12 Aug Quarter One Lesson Nine
What is Prayer?
We come now to a subject that is extremely important, the subject of prayer. What is prayer? In its basic definition prayer is simply talking to God.
Question 1. Question 1. Have you prayed to God in your life? If so, how do you pray? What do you say to God?
It is so very sweet to pray, so stirring to the heart of a believer, so satisfying and fulfilling. It is amazing to know that the Living God, Who created us, is listening and will answer us according to His will, so that “our joy may be complete” (John 16:23-24). Prayer affects our relationship with God, and as we pray our relationship with God is deepened and strengthened, and we come away encouraged and emboldened (Acts 4:13).
The person who prays is a force to be reckoned with in this world, as he has the ear of Almighty God. This is why one praying Christian named Andrew Murray said, “God, through prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth”.
The person who prays believingly feels that the God of heaven has come to earth to walk and talk with him, just as God fellowshipped with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He comes to know God intimately as He speaks to him and hears secrets from Him, like the Apostle John who leaned against the breast of Jesus and heard things that Jesus shared with no one else (John 13:23-26). The one who prays has a “secret place” (Psalm 91:1) where she can take refuge and find comfort and help and strength and support. Indeed, prayer is one of the greatest joys of the believer!
So come with us today as we walk right into the throne-room of Almighty God, as we breathe the air of heaven, and as we get to speak to God as one talks to his friend (Exodus 33:11). But I must warn you, those who come in here never want to leave. If you learn to pray, you will say with Peter, “Master, it is good for us to be here” (Luke 9:33).
As we consider this matter of prayer (talking with God) it is very important to know that sin hindered prayer.
We must start by understanding that sin ruined our ability to pray to God; that is, God refused to hear the prayer of one in sin. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (NIV) “God does not listen to sinners…” (John 9:31).
This point that sinners could not enter into God’s presence in prayer, is illustrated very clearly for us in the Old Testament. Please read the following passage and provide your answers and thoughts below:
“Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain. 31 “Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. 32 Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. 33 Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the Testimony behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Exodus 26:30-33 (NIV)
Question 2. What was to hang between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place?
God directed His people in the Old Testament to build Him a temple (a house of worship) where He could live among His people. In this temple there was to be a Most Holy Place where God would live and a Holy Place where the priests (those who led worship) would serve.
Between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place there was a very large and strong curtain and this curtain separated the two places, the purpose of which was to keep man out of God’s presence for man’s own safety. Man was sinful, God is holy: if sinful man were to enter into God’s holy presence on his own then he would surely die.
Only the High Priest (a special priest) could go into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place, and that was only permitted once per year, and only as he carried the blood of a sacrifice with him (Hebrews 9:7).
By this God was teaching that the way to God’s presence was not available to the common man, as sin separated man from God. Sinful man could not see God’s face.
You’ve probably noticed by now that whenever we get “bad news” such as sin hinders our ability to communicate with God; it is followed shortly by good news. So the good news here is that Jesus restored God’s listening ear.
Please read the following passage and answer the questions below:
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. Matthew 27:45-51 (NIV)
Question 3. Please write down what things happened when Jesus died on the cross.
Question 4. What thoughts do you have about the curtain being torn in two from top to bottom?
We are sure you noticed that at the time of Jesus’ death the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. It was not torn from bottom to top, as if man had torn it, but rather from top to bottom, indicating God tore the curtain in two.
This is such good news it is hard to put it in words. It means that because of the death of Jesus every believer now has full access to God. The sin problem has been dealt with by Christ. And now we can pray to God and He hears us. His face is turned toward us and He listens to us. This, of course, is because Jesus removed our sins at the cross, and made us righteous, therefore there is no longer any hindrance to God hearing our prayers. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12 (NIV)
And so we see once again that the gospel is the foundation for everything in our Christian life including prayer. Because of what Jesus has done for us we can pray to God unrestricted, knowing God is attentively listening to us at all times. Simply put, on the cross Jesus purchased God’s listening ear for all who believe.
Let us see how the New Testament words it:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
Notice from Hebrews 4:14-16 that God’s throne is called “a throne of grace” for us now. Do you see what Jesus has done for you, friend? He has turned God’s throne of judgment into a throne of grace. If you are a believer in Jesus you never need to worry about future judgment because Jesus was already judged in your place and put to death for you. Jesus has turned God’s judgment throne into a throne of grace, and He invites you to come in boldly, confidently and fearlessly.
Question 5. Do you see how God is inviting you in to His presence now? How are we to enter His presence? Please share any thoughts you might have about this good news:
Question 6. According to Hebrews 4:14-16, what can we expect to receive if we come in to God’s throne room of grace through prayer?
Yes, when we pray we can expect to find a sympathetic ear (verse 15), mercy (compassionate treatment), grace, and help (verse 16). These are all things that are so very much needed as we live our lives in a world that is hostile to our God and to our gospel message.
So for the remainder of this lesson, let us consider prayer in light of Jesus’ opening of the throne-room to us, of the invitation for us to come in boldly, and of the promise that we will receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah” Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
Question 7. What are we instructed to do in Psalm 62:8?
Oh, what a tremendous benefit this is: when you are really struggling, when you are hurting, when you feel weak and helpless, when darkness surrounds you like a storm cloud, you can go to God in prayer and pour out your heart to Him. Unburden yourself to Him. Unload on Him. He can take it. And He will sympathize with you, comfort you, help you and strengthen you. In Him you’ve found yourself a lasting refuge, a strong tower, and a good Friend.
I remember hearing about a group of eight campers who were caught in a thunderstorm. They were very scared, especially when they saw lightning hit a tree very close to them causing the tree to fall to the ground nearby. In their distress they began to seek frantically for shelter. One of them found an opening to a cave in the side of the mountain where they were camping; they all ran into the cave and found it to be a suitable refuge from the storm.
If you are a believer in Jesus, God is a very suitable refuge for you. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV) Go to God when the winds of change blow; when you are hurting or scared; when you feel overwhelmed and weary in this life. Just try Him. You’ll find Him to be capable of helping you with anything you need. “I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” Psalm 120:1 (NIV)
Go to God when the thought of your sins engulf you; when the storm of temptation hits you; He will receive you, cleanse you and restore you: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)
Question 8. According to 1 John 1:8-10, when we sin, what are we supposed to do?
Question 9. When we confess our sins to God, what does God do?
Christians stumble and fall often and in many ways (James 3:2). And when we sin we are to confess our sins to God, we do not need to hide them and it is futile to try. This means that right after a fall, while we are feeling bad, we just call out to God and confess to Him. Admit our wrong and ask for forgiveness.
And as we do God forgives our sin. Based upon Jesus’ death and resurrection, God forgives any and every sin, no matter how dark or how frequent. Believe God’s Word to you, He will forgive you, so confess your sins to Him and receive His love and forgiveness.
And God not only forgives us, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Sin leaves us dirty and defiled, God cleanses us and makes us “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). He cleanses our conscience (Hebrews 10:22), washes our hearts, purifies our thoughts and makes us clean again. The way He cleanses us is through His Word. As we study the Bible the Holy Spirit of God uses His Word as a cleansing fountain (Ephesians 5:26). But it starts with praying to God and confessing our sins.
Finally, we should pray to God on behalf of other people.“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)
We can be used by God to help other people when we pray for them, as God uses the prayers of His people to forgive and heal others. We can pray to God and watch Him work in the lives of unbelievers that we want to come to Christ, and in the lives of our family and people with whom we work. It’s a very exciting thing to have prayed for someone for a long time, only to see God answer prayer in His time and in His way. You might want to keep a prayer journal, writing down your requests and God’s answers, so you can look back over the years as to how God has answered you.
Not all prayer is answered the way we would like. Sometimes the answer is “yes”, sometimes it is “no”. If the answer is “no” we can say with Jean Ingelow, “I have lived long enough to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered” in the affirmative. Sometimes the answer is “wait” (see John 11:17-27). We pray and then just trust that God’s answer (yes, no or wait) is best.
We may not always understand God’s answers to our prayers, but one thing we can know for sure is that when we pray we have God’s full attention. And as we pray to Him we find that we are coming right into His throne of grace, right into His very presence, seeing His face, being near His heart, breathing His same air. And there He is, on His throne, giving us help when we need it, comforting our hearts, giving us mercy and grace. Oh what an exquisite thing it is to pray, knowing God hears us. We get to know Him, and that is an experience that brings joy beyond description.
We encourage you to begin praying today if you aren’t already. We’ve given you just a few suggestions on things to pray about, but if you will just get started you will discover that prayer connects you to God through faith, and that God hears you and answers you in His time. And during the process you will come to love to pray! Here is a prayer you might want to pray right now:
“Oh let the secret place of prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth”—Andrew Murray.
Question 10. Has your understanding of prayer changed any through this lesson? If so, please share what you are learning.