PRAYER PITFALLS

SCRIPTURE READING:  Matthew 6

Our Scripture in Matthew 6:5-8 is speaking to those who PRAY; people who take prayer seriously.

PRAYER is one of the greatest acts of the Christian believer.  It’s talking to God, whether by thought or tongue and the way a BELIEVER fellowships with God; and the one thing God desires is FELLOWSHIP with His people.

So it is essential that we PRAY and PRAY often and sharing all day long.

However, that we pray is not the concern of Jesus in this passage.  His concern is HOW WE PRAY.

It’s possible to PRAY and never be heard by God.

It’s possible to PRAY AMISS– with wrong motives and the wrong way.

Let me rephrase that in a different way.  An omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God cannot fail to know what’s going on this planet.  But when we pray with wrong motives, God chooses to ignore that prayer.

It’s possible to PRAY and to be speaking only to ourselves, to have our prayer go no higher than our own ears.  Therefore, Christ sets out to teach us the right and wrong motives for PRAYING.

  • The WRONG MOTIVE; praying to be seen by men (v. 5).

PRAYER CAN BECOME HYPOCRITICAL

A person can pray for the wrong reasons, with the wrong motives.

PRAYER is a wonderful experience, very rewarding emotionally and mentally and in having our needs met as God answers our prayer.  We can begin to LOVE PRAYING and still be praying amiss.

Praying Amiss is simply praying outside the will of God; it’s the offering of prayer but one that is done in ignorance and it’s akin to asking God to go against Himself.  For this reason alone is why at times I pray Bible verses–God’s Word for I know with confidence that I’m praying in God’s will.

And it’s easy to PRAY AMISS!

The Scripture declared that we don’t know how to PRAY as we should, hence the GIFT of the new nature and the Helper in the person of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 2:12).

So what is “Hypocrisy”?

In essence, it refers to the act of claiming to BELIEVE something but acting in a different manner.  The word is derived from the Greek term for “actor”–literally, “one who wears a mask”–in other words, someone who pretends to be what he isn’t.

The Bible calls hypocrisy a SIN.

There are TWO forms HYPOCRiSY can take:  that of professing belief in something and then acting in a manner contrary to that belief AND…that of looking down on others when we ourselves are flawed.  OUCH!  Both forms are prayer blockers!!

PRAYER can also become empty repetition.

A person can take any phrase or form of prayer and make it a meaningful experience, or make it a formal and meaningless occasion.

Every Sunday morning before our pastor gives the message, he calls the ushers forward and asks for one to PRAY for the tithes and offerings.  And that’s a good thing!  However, when it becomes just a ‘formal and meaningless occasion’ the words go unnoticed to man and to God.

Just think how often the LORD’S PRAYER is repeated from rote memory with the mind focused elsewhere.

PRAYER can become too long.

A believer can begin to feel he is heard because of “many words”.

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words”  (Matthew 6:7 – New International Version).

“Many words” OR “babbling” – 

“Babbling” in the Greek language, the word is “kenophonia”, literally, “making an empty sound” (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16).

BABBLE sounds like Babel, the Biblical tower where everyone was talking in their own language.  Everyone was babbling without paying attention to their neighbors, like the kid who won’t stop talking about his trip to the water park three years ago.

PRAYER can become self-glorifying.

A person can begin to feel he/she must inform and convince God somehow of their great need.

PRAYER can become self-deceptive.

Christ says “when you pray”… He is referring to personal prayer.

I believe that Christ assumes that the BELIEVER does pray, and the idea conveyed is that the BELIEVER prays often.

What do I mean by PRAYING OFTEN?

The Apostle Paul tells us this about praying:  “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thess. 5:17-16).

I don’t believe that Paul is commanding us to bow our heads, eyes-closed posture all day long.  He’s talking about an ATTITUDE of God-consciousness and God-surrender we should carry with us all the time.  That’s more than “often.”

Jesus says in His teaching that some love to PRAY, and they are the very ones who stumble in the PITFALL of praying amiss with the wrong motives.

Christ pictures TWO MEN PRAYING.

  • One man prays for other people to hear.
  • The other man prays to the Father.

The first man is a HYPOCRITE and the second man is a true son of the Father.

CLOSET PRAYERS –

Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

I have to tell you, I like The King James Version when it refers to the place Jesus says to go and pray, in your closet.  Just because it’s smaller, more private that “your room”, or “your [most] private room”.

PRAYER is God’s appointed medium through which He acts for mankind.

Sharing and talking together are the ways all people communicate, fellowship, and commune together.  This is true for most people and in my opinion, women more than men because they are just more sociable.  Don’t ask me why that is, it’s just so.

PRAYER requires our presence, sharing and talking; and God looks forward to His sons and daughters’ fellowship. their communion.

It seems as though few people take PRAYER seriously.  Prayer in many cases has become a “rabbit’s foot”–‘wishin’ and ‘hopin’ type of communication.  Therefore, if we want the BLESSINGS of God to shower upon our lives and ministries; if we want the work of God going forth in POWER and bearing fruit–we must PRAY and we must INTERCEDE in PRAYER.

Matthew 6:9 (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

Luke 18:1 (NIV)

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them they should always pray and not give up.

PRAYER, even loving to pray, isn’t a sign that a person knows God.  The fact that a person really knows God means that he does pray.

All YAMS are sweet potatoes, but not ALL sweet potatoes are YAMS.

No matter what a person may think in their mind, if they really know God, really believe in God, they will talk to God.

There is nothing that could keep one from PRAYING,

Remember Daniel, even though he knew that if he prayed he would be thrown to the lions, he prayed.

A child of God knows God’s personality, knows Him as His Father who loves and cares for him ever so deeply.  Therefore, just as any child who truly loves his father, the BELIEVER talks, converses and shares with his/her Father not because they have to, but because they want to!  That’s what you do when you LOVE someone.

This says something to a person who prays primarily in public and prays little if any in private.  One must search the GENUINENESS OF THEIR HEART AND PROFESSION.

Jesus says that a man (or woman) who PRAYS TO BE SEEN AND HEARD by others loves to PRAY, but is a hypocrite.  Their LOVE is really for the public recognition.  Afterall, that’s what people expect from them.

The PLACES where he loves to PRAY….out in public, in the synagogue (church), in the streets (restaurants, and other public areas).

Some love to PRAY PUBLICALLY.

Their LOVE representing the group around them and vocalizing their praises and needs to God.  Some have become very charismatic and at ease with public prayer, yet they lack that essential LOVE for private prayer.  Christ calls them “hypocrites”. 

Some PRAY only in public.  They pray for their family (at meals and family prayers, usually with children); in church (when called upon); and in public (when eating in restaurants).  How destitute is the PRAYER LIFE of so many!

PRAYER is to be offered to God both in church and in public.

But PUBLIC PRAYER is to be public, not private.

Too often a person has their personal devotions when called upon to pray publically.  They have neglected their private prayers and their inner needs haven’t been met.  So when he begins to PRAY publically, he/she slips into praying for their own private prayer instead of representing the group.

Man’s ESTEEM is temporary.

The person who prays on the street corner or in the synagogue receives his reward of public recognition.  This man’s ESTEEM, this public recognition, fails at several points.

Everything passes even so quickly.  A man soon forgets and moves on to other things.

Man’s ESTEEM becomes commonplace.

Even the excellent, oratorical skilled that elicit man’s praise becomes routine and commonplace when performed day by day, Sunday after Sunday.  Soon no one acknowledges the public display.  Such abilities are merely expected and accepted, and man’s praise and recognition disappear.

Man’s ESTEEM is powerless.

It cannot answer PRAYER; it can only recognize man’s ability to put words together, to see man’s expression, fervency, and emotion.

Man’s ESTEEM can do absolutely nothing about the spiritual needs of the heart.

Let me Post Matthew 6:6 again.

 

The right motive for PRAYER is praying to be heard by God and God alone.

Our personal PRAYER LIFE is not for general consumption.  It is between me and God.

The willingness to take time to PRAY:  “When you pray”

There has to be the WILL to pray.  Every BELIEVER must take (make) time each and every day to get alone and pray.

A “CLOSET” or “PRIVATE ROOM” is a necessity!

This set-aside, private place is where a personal relationship id developed with God: a Father-son/daughter relationship is absolutely essential.

What then, when we do pray, is our motive?  Do we pray in public to be seen, heard by others?  Or do we pray in private to be in communion with our heavenly Father?

Again Jesus is talking about MOTIVE and ATTITUDE regarding PRAYER.

Are our prayers intended to be communion with God, a heart-to-HEART conversation?  It should be!

In that “closet”, at that time in your heart, you and the Father commune Father-to-child.

Know this!

That His ear is attentive and His eye sees, and in your quiet time His presence is precious!!

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SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG-POST

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.

The Bread From Heaven Ministries:  “Prayer blockers – Praying amiss”

gotQuestions?org. :  “What does the Bible say about hypocrisy?”

Hypocrite@ Dictionay.com

 

 

Getting Results in Prayer-“A Foggy Day”; Part IV

It was early one morning, on a fall day when I began my commute to work. When I say commute, I meant it was a commute! From my garage in Poway, California to my parking space in San Bernardino, California it was exactly 95 miles, one way. It was freeway mileage most of the way in 1978, but in most places, it was two lanes north and two lanes south. There wasn’t anything unusual that morning; traffic was minimal and the sun was starting to appear above the hills to the east. I had a country gospel tape playing in the  car, keeping me company for the next two hours.  After about 30 miles from my home, I would often lose radio reception in the car. I am guessing I had been on the road for over an hour.  Peering out the windows, I could see dense fog lying in the valleys ahead and around me. The further I drove, the more dense the fog became. As I approached March AFB, southeast of Riverside, there was a stop light strategically placed up ahead. I knew this highway well after 8 months of driving Interstate 15.  A side road enterd the freeway at this point. Why here, in the middle of no-where, I had no idea. Although I couldn’t quite see the signal in the fog, I knew it was there. Making this drive round trip every day, I could almost commute now… blind-folded.  As I slowly approach the intersection, I could see that the light was red, so I  prepared to stop before approaching the intersection. I noticed that there was another car already stopped to my left.  While waiting for the light to change, I decided to adjust my rear-view mirror.  At that momment, my eyes grew wide and my heart began to race. Coming up fast from behind, I could see headlights peering at me while speeding through the dense fog.  My thoughts at that instant; “surely the driver must see two cars stopped at a red light”. I looked to my left at the car and driver stopped next to me. He was looking straight forward. I don’t know if he has any idea what was about to happen. The lights from behind us came closer and closer, and at that very moment, it became immediately obvious. We were going to die! The  on-coming driver was completely unaware of the red light and  the two cars stopped at the signal. I closed my eyes and said, “JESUS, help me. SAVE me and let that light change. NOW!”  Then I braced myself as best as I could. As I opened my eyes, all I saw was the speeding auto’s tail-lights speeding down the highway past the both of us. The red light in front of me had NOT changed. I slowly turned to my left, only to see the driver’s resting his head and hands on the steering wheel. He probably had dug his finger nails into the wheel. At that moment, the light turned green but we both couldn’t move forward.  How could that car go between both of the automobiles and not hit either of us? There was only about four feet between the two cars. I slowly accelerated the company car and shouted to myself, or anyone else that could hear me, “THANK YOU JESUS”.  God had surely protected the both of us. Somehow, some way. When I finally arrived at work that morning and told my story, I received no comments. Just blank stares of un-belief. That night when I pulled into my driveway, I could only imagine how my family would react to the story and this morning’s miracle.  As I found out that night at choir practice (another 40 mile round trip), people had been praying for my commute on that exact morning. Maybe the exact minute of my near tragic experience.

Lets look at some revealing examples and clues of detailed detective work in Acts 12.  King Herod had just struck a blow to the church that day. He had James, the brother of John killed with the sword; one of the “sons of thunder”, a leader in the first church. He had been brutally murdered and Herod had no intentions to stop with James.  Lets pick up the story in VERSE 3:

“And when he (King Herod) saw that it was pleasing to the Jews, he proceeded further and arrested Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread [the Passover week].”

The early church members must have been devastated by the news. If this arrest of Peter, was going to take place at all, why now? It was the time of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover? There was three mandatory feast set down for the Jewish people. The Passover, the Festival of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. There were other feasts on the calendar but these three had to be attended according to the Law.

VERSE 4 goes on to say, “And when he had seized [Peter], he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him, purposing after the Passover to bring him forth to the people.”

I bet King Herod was remembering when Pilate dealt with Jesus, bringing Him before the Jews and letting them decide to free Him or crucify Him. All of those took place during the Passover. The church assembly that was gathered in the large room, must have thought, “here we go again”.  Peter is now thrown into jail with sixteen strong armed soldiers guarding him. Things must have looked pretty bleak and dismal.

VERSE 5 says, the church members might have said, “lets all go home and pray about the situation and see what might happen in the morning.”  No, that’s NOT what they agreed to do.  “So Peter was kept in prison.  BUT…”, I love when the Holy Spirit puts in the word “BUT” in the bible. That means to forget what was just said.   “BUT fervent prayer for him was persistently made to God by the church (assembly).”  They didn’t go to their houses to pray for Peter. They didn’t wait for the results in the morning. The large number of church participants all stayed together at John’s mother’s house and began to pray “persistently” and FERVENTLY.  Prayers that were hot, boiling, moving in motion, an on- fire prayer meeting! (See VERSE 12}.

Lets look at VERSE 6 and see how Peter was reacting to his incarceration. Was he trembling in fear?

“The very night before Herod was about to bring him forth, Peter was…” tossing and turning, worried sick about the thing that was going to occur that night”. No, that is NOT what he was going through at all.  “Peter was SLEEPING between two soldiers, fastened with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.”  Peter was acting much differently than I reacted in the fog that morning. I prayed alright, but I prayed out of P-A-N-I-C. Was my prayer a FERVENT PRAYER? Perhaps.  I had two dear friends I sang with in a gospel trio in Southern California. We sang at churches, mens and women’s retreats and anywhere people would have us sing. The three of us became such close friends, from of our love of singing together, of being together, we became one in the spirit. After choir practice that night, long after my morning experience, I began to share with these brothers in Christ.  Milford, the bass in the trio; we called him Mil, began telling me his earlier experience of that morning. He explained that he was getting ready for work and shaving his face as he did every morning.  “YOU know Mel, I have prayed for you on and off since your long commute began. But this morning, it was different.”  “What do you mean by “different”? I asked. “Well, I had the strongest feeling to stop shaving and just pray for your safety. More so than anytime before. My prayer didn’t last very long but it was intense.”  THANK YOU BROTHER!  Was that fervent, earnest prayer? I believe it was, without a doubt.  Now look at the first of result of gathered prayer in VERSE 7.  They ALL decided it was the time forFERVENT prayer. Their persistant, earnest, heartfelt prayers had released God’s messengers.

“And suddenly an ANGEL of the Lord appeared [standing beside him], and a light shone in the place where he was”.

An angel had been released suddenly. Right where Peter was in prison. While he was fast asleep. Were angels released because of Mil’s fervent prayer for my safety on the highway that morning?  Right where I was waiting for the signal to turn green? I will add a note right here. I was definitely not asleep at the wheel! I believe to this day, that angels protected the occupants of both automobiles on that foggy morning. Lets go on looking at the results of Peter’s story in VERSE 7.

“And the angel gently smote Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, Get up quickly! And the chains fell off his hands.”

What was going through Peter’s subconscious mind during this whole experience?  Have you ever been awakened from a sound sleep and your thoughts were clear? Not me. I have to hear the coffee pot brewing in the morning before I even start to be alert. Look at Peter’s reactions in VERSE 9.

“And [Peter] went out [along] following him [the angel], and he was not conscious that what was apparently being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.”  I could empathize with Peter in this verse. When the speeding car in the dense fog, was rushing at me  from behind that morning, was it just a vision? Did it really happen? Maybe that was my first reaction, but after looking at the driver in the next car, that question quickly disappeared.

VERSE 10 then says, “When they had passed through the first guard and the second, they came to the iron gate which leads into the city.”

More results from corporate praying in earnest. Maybe running by the first guard without attracting attention but a second guard? That can’t be just a happen-stance.  As they both moved on, the angel and Peter next came to an iron gate. This was NOT a small side door into the city. Gates in biblical times were often put between two strong towers. The walls that flanked the city’s entrance gate were often six to 15 feet thick.  The iron gate itself was often a gate within itself. The gate often had a name attached to it, describing a group of people who congregated behind it. (ex., The Essene Gate, The Gennath Gate) The main gate had to be fortified; for the defense and protection of the city. So when Peter and the angel approach the iron gate of the city we read in verse 10, “Of its own accord [the gate] swung open, and they went out and passed on through on street; and at once the angel left him.”  Now that experience surely must have got Peter to realize, he wasn’t sleep walking or dreaming. VERSE 11  says, “Then Peter came to himself and said, Now I REALLY KNOW and am sure that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the Jewish people were expecting [to do to me].”

This is an example of getting results in our prayers, through the fervency of other believers. How can earnest, hot and boiling, moving, FERVENT PRAYER bring results that might be lacking in our Christian lives? In Acts 12, the RESULTS are evident.

1.  Angels are sent to our need.

2.  It releases our binding chains; strongholds, addictions, bad habits and more. Anything that keeps us from our Father will.

3.  Miracles are received through our faith and confidence. What sometimes seem impossible, becomes possible.

4.  Deliverance. From stress, our fears, and our faults.

How are our Christian brothers and sisters to know how to pray for us if we don’t build close relationships?  JAMES 5:16 says, “Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The EARNEST (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].”  Are we to confess are faults and screw-ups to each other? You must be kidding me, right? NO, I am not kidding and neither is JAMES. WHY? Well, it gets rid of phoniness, we come more transparent and a trust is built between each other. Confession will get rid of hypocrisy. That was Peter’s relationship with the assembled believers in Acts 12 and that was my relationship with Mil and David; the Fischermen’s Trio. FERVENT prayer comes only from close relationships. Relationships can be compared with the three compartments of God’s Holy Temple. Casual acquaintances are for the outer court or compartments. Good friends may enter into your holy place at times to pray, BUT only one or two should be allowed into your holy of holies. You shouldn’t walk up to an acquaintance Sunday morning and say “My name is…would you pray for my bad attitude before worship?”  That area of confession is the place for the manifested Presence of God. That’s where angels are sent. That’s how results happen in our prayers. FERVENT PRAYERS are but an aspect in getting results to happen. Getting Results in Prayer doesn’t just happen. It takes close relationships with your Heavenly Father and with other believers. Be persistent, be faithful and be confident in the fervency of your prayers. You will get results, even on a “FOGGY MORNING”.