As I go thru these teachings it is my hope you will jot down the verses I refer to and look them up in your own private devotional time, to get a deeper understanding from the Holy Spirit of what is being addressed here. It would take too long to read them all, but they are very important to the topics we are discussing each time. I will be quickly reading many of them to emphasize what's being discussed. When I first got saved, and thru the years, I've had a hunger to know the truth of God's word, to be able to apply it to my life. Every time I was exposed to a teaching, I would go home and go over every scripture and spend time asking God to reveal to me where I needed to change and use them to become closer to Him. I hope it is true for you also.
Also, you will find I have no set pattern to my teachings, I want to allow the Holy Spirit to change or alter the time we spend together, and give Him free reign to move in these times together.
I highly recommend reading the Gospel of John, especially from ch. 9 to the end of the book, to establish in our hearts who Christ is, His absolute authority, and His consistant appeal and call to us to "come to Him", He is the only answer.
Scripture verses: John 10:30 "I and my Father are one." 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by Me." ch. 15: 4-5, and 7 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you."
All of these promises from the Lord are true, He beckons us to come, to allow Him into our lives, to change us, mold us, and speaks of His power to change things in our lives. But, He also makes it clear there are conditions. Let's examine some of them.
1. How Do I Connect With God?: The first thing necessary is to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and His forgiveness, then to develope a relationship with an "open door" of communication these steps are necessary.
First: The most important thing we must cultivate in order to have this open door walk with God is PEACE-peace with ourselves, and with people, and most of all, peace with God. But, the paradox is: you can't have peace with God, unless you have peace with yourself and other's.
The Most valuable thing in the life of the christian is to come to the end of the day knowing we are at peace, it is in this state that we draw the presence of the Holy Spirit, and opens the door to bring our petitions, needs, and requests to God, and our hearts will know we can talk to him as a friend, and have full assurance that He is listening and the answers will come.
People who are in turmoil, and strife continually, and devising wickedness, will not see answers to prayer, and they will not have any relationship with the Lord. Indeed, their actions show they really don't want to. Psalm 66:18 "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Isaiah 48:22 and Is. 57:21 says "There is no peace , saith the Lord to the wicked."
But Psalm 34:14-19 (read) says "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry."
Throughout the gospels, Jesus speaks of giving us his peace, and his abiding presence. In John 14:13, 14 He says "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name I will do it." This promise directly hinges in our doing what he says further in this chapter, and ch. 15, which we spoke of earlier. Our obediance to Him brings us into the "abiding presence", where we have this open door relationship, and it is here that Jesus calls us "friends".
To bring ourselves into a walk of peace, these steps are needful:
a. Spend some time evaluating your own soul, and be patient with yourself. Let the Holy Spirit minister to you in the areas you may need to change, or where you may need to be healed. He knows better than anyone else what has been done to you, or what you have done to yourself....He is our healer and restorer.
b. Be honest with the Lord and yourself in daily life, and your time of bible study and prayer: this may seem simplistic, but it is the most important thing you need to do to get on the right track in close fellowship with Him. Integrity and honest character is very important. (example: don't make promises you know you won't keep, don't make commitments and then not do them, ect.)
c. Take responsibility for your own mistakes in the past, stop blaming other's for your place in life right now. We have to admit our wrong decisions, actions, and behaviour to God and ourselves. When we humble ourselves, it opens the door for God to do the miraculous in us.
d. If other's have wronged us, forgive them. We must forgive in order to receive the Father's forgiveness for ourselves, and establish a place of being able to expect answers to our prayers. Note: Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done to us, it means letting it go, and giving it to God. He tells us "vengence is mine." Forgiveness in simple terms means "No Retaliation".
e. If you've been involved in things such as the occult, witchcraft, seances, pornograghic activity of any kind, and if you still have any of these materials in your pocession, you need to get rid of them and repent. Also, any object, or monies that you may have gotten unlawfully by stealing.
God will totally forgive any of these things, but we can't play games with the Lord: He knows what we are doing, and if we persist in these activities, we will never see answers to our prayers, or experiance the close fellowship of His presence in our lives. I recommend reading Deut. ch. 18:9-14, 1Sam. ch. 28:3,9, Mic. ch. 5:12, Gal. 5:19-21, Joshua ch. 7, ch. 24:14-25, Luke ch. 19:5-10, Acts ch. 19:18-20
NOTE: Desire is the birthplace of prayer- It is a good habit to get into, to look into ourselves once in a while and see what our desires are, and what motivates them. Sometimes we don't see answers to prayers because they are selfish, born from greed, and centered on ourselves. God is not against us having our needs met, or even having nice things. But, do we use these things for the glory of the Lord, and to increase His kingdom, or to just fulfil our own lusts....we need to examine these things in our hearts. James 4:1-4, 1Tim. 6-10
When our prayers don't seem to be answered it may be because of the wrong motives in our hearts; And, there are times when God says no, and for a good reason. He sees far beyond our understanding in our lives, and knows what is best for us. If the door is closed in regard to a subject, we are better off accepting no for an answer. If we persist and force something to happen, we will regret it, and will realize too late that we should have surrendered our will to the Father's.
We have to believe that God loves us enough to protect us, even from ourselves at times. He wants only the best for us, but he will always stand back and let us make our own free choices. He will never force His will on us, only satan does this.
Satan is also the master of distraction: He will use everything he can, and also people to draw us away from seeking a serious prayer life: because he knows that if we ever come to the place where we begin to tap into the presence, power, love, and start seeing significant answers to prayer, we will be a dangerous force to reckon with.
Ask the men: What kind of distractions do we come up against when we decide to start a regular prayer time?
1. the phone rings. 2. someone comes when we are praying 3. we try to be too formal, stiff 4. boredom 5. our minds wander, we don't believe the Lord is really listening.
The saddest reality today in the church of Christ is it's faithlessness in prayer. We are lazy, and do not want to invest the time to learn to come into the abiding presence of Christ, and believe Him for great things. He promises that if we will seek Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him, but this means nothing unless we believe it and act on it.
But, for the ones who have learned to focus their attention in earnest on Him in prayer and have not only seen great answers to prayer; but have found the priceless wonder of being in His great presence that is so heavy at times that you can't speak or stand: this causes us to give up everything in this world and go after Him, because nothing else satisifies anymore.
2. How Many Types of Prayer Are There? I have had a paper handed out that lists the kinds of prayer, and hindrances to prayer. Next time I come, we will go further into the hindrances listed and talk in more detail about them.
3. Where Do I Start?: Our starting point is where ever we find ourselves right now. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves good enough to be any more special than the next person. I love the scriptures Paul speaks of when he says God is not respector of persons.....this is absolutely true. The Lord will listen and answer anyone who comes to Him with his heart.
Note: Bible study is very important in order to come to know the person, and the character of God. However, knowing the bible backwards and forwards does not gaurantee a close relationship with God. Many bible scholars can quote the bible chapter and verse; but have no relationship with Jesus personally. It shows in their cold demeanor, and their unbelief. They really don't expect God to answer their prayers, and they usually don't see any.
In Acts ch. 4:8-13, Peter stood up and preached against the scribes and elders, and priests who asked by what power they did the deeds that were seen: Peter's response closed their mouths and it was evident that though they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
What is Prayer Not ?:
1. Prayer is not to be a means to bring down curses on people- I've heard people at times praying that God would bring vengence on someone who had wronged them, for retaliation, as it seems to be in the psalms. But, we are not under the old covenant of an "eye for an eye", we are under the New Covenant, here Jesus teaches us "forgive, and you will be forgiven".
2. Payer is not to be a means to get a message accross to someone who may be in the room. Sometimes if someone wants to correct, or speak of a grievance toward someone without really confronting them, I've heard them "hint, or try to bring correction" by overtly speaking it aloud in prayer. However, this is not honest sincere prayer to God, and he will not hear it. If there is something we disagree with, or have a grievance with someone, we must go to them in an honest manner and take care of it with integrity.
3. Prayer is not a form of mental exercise where we visualize something into existance by our own powers. It is going to the Living God, the Lord Jesus Christ and bringing our needs to Him, and waiting for His answer to come to us.
4. The Lord wants us to come to Him with our sorrows, our needs and requests, and He clearly says to cast our burdens on Him, but if this is the only time we pray, we are out of balance. God desires a relationship with someone who also has a grateful heart, who will praise Him, and give Him thanks from a grateful heart. Babies cry and complain over every discomfort they have, and expect all their needs to be met for them without them doing anything. When we grow up we need to be able to stand and go thru some things without whining.
5. Prayer is not to be used as a means of casting judgement or criticism in earshot of other's who may be present during prayer to try to "get a message" to them without actually speaking directly to them. I have seen and heard people do this, and it is an insult to the Lord, and the person we are doing this to, and it's cowardly. If we have a criticism or something against someone, we need to be mature enough to go them in person alone and talk it over, then perhaps pray together for restoration and a right heart for both involved.