Mary: The mother of our Lord Jesus Christ
    Scripture references: Matthew 1;2; 12:46; Luke 1; 2; John 2:1-11; 19:25; Acts 1:14
    Read the Magnificat. (Lk 1: 46-55) What do you learn about prayer from Mary?

Keep reading! Read about these women Deborah, (Judges 4 & 5; Hebrews 11:32-34;) Dorcas, (Acts 9 36-43) Jeosheba, Joash's aunt, (2 Kings 11) and Salome, who wanted the best for her boys. (See Mat.20:20-24; 27:56; Mark 10:35-40; 15:40, 41;16:1,2) Build your own list! A good resource is All The Women in the Bible by Herbert Lockyer.

Remember: "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them." (Ps 145:18-19)

Next: "Christ's Precious Promise
to Those Who Will Pray"

© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Selected from material prepared for a prayer conference at the First Baptist of Alto Loma's Women's Prayer Retreat. Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
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Arnold, MD 21012

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