By Cheryl Barker
Several years ago, I was plunged into a life of prayer, almost against my will. I had poured out my heart to a woman I barely knew, and her response was, “I don’t have answers, but we can pray.” She invited me to pray together with her once a week. I thought that sounded a little often but agreed. When I showed up for our first meeting she asked how much time I had, said we wouldn’t be talking much or eating, only praying, and I nearly panicked searching my mind for a reason I couldn’t stay long.
It wasn’t that I didn’t pray. I had l met and loved Jesus for nearly fifty years and would do “anything” for Him. Why was I finding it so hard to pray for a couple of hours as my friend was suggesting? This suddenly reminds of the disciples when Jesus said after finding them sleeping, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. Matthew 26:40 I had prayed over the years about many things, but it was like many of us, me doing all the talking and a lot of asking God for what I needed to keep my life manageable.
That day with my new friend changed my prayer life and all of my life forever. I began to find a new intimacy with my Heavenly Father that I did not know was attainable for me. Prayer became an exciting time with my best friend and perfect Father. I discovered skills that could literally be practiced. Why had I never realized that prayer was like anything else, practicing would make me “good” at it. What sport do we play and expect to be proficient without practicing? Who picks up a violin and is instantly ready to join the orchestra? I somehow had never picked up on the words of the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1
I was amazed and overjoyed at how prayer was drawing me closer and closer to God’s own heart. I was able to hear His voice more easily as I began to know the shepherd in a deeper way. I experienced many more answers to my prayers as I learned to pray about “everything”!
Prayer is a simple conversation with God, and even/especially a child can do it. But as we grow, we learn new and better ways of communication. What marriage doesn’t require good communication to be healthy and happy, and who couldn’t use help with that? Some people even get a college degree in communication. I wonder where we ever got the idea that we don’t need training to be a good communicator with God? We go to marriage retreats, summer sports intensives, art classes, voice lessons but never think to go to prayer school. I believe our enemy, the devil, goes to great lengths to keep us from praying. He knows it is where the real power is. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
After my initial time of prayer with my new praying friend, I knew I had much to learn and decided to “go to prayer school”! I put myself into prayer school with Jesus on a daily basis and also have taken advantage of some special opportunities to be taught and coached by others who are better at prayer than I am. I have gotten some answers to common questions like, “Why pray when God already knows what I need?” Or “Why pray when God knows what He’s going to do anyway?” And what about when we are disappointed by unanswered prayer?
I am beyond excited to attend the BAHOP prayer initiative at MBC in September. I believe that we will not plumb the depths of the riches of Christ in this life but knowing there is always more motivates me to keep on. I plan to be there for every minute of it!
By Brie Kennard
I once read that how someone prays reveals what they really think about Jesus. Does God sound near? Or does prayer make Him seem far away? Does it sound like Jesus might be someone you are bothering with requests? Is it formal, religious? Or does it sound like “Good morning, Papa!”
I admit and confess that most of my life I prayed with apathy… if I prayed at all. I thought, “God is God! He’ll control the universe the way He wants.” So what did that reveal about my ideas of Jesus? Ouch. It revealed that I didn’t really think that the God of the Universe, my Savior, really cares about the intimate parts of me or my days.
After I began pursuing prayer I realized how wrong I was. I began praying in a way that didn’t just consist of me talking, but of me sitting in silence and listening. My sweet sweet Lord began telling me beautiful things He saw in me. I began waking up in the morning with His holy name on my lips, excited! I began sensing Him on the foot of my bed, anticipating me waking up to spend time with Him.
My prayers at first began as requests from beginning to end. After hearing His voice pursuing me, my prayers transformed to praising Him and thanking Him for who He is. Often times, I don’t want to do anything but sit and revel in His goodness. When I do move to requests, I ask out of reverence for Who He is. My requests are made known because of His overwhelming love, grace, and mercy for me. My prayers no longer are sent to a vending machine like God of the universe, my prayers are made known to my Abba Father, The Son of the Living God, the Holy Spirit within me. My prayers are made known to The One Who sees me.
He sees you too, my friend. Today pray:
“Oh Lord show me the ways I have misunderstood You. I come for You right here and right now. Fall on me fresh today and show me something new about You. Let my praises for You forever be on my lips”
We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy for us. (Daniel 9:18)
By Shirley Pilster Daniel
David and I moved to Midland a year and 2 months ago from Tucson, AZ and 20 years before from Madison, WI…we have been on a journey and that includes our prayer lives. I will address mine here:
It began more than 50 years ago with an intimate knowledge of Jesus my Lord and friend and savior and I would pray and talk with him in long quiet times (mostly when my baby was sleeping). This was sweet precious time of feeling His love for me.
I then got connected with a small ‘prayer’ group of ladies of different Christian beliefs and different ways of praying. We would gather and pray together holding hands and it became clear that together we had more power and authority. We saw changes in our lives. I started to get to know God as my Papa Father and pray in deeper ways.
In the years following, I joined a church that believed in the power of prayer; and in our church services, we would have very dynamic prayer and worship times. During these years I walked daily with my Sheltie and my Praise and Worship Tapes and music became a very meaningful part of my prayer life. This time also ushered in a deep knowing of the Holy Spirit and His power. These 3 parts of my Lord have only grown in my life and my prayer life.
When I moved to Tucson and joined another praying church we opened Prayer/Healing Rooms where we prayed over individuals in an evening prayer time. We also prayed from the front of the church (like the Red Tag team at MCB). We had a few large corporate prayer times and were very active in the National Day of Prayer and Global Days of Prayer with the community and an organization known as 4Tucson. All of these helped people to experience many changes (healings, salvations and deliverances ) as well as the church and community to see and make changes in exciting ways – helping the homeless, and helping the kids in some of the schools to cut back on the drugs and suicides to name a few. We believe these things were a direct result of our prayers.
David and I pray and seek the Lord daily and pray out loud for our family (and extended family) daily – claiming blessings and healing and health that the Lord has for us all. I have kept extensive journals of prayer over the years and done extensive Bible Studies and been an email ‘messenger’ of extensive prayer requests – all bringing me closer to my Lord on the journey that He has me on.
Lately he wakes me in the morning to intercede for others. Sometimes He gives me songs and spiritual songs and dreams. He is always giving us direction and focus for our lives (that is partly how we got to Midland, Texas and MBC). He is a good God and gives and gives and in His gifting He has given us Midland Bible Church which has been and is blessing us. We love the preaching and the testimonies about prayer in the lives of some of the folks in the body. Each ‘prayer teaching’ that the body has shared has blessed and given us new ways to proceed in prayer. To this end, we are eagerly looking forward to the BAHOP prayer seminar/conference coming early September to be ‘ushered’ into deeper ways to pray and to know the Lord both individually and corporately. We are also eager to be a blessing.
While the Bible is a timeless, inspirational documentation of man’s continuous communication with God–and God’s faithfulness in speaking to man–how often do we in the church today tend to give-up on prayer because we have serious doubt that our prayers even “connect” with the Lord, much less truly make any real difference? What can we do to experience an exciting and meaningful transformation of our heart towards “prayer”…from a Christian duty to a much-anticipated delight (Psalm 42:1-2)?
Is it possible for us to hear God speaking today, as the “pray-ers” in the Bible surely heard and responded to Him? How can we regain the real confidence God wants all His people to have in prayer? What is the “key” difference in Jesus’ prayer-life and so much of ours today? What was it that prompted Jesus’ disciples to ask Him to teach them only one thing: “how to pray” (Luke 11:1)?
What would it take for our church to see a greater move of God among the members and in the community? Of all the activities in our church, where does/should “corporate prayer” fit-in? What did Jesus mean when He said: “My house shall be called a House of Prayer…” (Matthew 21:13)? What is a “House of Prayer”? Is there a difference between a church with an active “prayer ministry” and what Jesus would call a biblical “House of Prayer”? How important is it that our church becomes a true “House of Prayer”? What “results” might we see in our church and city if we responded to Jesus’ expressed desire and became serious about ministering as a devoted and dynamic “House of Prayer”, as did the first-century church in the Book of Acts? Is our church willing to take that next step “in obedience” to discover God’s faithfulness?
Prayer is one of our core values at Midland Bible Church. We have an active Prayer Team who meets throughout the week to pray for our church and our community. Sunday mornings are one of our most active gatherings and we’d love for you to join us!
All are welcome to gather for pre-service prayer at 8:30am on Sunday morning in a circle in room A2. Some people come and stay the whole time and some come around 8:45 or so. We end at 9. This is usually a small group but we are wanting to grow it. The more the better here.
This is a time to pray for the upcoming service in all its aspects – the preacher, the Sunday school teachers and nursery workers, the worship team, the students, the people who clean the church, the coffee makers, the elders, the deacons, the staff, events, seeking God’s heart for our church, spiritual growth of our people, etc. There is freedom to pray however one is led.
During Service Prayer
This group meets in the conference room when the Sunday sermon starts (around 10:50am) until the end of the service. Right now it is 3-5 people each week but again more is better. Each person serves about once a month. We are praying for the preaching and the preacher as well as the congregation – soft hearts sensitive to Holy Spirit, teachability, clear lines of communication, sins problems, hurts, unity etc. We pray according to what God shows us to pray that particular day. Everyone is always surprised when the time is over because it goes so fast. Sometimes there is great urgency, sometimes joy, sometimes tears. The Holy Spirit moves and we are there to respond.
Our vision for Midland Bible is that it would be a place filled with people who always enthusiastically go first to God for everything. Our communication with our Father is as regular as our individual heartbeat. We would love to see a hundred people gathered for pre-service prayer all looking forward to seeing what God is going to do that morning and so noisy that anyone else in the building would wonder what all the excitement is.
Sometimes people come and just listen and that is great. No one is pressured to pray out loud. Please feel welcomed to come yourself and you can experience some blessing.
What does prayer mean to you? Is it a spiritual discipline? A gift? A calling? Is it a box to check off each day, or is it your life’s blood?
There isn’t just one way to describe prayer, but I can tell you what it isn’t. Prayer is not meant to be a wishlist, a way to manipulate God or others, boring, or just for certain people.
So what is prayer, then? I like to think of it as talking with God. It’s sharing everything with Him and expecting to hear from Him. Through prayer, we can know and do God’s will and view all our experiences as shared with Him. I like what Richard Foster says of prayer: “To pray is to change…In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.”
If you had told me 18 months ago that God was about to change my life through prayer, I would have shrugged it off as a strange thought, and I for sure wouldn’t have prayed about it. In September of 2017 God gently yet firmly let me know through a series of conversations with Him that my perception about prayer was wrong: sinful. I was greatly humbled by this painful awakening, and after confessing and repenting my next response was, “Jesus, please teach me about prayer.” He graciously gave me more than I could have asked or thought. As I took baby steps of obedience and surrender, He gave me personal lessons on how to gain His wisdom, abide in Him, and have more of Him. And for the first time in 20 years of walking with Him, I desired these things above everything else in my life.
At that point, I was two years into an already life-altering inward spiritual journey that was forged in deep grief. Through those two years, I had begged God for more of Him and His nearness and clung with white knuckles to this promise: “The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:17-18
I began pleading for His wisdom, and He gave (and continues giving) it freely…
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” -James 1:5
And I discovered what true abiding is…
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…and if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” -John 8:31-32, 36
Today as I daily seek to abide in Christ, I find myself craving and sacrificing for more focused time with Him. Throughout the gospels, I see Jesus frequently going “off to a lonely place” to be with the Father, and I understand why: it is where spiritual blessings abound. I have also been training my mind to (as my favorite monk Brother Lawrence calls it) “practice the presence of God” throughout the day. Although I fail often, it has become something I never want to stop striving for.
I encourage everyone to seek more of God through prayer. Not sure where to begin? Do as the disciples did and ask Jesus how He wants you to pray. (Remember, James 1:5 tells us He will give wisdom generously to those who ask!) God will use His Word and the Holy Spirit to teach you. Shift your focus from yourself, your shortcomings, or your past onto God (Isaiah 26:3), and expect to hear from Him (John 16:13-14, 1 Cor. 2:9-13).
Come to Wednesday Night Worship and Prayer time (7 PM in the sanctuary). Try a morning and/or evening devotional that focuses on gratitude and praise. Start a prayer journal, recording everything from requests to laments to answers you get to see on this side of heaven. Make prayer cards and pray through 3-4 each day. Have a family prayer time and teach your children to join you. Everyone can put Romans 12:1-2 into action by practicing the presence of God throughout your day. You can do this by asking yourself, “Does this activity/conversation lead me to God?”
God desires a deep relationship with you. And believe me, you want it too! It was those who followed closest to Jesus, truly seeking and abiding in Him, who received the deeper things, the most intimacy, and the fullest joy. The benefits of orienting your life around God through prayer are endless and far outweigh the sacrifices and growing pains that come with a life being continually transformed by Him.
“It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened to you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.”
The Thessalonians experienced a Message that changed the course of their lives forever. It wasn’t the words that Paul, Silas, and Timothy spoke that gave them power, but the Spirit behind and in the words that emboldened these believers to live in freedom and truth.
Take a moment and pray these words over you, your family, our church family, and the community.
Father, I thank you for your steadfast love and grace. I ask Your Holy Spirit to speak life into our hearts and minds. Provide us with opportunities to speak that same life into the hearts and minds of others. May you strengthen our convictions as that of iron smelted into steel. May we always be imitators of you. Use us so that we may bring glory to Your name. Fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit that we may endure every hardship according to your Word.
Steady your thoughts on things above and be lifted up. God has something special for you. Be still and listen.
Do you need a prayer partner? Contact our prayer team here. We have prayer warriors willing to fight with you in battle.