Lord, Teach Us to Pray – Exercising the Discipline of Prayer

Jeff Lynn

This next week and the following week, every National Football League team is going to begin their training camp. What is that? It’s a rugged few weeks. It’s a time where they not only get their selves in physical shape for a grueling 16-game season but hopefully additional games as they enter the playoffs. But it’s also to learn plays. It’s to work together as a team to get on the same page, if you will, under the leadership of their head coach, their coaching team, to try to have a productive, winning season.

This Training Camp series will parallel what these professional athletes are doing as a team, to prepare us spiritually for the days ahead as a church. I believe God is up to something exciting in this new season.

1 Timothy 4:7b Train yourself in godliness.

The root of the word “train” is the English word gymnasium which implies sweat and determination. When we consider how to prepare for a new season, we need determination and endurance to get past the barriers of the next season.

Long distance runners hit a wall where they run out of energy, however, if they continue they will get to know the thrill of crossing the line beyond the wall. Some of us face spiritual walls and then we stop pursuing the assignment God’s given us. Perhaps you’ve had some losing seasons and you give up. I want you to make up your mind to get through the wall to know the joy of enduring and being spiritually fit.

Take time and trouble to stay spiritually fit. 1 Timothy 4:7, J.B. Phillips New Testament

Train yourself, exercise yourself for the purpose of godliness. You were created to become more and more like Jesus each and every day. This is not optional for the believer, this is God’s will for you.

Sanctification is the process of becoming more godly. Paul uses the word “sanctify” which was used for Olympic athletes years ago. Everything they did every day was devoted to that one goal of getting to the Olympics. Everything you do, and every aspect of your life should be fully devoted to becoming more like the image of Christ.

1 Peter 1:3- 3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

Only 11% of those who confess Christ feel like they’re flourishing in their relationship with Christ.

Dallas Willard said, “There’s an obvious great disparity between, on the one hand, the hope for life expressed in Jesus, found real in the Bible and in many shining examples from among his followers. And on the other hand, the actual day to day behavior in her life and social presence of most of those who now profess adherence to him.”

Many aren’t experiencing abundant life because they don’t have a growth strategy. If you want to be physically fit, you got to have a strategy. You’ve got to have a plan that on certain days you’re going to do some resistance training, on other days you’re going to do some cardiovascular training, or on other days you’re going to rest, you’re going to eat, right? You’ve got a strategy when it comes to financial freedom.

You’ve got to have a strategy on what you’re going to spend and what you’re going to save and how much you’re going to give to the church. Do you know what I’m saying? You’ve got to have this strategy when it comes to being spiritually fit or your spiritual life. You’ve got to have a strategy, otherwise, you’re going to languish instead of flourish.

We’re sustained in our relationship by God, through grace. There are no hoops through which we have to jump to maintain that relationship with God. And we’re sanctified by God’s grace and power but it takes work on our part. There’s no fast track or pill you take to be spiritually fit. It’s a daily regimen of the same things so that in a year, you are more conformed to the image of Christ than you are today. There are many spiritual disciplines including prayer and scripture engagement. In Luke 11, the disciples watched Jesus pray.

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.
They wanted to understand how the power of God was being manifested through Jesus. Everyone should have time to pray and to communicate to the God of heaven that saved us. Today, I want us to look at two aspects of prayer.

The intent of prayer is to get to know who God is.

What is the purpose of prayer? What is prayer and what is it not? Sometimes we pray very selfishly about what we need as though God is a genie that is there to give us what we want. Sometimes we treat God as a 9-1-1 dispatcher in case of an emergency.

Prayer ought to be a lifestyle for you. Prayer shouldn’t be the last resort or a final act of desperation. The intent of prayer is to get to know God. You may see prayer as some nebulous, time-consuming, painstaking discipline that is just part of the Christian life. Prayer is the privilege that you and I had to commune with the Holy God of the universe. Prayer is fellowship and communion with the Father who loves us and redeemed our life from the pit.

St. Augustine said, “True whole prayer is nothing but love”.

The purpose of prayer is to abide in his presence and to get to know Him, to share your fears, dreams, and anxieties.

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Philippians 3:8

The intent of prayer is to get to know who God is.

Prayer is to communicate with God about our mission of being or making disciples.

You have an adversary who wants to destroy you. Life is a war. You are in a spiritual battle with an enemy who wants to destroy your soul. You pray to ask God for direction and protection and power moving forward in your purpose to advance the kingdom of heaven.

There are five elements in the model prayer that we can draw from when we pray:

1. Reverence for God

Jesus teaches us when saying “Hallowed be thy name” to acknowledge God as holy and majestic and glorious. When we recognize Him as holy, we can represent Him as Holy to a lost world.

Hebrews 5:7 NLT While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.

Try this exercise to reflect on the majesty and power of God. Choose the psalms and read aloud every day.

2. Pray for God’s Reign

Pray for His Kingdom purposes to be accomplished on the Earth. Every circumstance, every interruption in your life, and everything that happens, somehow God ordained or allowed. Pray that you represent Him well in your situation. What could be simpler than saying, God, I want what you want and I’m going to follow your direction and your will?

This is what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus knew why He came to earth, yet He prayed to be rescued from God’s will. Sometimes God’s will is messy, but God gives you the strength to walk through it with confidence and love. Sometimes you’re walking through God’s will and it’s messy, you don’t like it. But you’ve prayed God’s will over your life.

3. Resource for Us.

Everything you have is a gift of God’s grace. This model prayer asks God to “give us this day our daily bread”. God promised that He would provide our needs every single day. Do you believe God will provide for your need if the grocery store shelves get thin? Believe God for your need and not your want. We acknowledge God as our provider and express thanks for His provision.

4. Reconciliation with others.

We pray for forgiveness as we commit to forgive others. We confess our sins, restoring our fellowship to God. When we forgive others, we are restoring our fellowship with others. When you experience the forgiveness of God, you obligate yourself to forgive those who offend you.

5. Pray for our resistance against sin.

God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but we’re tempted by our own lusts. We pray that we won’t fall in the time of temptation. We can’t avoid tests and temptations, but when all is said and done, we are to resist in the time of testing.

Prayer is where we relay our lives to God’s will for our lives. There are different systems you can use to pray. There’s the acronym, ACTS which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. There are many different methods, however, the important part is that you have a system in place.

I have a journal that I use to talk to God, every time I go to connect with God, I write the date and time and jot down a scripture or a method to apply God’s Word to my heart at that moment.

I have certain days that I pray for certain areas of my life. For example:

  • Monday – I pray for my family
  • Tuesday – I pray for my ministry team
  • Wednesday – Pastors
  • Thursday – I pray for our missional ministries
  • Friday – senior strategy steam
  • Saturday – review my journal and see what God has done in my life
  • Sunday – pray for the church, worship team, students, and the services.

I have a daily regimen of the same things. Every day, I don’t wonder what I need to pray for today – I encourage you to establish some type of system where you keep up with your prayer life.

As you consider prayer, some of you may not feel worthy to pray. God still loves you, He still wants to use you and He wants to meet with you. Regardless of what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, just come clean and start to cultivate that relationship with Jesus.