Friday, July 14, 2017

Three Kinds of Prayers – and the Challenge (Frank Myer)

Good evening! My devotional tonight is again penned by my friend, Frank Myer. Frank and I went to Harding University together and our folks did the same several decades previously. Frank writes a weekly devotional called Friday From Frank and he has graciously loaned me several of his excellent pieces! Please continue to pray for me in Vietnam!

Good Morning Prayers,
It’s another week and we’re still here, at least those of us reading this are.
I can’t say that I’ve been to every church service when the door was open, but I’ve been to a lot of them. There are some things I’ve noticed about prayer.
There seems to me to be three kinds of prayer. 1) The kind we shouldn’t do. 2) The kind we do way too often, 3) The kind we ought to do more.
The first kind is the “Hey, look at me, I’m praying” prayer. As you might guess, God is not too impressed with this kid of prayer. How do I know? I read the Bible.
When people pray with a false heart here is how God reacts. Isaiah 1.
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Since we are a new testament church, let me add. Matthew 6:5
“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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 
There are more verses, but that will do for now.
Level 2 Prayer – It makes sense, but not really what God has in mind.
Daniel did it. Jonah did it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did as well, along with Peter when he stepped out of the boat.
This tends to fall into the “My leg is on fire, I better start praying.”
This is similar to what my dad always told me about staying up all night cramming for a test the next day, which coincidently enough also included prayer, he would say: “Cramming is the worst way to study but it is better than not studying at all.”
Do you even wonder how many “last minute” prayers God hears?
How many times in your life have you muddled along in prayer until the pressure really was turned up, and then you went into high-intensity prayer? God has seen it all before.
The last kind, the best kind is the contemplative prayer. Prayer we think about.
Going back to public prayer for a moment. When we pray in the service, there is a respectful way to do that.
When we pray in private there is a best-practices way to follow.
First we must realize our prayers will be different at different times. When you see a team kneeling on the playing field after a win, you can bet the tone is a lot different than when they lose a big one.
When you are faced with challenges there are times when we become so overwhelmed we don’t know what to say.
Ironically, these are usually to lowest point in our lives and when God steps in to do His best work. In fact, Jesus tells us he is sending a helper, a comforter.
Romans 8:26
26 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 through wordless groans.
At our stage in life, there have been times when groaning is about all we can do.
The challenge with prayer is we don’t really know what to expect.
We think we do. We are bantered with clichés about Let God and Let Go, which I for one don’t care for.
We hear – Well if you are praying for something and not getting it that means God is telling you no.
What? I’m praying for my child to get better, or a parent to work through a horrible illness. I’m not asking for a new BMW. I’m asking for help for something worthwhile.
Oh, well God knows better and He’s telling me “No.”  That is a challenge to me.
I would imagine there were lots of unanswered prayers in the wilderness. Forty years is a long time. Sometimes it’s hard to understand how prayer works.
As we talked about when Cooter was teaching, Joseph thrown in the well and sold into slavery. How was his prayer life then?
What was it like as the second in control of all of Egypt?
A week ago I had lunch with a long-time friend. He mentioned it’s pretty easy to pray with your Executive Vice President of Egypt. The trick is to pray when you are slave #8 in the bottom of a ship, chained to an oar.
Another irritant of church life is folks who decide it’s their holy mission to tell me I should know better. That’s a given. We all should know better. What I want to know is HOW to be better.
How do I pray better?
And it’s not just me, which this falls under the umbrella of misery loves company, but if the folks following Jesus had issues, maybe it’s okay for me to have a few.
Mark 9 has this story. Can you relate?  What if you were that dad?
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe,[a] all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”

How do we pray correctly?
  1. Be honest. God knows anyway.
    1. Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
          before you were born I set you apart;
          I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
    2. Psalm 139:13 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
  2. Ask for what you want – with faith
    1. James 1:6 -  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
  3. Be thankful –
    1. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 -  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  4. Here’s a tough one to balance – Be content – if content why ask for anything
    1. Philippians – 4:11 - I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
  5. Keep your faith –

For this I go back to an earlier example I used. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, at the fiery furnace.  This is one of my touchstone verses.
Daniel 3:16 forward
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Key-Phrase - Even if he doesn’t….
This last tid-bit of wisdom isn’t in the Bible, but it should be. It’s from the movie Galaxy Quest.  “Never Surrender. Never give up.”
Folks, no matter what you do. No matter what happens. Keep praying.

Enjoy the ride,
Frank Myer

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