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Full Armour
Brett Anderson ©2004

We're back to the journey of looking at the Chrstian life and this week I am looking at prayer. I am going to do things a little differently this week in that I have a couple of hardcore prayer quotes by various people that I am going to scatter throughout the thort in between double lines as just something extra to get you thinking...

Prayer must be one of the most underrated and underused tools in the Christian armoury, and I say 'armoury' because it's quite a cool word, but more importantly because that's where prayer is mentioned as part of the Ephesians 6:10-20 passage titled 'the Armour of God.'

Prayer is not given as a specific weapon in that passage, but rather mentioned at the end of it as the activity to be undertaken once you are wearing your spiritual armour and Paul urges the church to pray "on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are commanded to "pray continuously" and that phrase is sandwiched between "Be joyful always" and "giving thankx in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." We spoke about knowing what God's will was a few thorts ago and here is another instance of us already having been told - Pray! A LOT!!!!

'The time for excuses in our spiritual disciplines is over' - [Nigel Measures (Khanyisa)]

'Just do it!' [Nike]

I think one of the biggest encouragements I would give to someone in terms of wanting to know how to pray better or more effectively, is to BE REAL! Whether it is you by yourself on your bed or aloud in a prayer meeting of 20 people or in front of a church of 3000 people, Christians could really gain a lot by being real in their praying. I believe God really desires to meet with us where we are at and not where we think we should be at using the kind of language we think He wants to hear. God knows our slang and would rather we use it if it helps us to speak our heart more openly and real'ly.

This is an area where we can definitely learn from young children and I really believe this is part of what Jesus was talking about when He said that unless we become like children we have no part in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18] When children pray, they say what is on their heart and let it all out as it is on the inside whether good, bad or ugly.

The Psalms of David are a great example of this because sometimes he is on top of the world and his faith in God is so strong and he fully believes that God is looking out for him and will rescue him and provide for him. At other times he seems to question whether God is there at all or expresses anger or confusion or doubt - whatever is on his heart at the moment. And that is what God wants...

Yes, I think it is important that we remember Who we are speaking to when we talk to God and that we are not disrespectful in how we talk to God, but in terms of what we say, God has heard it all before and I doubt anything we say is going to rock His throne and cause Him too much concern.

I think it is important to remember who prayer is for anyways. Is it for God? Does God need to be informed by us about stuff? Or does He already know it all and just wants to hear us express it so that He can build relationship with us and connect with us through where we are at. We don't pray cos God needs it; we pray because we do. Because communication is vital in building up a relationship with someone; and because that is exactly what prayer is - communication - talking (and hopefully listening) to God. Inviting Him into our life and heart and issues and joys and making Him central in terms of every part of our life.

It's difficult to be tripped up by pride when you're on your knees. [c/o my buddy Trav]

I think the root of all sin is either pride or selfishness and as the quote says, it is hard to be suffering from either of those when you're on your knees, especially if you are aware of Who you are in front of when you are.

For any of you who are stressing because you feel far away from God or because things are not going well in your life or who claim they never hear from God, I want to ask you this question: Are you praying? Are you spending time in communication with God? If you are, there is still the chance that you don't feel connected and God can feel far away and stuff.... but what I'm saying is if you are not praying then don't even bother complaining, because there is a vital element that you are missing... first go and get praying and then come back and ask your questions...

So how does this prayer thing work? Basically the lesson we teach our kids in Sunday School - 'Prayer is speaking to God' - is actually probably one of the most higher grade depth lessons a lot of adults could do well to hear. Because prayer is speaking to God (and listening to Him!) How? It doesn't matter - open your mouth and speak...

In Matthew 6, Jesus gives His disciples a model of prayer that has become known as 'The Lord's Prayer' - which starts with us establishing contact with God by acknowledging who He is ["Our Father in heaven."] and inviting in His Kingdom ["Your Kingdom come, Your will be done."] and will into our lives... before going onto a whole bunch of different sections - provision, forgiveness, repentence, protection and so on... there are many different facets to prayer and I don't think the words are as important as the meaning and heart behind the words. So communicate what is on your heart in honesty and reality - God knows the truth anyway, so no sense in pretending things are better than they are - be real - cry out, be hurt, be confused, be angry... whatever you are feeling or where you are at, bring that before God.

The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says "Amen" and runs away, before God has a chance to reply. LISTENING to God is far more important than giving Him your ideas. [Frank Laubach.]

This is an area that I struggle with cos I am quite a busy person by nature (in my head anyways) and I like quick answers and to be doing stuff... and so to just sit and give God time to respond, or just wait on Him, is something I rarely get right. But those times that I do manage (often when I'm out in a nature'y place and have time to just be) to just sit in the presence of God and wait, I really do enjoy and I often do hear God in those times which is amazing and makes me wonder why I don't do it more often. So I want to encourage you, and especially a lot of you who will be on holiday when you are reading this, to take some time out and just listen to God... maybe it will help if you are out in nature, or are listening to a worship cd, or sit somewhere quiet with a pencil and paper to write down anything you think may be God saying stuff to you...

Also, I guess another way of looking at it, in light of the quote above, is that God already knows anything we will say, while we don't know a lot of the stuff He may have to say. Because of the reasons I mentioned before in terms of relationship, I still think it is good for us to say the stuff that is on our hearts and minds, but also for us to be aware that God has a lot to say that we need to hear and to create time and space for that.

Because it is not something most of us are used to, you may find that it is a process you need to build up. So the first few times you may hear absolutely nothing, but as you practise the discipline of being still (and knowing that I am God - Psalm 46:10] you will be able to more easily drown out the 'noise' of everything around you and hear God's voice more clearly. So, if you are going to try this, I encourage you to do it every day for a week at least before giving up and saying it doesn't work - give it some time and really listen to what God is saying to you specifically - you might find it a very exciting way to spend time and it may encourage you to do it more... having a spiritual/prayer journal with you to record anything you hear/think about that you can check on later to see if it was God is a way a lot of people find quite helpful...

Perhaps one reason God delays His answers to our prayers is because He knows we need to be with Him far more than we need the things we ask of Him. - [Ben Patterson]

Apart from praying by yourself, I do think there is a special extra something that comes from praying corporately with people and this is an area where I can speak from experience. There have been various times in my life where I have been involved in regular prayer times with often just one or two people, that have totally been sources of great strength and spiritual feeding that have helped me stay boldly on God's path. Very encouraging times.

Now let me be honest here and say that I have witnessed a difference between what I will call 'prayer meetings' and 'times of prayer' (and please don't get hung up on the semantics of the words cos they are interchangeable but I will explain now what I mean) - What I refer to here as 'prayer meetings' are those designated times (often at a church or Christian organisation) where someone thort it was necessary to pray and set up this time and location and most, if not all, of the people who come and pray do so because it is the 'right thing to do' or because they feel obliged or something like that. When I talk 'tims of prayer' I mean two or more people gathered because they want to pray - people who are passionate about God and really connecting with Him and other like-minded people in prayer.

I have been to many of both types of those meetings and I absolutely have so much time for the 'times of prayer' even if it is just with one other person or a small group and would choose that over a hundred person 'prayer meeting' any day... although a hundred passionate people seeking God would be another story... But the distinction I want to make is between people who feel obligated to pray and people who desire to pray and spend time with God. And maybe sometimes (as in those times I'm in when the feeling is not there) you do have to push through and go even when you don't feel like it and sometimes it will be harder than others... but I'm talking more about the motivation behind the prayer time and I think that is key and can be good whether or not you feel like the meeting itself.

But seriously, if you can find a handful of people who are passionate about God to meet with regularly to pray with, that is a huge thing and will greatly encourage you and probably help you to grow tremendously in your relationship with God and generally in life.

I can, without thinking too much about it, mention my friend Mandy from college, my ex-youth prayer guys Mark and Julian, my old Bosch buddy Bakes, my buddies Trav and Rob, Jaap and Johannes in Holland when I was there on DTS, and just so many other people who have been part of awesome times of prayer in my life. That these people generally happen to be some of the closest friends I have is greatly significant I believe...

Next year, one of the main reasons I am hoping to have a place of my own to stay in, is so that I can have a ministry base to invite people to for prayer and worship sessions because I believe in it so strongly, and so that is one of the things I have really been asking God to provide. You want to see a change in your life and circumstances and faith? Get praying... surround yourselves with people who are passionate about it and it will rub off...

I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third places and teaching the fourth. - [James O. Fraser]

Well I hope that gives you some insights on prayer or maybe just some new stuff to think about (or old stuff revisited). If prayer is a guilt thing you do because you don't want to upset the pastor or want him to be all alone at the prayer meeting, then I think you're missing the point.

One of my really favourite passages in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and thereabouts (go read the whole passage) which says:

"...if my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place..."

That passage seems to indicate that we can influence God's hand. That is the power of prayer. We can bring about positive change in our life and in the life of our country.

How exciting is that? I live in a country that could really use that kind of change and there have been rumours and visions and so on of God sweeping in and bringing revival in South Africa for so long... and I really believe that if we as a country, or even the majority of Christians in the country, seriously got down on our knees and earnestly prayed to God, consistently and with real passion and heart, that we could see the entire country dramatically turned around.

That's what I want for Christmas... or New Year... I'm not content to sit and get comfortable with life and Christianity as we know it... or as I know it, I guess... I am SO incredibly hungry to get to know God more and to see Him show up in a big way in South Africa and in my life... so I guess I should begin by meeting Him more often and with greater consistency in prayer...

What about you?