Bible Studies On Prayer
Ever been to any real Bible studies on prayer? Multitudes of books on prayer have been written, some better than others, but each with some contribution to make to our understanding of the subject. However, go back to the source to prepare prayer Bible studies. The Bible is full of examples of the prayers of God's people. These stories reveal important principles, and are far more interesting than any set of instructions.
The most startling aspect about Biblical accounts of the lives of the followers of God is that the stories have an 'unedited' quality. Christians are revealed at their best -- and worst -- moments. How could that be appealing? Wouldn't it be better to see the people of God as shining examples of steadfast righteousness? Of course. Yet, the fact that people and events are portrayed with such transparency is in itself a powerful argument for the reliability of the Bible. Also, their failure offers hope. If an examination of prayer Bible studies reveals that God can forgive, love, and continue to use them in His plan, this ignites the hope that the same mercy is available for everyone else.
Some fine examples for prayer Bible studies that come to mind are the prayers of David found in the book of Psalms. David's delight in his relationship with God is evident, and this recalls the importance of a proper attitude in the presence of God. Acknowledging who God is and offering heartfelt praise, as well as confession of personal sin, was part of David's approach to God, and should be a basic part of our prayers, too. David does not hesitate to pour out the contents of his heart before God, with all of the joys, sorrows, longings, fears, confusion, triumphs, anger, disappointments and pain that are common to human experience. This is a relief. Although a person should approach God with awe and respect, one can still be honest about matters which are truly important, and not just rattle off a series of rote requests as though speaking with God were some kind of spiritual ATM transaction.
Further Bible studies on prayer reveal that the people of God pray in all sorts of situations, with some rather spectacular results. Abram laments that he is childless, and God promises countless descendants and a land, as well as other covenant promises. Later, Abraham prays and Lot and two daughters are delivered from the destruction which falls upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's servant prays and Rebekah is revealed as Isaac's future wife. Isaac prays and this same Rebekah is healed of her barrenness. Another time, Isaac calls upon the Lord and those who had been acting as enemies (Abimelech and the Philistines) come asking for a treaty of peace. Plagues are lifted from Egypt when Moses stretches out hands to God in prayer. Moses cries out to God, seas are parted and the Israelites pass on in safety, while their enemies are drowned. After three days of wandering, Moses prays and bitter waters at Marah are made sweet. Amalekites are defeated while Moses' arms are lifted in prayer, and Joshua's prayers halt the sun and moon in its tracks for about a day so that the Israelites can pursue Amorite enemies. Elisha prays and a fearful servant is enabled to see fiery horses and chariots surrounding the servants of God, while hostile Arameans are temporarily blinded. These are only a few of many such incidents in the Old Testament.
In New Testament Bible studies on prayer, the pattern of amazing results continues. Zechariah prays and receives a son, later known as John the Baptist. Simeon, a righteous and devout man, is told by the Holy Spirit that he will see the Christ. He not only sees Him, but is allowed to hold the infant Savior in his arms. Anna, a widowed prophetess, prays continually and is also shown the Child. Blind men call out to Jesus and are healed. Jesus spends time praying and chooses twelve disciples who will shake the world. Later, He prays even for those who will believe through the disciples' testimony, and the Church endures to this day. Finally, Jesus is strengthened (as He prays in the garden of Gethsemane) for the ordeal of the cross, where He provides salvation for all mankind.
After Jesus' resurrection, repentant Peter (who the Lord had prayed would be restored) becomes a leader in the infant church. Prayer Bible studies reveal that the early church devoted itself not only to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, and to the breaking of bread -- but also to praying. Paul's remarkable conversion was part of God's plan and brought about by His hand. Yet God used as an instrument the prayers of Christians Paul had persecuted.
Other Bible studies on prayer reveal that Stephen was one of seven whom the apostles had set aside (with prayer) to deal with matters which threatened to consume the twelve apostles' time for prayer and ministry. Stephen faithfully accomplished these duties, but also stirred up the anger of those who could not stand up against Spirit-led wisdom. Accused of changing laws given by Moses, Stephen launched into a quick history lesson, recounting God's dealings with Israel and rebuking these accusers for their resistance and disobedience to God's work. When he claimed to see Jesus, whom they had crucified, standing at God's right hand, his opponents stoned him, laying their clothes at the feet of a young man named Paul. Paul later urged that believers should be Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18) Paul, the recipient of the grace of God, knew quite personally the life-changing effect of prayer. For Stephen's final act, as stones rained down on him, was to pray for his murderers.
Simple Prayer Of SalvationThe Christian prayer for salvation is one of the most difficult concepts for many religious people to accept because of its simplicity. Religion has often been described as man climbing a ladder, attempting to get to God. Human beings are prone by our very nature to assume that if enough prayers are said, enough candles have been lighted, enough good deeds are done, all taxes are paid and faithfulness to a spouse is forever maintained, God has got to like that and eternal bliss is assured when death arrives. It makes sense, after all, that God helps those who help themselves, right? But that quote we have all heard is not in the Judeo-Christian tradition and cannot be found in either the Old or New Testament. But somehow, many people talk themselves into believing that its really all about keeping track of the good things versus the bad things a person does, and like the scales of justice, if the good deeds and good thoughts outweigh the bad, then open up those gates of heaven 'cause I'm comin' in! But here is a good opportunity to stop and ask, "Just how many good deeds does it take?"
The simple prayer of salvation is based on an incredible truth: as far as God is concerned, a person can never, ever, ever do enough good acts, practice enough good deeds or think enough decent thoughts to be eligible to spend eternity in a place that Jesus described as being both a lot like life here, but also very much unlike life here. There will be an overwhelming sense of family, and it won't have any characteristics of the dysfunctional stuff we experience every day. No tears, no night, no pain, no aging, no jealousy, no death, no bad dreams or memories of those not with us. We will have full knowledge of all things, and we will probably end up saying things like, "Wow, so that's why that happened," or "Hmmm, I always wondered how that worked." But to get there, everyone has to admit that they can't jump to Cuba. That's actually part of the Christian prayer for salvation and forgiveness, in a backward sort of way.
Suppose everyone in the world were invited to come to Key West and try to jump from the last possible piece of land on that key for a billion dollar prize. Come on now, this is serious! Some optimists will go back two blocks to try and jump, and others will just be rational and put their toes in the water and do one little bunny hop. The result of course is already known. A rational person will admit that he or she cannot jump to Cuba. The simple prayer of salvation uttered by Christians includes the understanding that as hard as any of us tries, every plan we ever hatch in our minds to get to heaven someday will fail if any part of that plan has anything to do with our attempts at being good enough to get in. The Christian prayer of salvation is based on many New Testament verses, but for this blog consider the following: "For by grace are ye saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
People are "saved" or kept from eternal punishment by faith in what Jesus Christ did at the cross. God gave the Ten Commandments to us for one reason: to show how sinful we are. In other words, if a person could keep all of the Ten Commandments all of their lives, in both thought and deed, then they could be saved. But break any one of them just once, then heaven becomes Cuba as far as getting there is concerned. A person needs a boat, a bridge, a submarine, a plane, a hot air balloon, or something to get to Cuba. Jesus Christ's death on the cross and his resurrection becomes our boat, our bridge, our plane to heaven. So a simple prayer of salvation includes admitting that we get to heaven, saved from hell, by putting faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection as payment for the inability to keep all the Ten Commandments every day of our lives. The writer says God has given us heaven as a gift simply by belief in the right person that God declared to be our substitute for our sins.
As far as God is concerned, sin is so awful, so unlike Him, that blood had to be shed, but it wouldn't be ours, but His. Is that a gift or what? And the writer Paul is so right. If salvation were really up to how many works we had to do, we could one day walk through the gates of heaven with just a little pride that somehow our hard work and tenaciousness got us there. "God you're pretty lucky I'm here. So the Christian prayer for salvation will include the following things:
1. Admission that a person is a real, bona fide sinner and often it helps to just stop and list a bunch of them because God knows anyway. 2. Acceptance that Jesus Christ is the only bridge back to God, no matter how many people might say the way to God has many paths. 3. A true repentance of sin, which means turning around and going the opposite direction from where a person was. 4. A thankful heart that God gave a very simple way back to Him. Yep, a lot of people get tripped by the childlike approach to the simple prayer of salvation and reject the whole truth out of hand because of the belief that getting to heaven ought to be a little more complicated than that. There are a lot of people who are willing to give a person their version of the Christian prayer for salvation, but why not let this one be a do it yourselfer?