Don't worry about anything; on the contrary, make your requests known to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6

Praying - Communicating with our Heavenly Father

One of the most amazing possibilities in the universe!

The God who created the universe and who is perfect and holy, is willing and eager to communicate with us.   This is only possible if our sin has been dealt with.  For the Christian this was done through the death and resurrection of Jesus.   Prayer is a daily necessity for the believer and follower of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus taught us to pray  (Matthew 6 v5 )

-- "This, then, is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,  your will be done  on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts,  as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation,  but deliver us from the evil one.'
Notice that we pray to, "Our Father in Heaven".   Pretty amazing eh!

Jesus prayed himself,  (Luke 6 v11)  

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.   When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles

Jesus encouraged us to keep on praying 

(Luke 11 v5)   Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'   "Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'   I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Jesus was not suggesting that our heavenly father is unwilling to answer us, but that we should persist in prayer.

We should pray in simplicity and sincerity, not for show.   (Matthew 6 v5)

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.    But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.   And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.   Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

We should pray to our heavenly Father, acknowledging our sins, and know that he will forgive us  (Luke 18 v9)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:   "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.   The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'     "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'    This is an ideal first prayer!   "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus even prayed for the impossible as part of his relationship with his Father, sharing all that was burdening his heart.   In the Garden of Gethsemane

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."  

We do not just pray in our own, limited, strength

(Ephesians 6 v18)   And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Romans 8 v26 promises us,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.   And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

So our heavenly Father knows what we need  (not what we want, notice) and his desire is to meet our needs.

He wants us to pray for our fellow believers and for the working out of His kingdom purposes.

Why does our all knowing, all powerful God want us to pray when he knows what we need and can do it all anyway?   It seems to me that it is for our benefit, that we are involved in his work and in this way we are blessed in working to understand His will and in seeing our prayers answered.

Also, we should remember that prayer is best associated with reading of His word.  Thus as we spend time with our heavenly father he can open  to our spiritual understanding the scriptures we have read, to deepen our faith and delight in Him, to build up our Christian character and to guide us in our daily decision making.

Most Christians will tell you,  Prayer is a major spiritual battle zone.  The most effective tactic of the enemy of your soul is to have your prayer time dwindle away.  

The first remedy may be remarkably practical ---  Set your alarm a bit earlier in the morning, and go to bed earlier if you have trouble waking up in the morning!

Remember, prayer is not only a one to one with God, it is also a joint activity of fellowships of believers.  You will not be able to come up with all the things that need praying for but you can add your "Amen"  (may it be so) to the prayers of elder brothers and sisters.

 

Fasting

Fasting is sometimes associated with Prayer in Jesus' teaching.  It appears not to be a big issue, just something that is done as part of getting serious with our Heavenly Father. 

In Matthew 6 v16-18,  Jesus said,  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.   But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you".

In Acts 14 v12 we read,

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust"

As to why a certain demon could not be cast out by his disciples, Mark 9 v29 He (Jesus) replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting"    (not all manuscripts include "and fasting".

You can read about Daniel and Esther fasting.   (Daniel 9 v35 and Esther 4 v15 )

The only fast commanded in Torah was the twenty five hour fast for Yom Kippur.  However Jews observe some other fasts for serious holy days such as the ninth of Av.  There is nothing to stop Christians observing these fasts. 

 

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