How to Be Attentive To God in Prayer: 3 Factors to Consider

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This is the first of my Twenty Principles of Prayer.

If you want God to listen to you and to hear your prayers you must be attentive to Him and listen to Him.  This statement of course is true because true prayer must be according to His will and purposes; and in order to know His will we must listen to Him.

As we approach this subject of our attentiveness to God we will consider these three things:  how God speaks to us, where and when He speaks to us, and what we need to do in order to hear Him or to make ourselves attentive to Him.

 

How He speaks.   The Bible tells us that we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).  What this means is that as believers who are born again and indwelt by God’s Spirit, we have a new nature and a new mind—A Christ-like mind.   Our renewed mind is just like His mind and is capable of knowing His mind, of understanding His will, and of hearing His voice.

But how does He speak to us?  What does His voice sound like?  Well, God can and has spoken to people in various ways, but since the days of Christ, He has chosen to speak to people through Christ, by means of His Spirit, through the Word (Heb. 1:1-2).  Since God is pure spirit He speaks to us in spirit to our spirit.  And so, if we desire to hear Him we must listen to Him with our spirit (Jn. 4:24), that is, with our inner being and with our mind.

Our unredeemed flesh gets in the way sometimes and makes us less capable of knowing His mind.  For that reason, we need to keep at the renewal process.  The more we abide in Christ and are filled with His Spirit, the more we will know His mind and hear His voice (Jn. 10:27).

The voice of His Spirit and the thoughts of His mind are especially clear to us, and understandable, when we meditate on His Word—for all His teachings are of the Word.  I find that God speaks to me most when I am meditating on the Word.  His voice comes right through the words of the Bible and into my mind as if He Himself were speaking to me through those very words.

Along with abiding in the Word, we should also pray constantly.  And when you do God will reveal His will to you and tell you how to pray.  He will give you the very words to pray, words that match up with His will perfectly.

And as you fellowship with other believers, and as you hear your pastor preach to you, God will speak to you.  Sometimes He will give you a message through others that is new (that He has not spoken to you about before) and it may jolt you and convict you.  But more often I think God will speak through others to confirm to you what He has already been saying to you. At least this has been true for me.

 

Where and when He speaks. We might say that there is a special place, a secret place, where God speaks to us.  But I would rather say it this way: there are special places where we can hear Him, or where we are more attentive to Him.  As we know, God is everywhere and is always with us, but we don’t always hear Him when He speaks to us.  So the secret place of God is really that place where we are able to concentrate on Him only, where we can hear Him clearly, where we have found solitude—not only outer solitude but inner solitude, where our soul is at peace and at rest with God.

The time of His speaking, or rather the time of our hearing Him is when we have been able to make ourselves attentive to Him—when the hindrances of solitude have been dealt with; hence, when our rebel heart of lust is tamed, when anger is controlled, when pride and selfishness is revealed and dealt with, and when the entanglements of this world have been untangled through the power of the Spirit.  Then we will find rest in Him and we will be able to hear His voice.  Yes, I think God is always trying to get our attention; He is always speaking to us.  It is up to us to free ourselves from sin and to humble ourselves before Him.  I think we all know how to hear Him.  We just need to put the effort and the will into making ourselves attentive, which really amounts to being obedient to the Holy Spirit; for the Holy Spirit is always at work to move us toward God; He is always telling us how to hear Him, how to listen to Him.  He speaks loudly to us.  It is up to us to uncover our ears.

 

What we need to do to hear Him. Repenting of our sins is the first thing we need to do in order to hear God’s voice; sin is the biggest hindrance to our attentiveness to Him.  But we should not stop there.  There are other steps we can take.  Here are three additional things we can do.

  1. Seek Him. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you…”  God wants us all to seek Him and find Him.  He is waiting to be found.  He is near us and we can find Him if we are diligent to look (Is. 55:6).  When I seek God I usually look for quiet places, places of solitude, because it is there that I am able to be more attentive to Him.  Thus it is there in those quiet places that I find Him waiting for me.
  2. Wait on Him. When you have found a place of solitude, next you must be patient and wait on Him to come near you and speak to you.  As you wait, meditate on a passage of scripture; for He usually speaks to us through the Word.  As you meditate, write down your thoughts in a tablet—especially those things you think God is saying to you.  Note taking is one of the best ways to be attentive.  It shows God that you care about what He is saying to you and that you intend to follow His instructions.
  3. Realize His presence. When you begin to hear God’s voice (in your mind) as you are taking notes on what He is saying, believe that He is near you and actually speaking to you—through His spirit to your spirit.  Ask Him to help you sense Him and make you aware of Him.  As you pray, speak directly to Him as to a friend, and know that He is listening to you.  The fact of the matter is, He is listening to you and He enjoys your friendship.

 


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Answers to Prayer Bring Glory to God: Quote by E. M. Bounds

 

E.M. Bounds

The act of prayer, the obedience of prayer, does not necessarily bring God glory.  Prayer is what is expected of us; but it is the answers that come from our prayers that bring Him glory and us joy.  The whole point of prayer is to get answers.

E. M. Bounds has said,

It is not the marvelous array of argument and eloquence in praying which makes prayer effectual. Not one or all of these are the things which glorify God. It is the answers which brings glory to His Name…Better not to pray at all than to go through a dead form, which secures no answer, brings no glory to God, and supplies no good to man.

E. M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, Michigan) 1979, pp. 87, 109.

 

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Ezra’s Prayer of Great Humility and Grief — Ezra 9:5-15

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Shortly after Ezra and the people who were with him arrived in Jerusalem (exiles who returned with Ezra, Ezra 8), some of the leaders of the people of Israel came to Ezra and reported that their people, including the priests and Levites, had not separated themselves from the people of the surrounding nations (Ezra 9:1-4).

Ezra prayingWhen Ezra heard this news he was appalled and stunned, so much so that he tore his robe and plucked out some of his hair.  And others, “everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel [all those who feared God]” assembled to him.  Apparently Ezra’s great humility and grief seemed to draw and encourage others of like-mind around him to take part in the same grief.  And they prayed and fasted until the evening offering.  Then Ezra arose from his sitting position (a position of great mourning) and fell on his knees with his hands spread out to God, as he offered this prayer before the people who were gathered around him.

 Ezra 9:5-15

At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God. 6 And I said, “O my God: I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. (Continue reading from your Bible.)

 Ezra begins his prayer by saying to God that he was too ashamed and humiliated to lift up his face to Him.  He declared, “Our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”  Here, right from the beginning of his prayer, Ezra poured out his heart to God, telling Him exactly how he felt.  And it is interesting that throughout the prayer, though he didn’t participate in the sins of the people, he demonstrated by using the words “we,” “our” and “us,” that he identified with their sins and even felt the guilt of their sins.  Thus, in verse 7, he prayed, “Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and…we…have been delivered…to captivity…”

In verses 7 through 9 Ezra seems to be speaking to the people as well as praying to God; for he doesn’t pray directly to God but speaks about God.  Hence, in his prayer, he recalls how God, by His grace, released them from captivity and helped them to repair the temple and rebuild its ruins.  Then, in verse ten, he says to God, “What shall we say after this?”  So here (in my words) he is praying, “Now what have we done for Your kindness?  We have turned our back on You and forsaken Your covenant.  You told us not to intermarry with the people of the land around us, but we did it anyway.”

Closing his prayer, he said in great humility, “Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!”

Well, God heard Ezra’s prayer, so that even as he was still praying, a large assembly of men, women and children came and gathered around him, weeping and confessing their sins.  And they made a covenant with God to divorce their foreign wives, as well as their children who were born to them.

 

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E. M. Bounds, On What Answers to Prayer Does for Us

E.M. Bounds

1. Answers to prayer gives us proof of His existence. Says E. M. Bounds, “There is no proof so clear and demonstrative that God exists than prayer and its answers.”

2. Answers to prayer gives us confidence that we have a right relationship with Him and that He is pleased with us and with our prayers. Again E. M. Bounds states, “Answer to prayer is the convincing proof of our right relations to God.”

E. M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, Michigan) 1979, p. 86-87.

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Following in His Steps: Part 2a — Observing Jesus’ Example of Service

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I previously wrote a short review of the book, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.  I told how the book has deeply affected me and how I now feel led to do this bible study on the subject of following in His steps. I have just recently posted the first part of the study having to do with our unity in Christ, entitled, Following in His Steps: Part 1 — Finding the Power.  This post is the second part, having to do with how Christ lived His life, showing us how we should live.

There are three different aspects of Jesus’ life that we will observe: (1) how He served, (2) how He loved, and (3) how He suffered.  We will view these things with the intent on following His example. Our focus in this post is on His humble service.

How He Served

Jesus’ service to man can be observed over and over again in many places in the gospels. But one of the best and well known accounts of His service is when He washed His disciple’s feet (from John 13:1-15). We will begin our study by pondering the meaning of verse 3-4:

John 13:3-4

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.  NASB

The question we have to ask ourselves when we read these verses is, what is the significance of the timing?  Why did Jesus decide to wash the disciple’s feet at this point?

The first idea I had is that perhaps His Father was calling Him to do it at this point was in order to make clear, for the record, what His purpose was—that though He was God, He came to serve man.

Secondly, I believe He was compelled to wash their feet at this time, because it may have been the only time available to convey such a valuable lesson, which they needed to hear before it was too late.  For indeed, as Adam Clarke indicates in His commentary,

Our Lord, seeing himself almost at the end of his race, and being about to leave his apostles, thought it necessary to leave them a lesson of humility exemplified by himself, to deliver them from the bad influence of those false ideas which they formed concerning the nature of his kingdom. On all occasions previously to this, the disciples had shown too much attachment to worldly honours and dignities: if this ambition had not been removed, the consequences of it would have been dreadful in the establishment of the religion of Christ; as after his death, it would have divided and infallibly dispersed them. It was necessary therefore to restrain this dangerous passion, and to confirm by a remarkable example what he had so often told them, that true greatness consisted in the depth of humility, and that those who were the willing servants of all should be the highest in the account of God.

This of course applies to us too.  We also need to be delivered from any false ideas of His kingdom.  And so, He washed their feet to give us, as well as to give them, a model of how to serve, in loving humility—that disposition, which was required for His kingdom.

Hence, I see that He is showing us that we should not exalt ourselves over others, but instead we should regard ourselves as servants of others.  And this may require great humility, as is the case in foot washing. Yes, the nature of a servant is to give ourselves for others.  Service acts are always selfless acts, acts that are made not for the pleasure or for the good of self, but for others.  Hopefully, by His grace we will come to enjoy serving others, but that should not be our focus.  Our focus in serving should be to please others and God.

What are some acts of service that would be equal to washing feet (in the sense of a humble service) that we can think about doing? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal care of the elderly
  • Care for infants and toddlers
  • Helping someone move without pay!
  • Cutting a neighbors grass without pay!
  • Plowing a driveway without pay!

In a nutshell, this kind of service is any kind of service that would be a benefit to another, but not necessarily to myself. It is an act of selfless service.

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20 Principles of Prayer

 

 

 

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I suppose there are hundreds of principles of petitionary prayer.  I have brought as many of them together as I could find from my study, and have condensed them into twenty principles. In future blog posts I will present each of them separately, but for this post I want to show you all of them together in this acrostic.  Notice that in each of the  headings the first letter spells out the words APPROACHING HIS THRONE.  This acrostic is the whole idea of petition—that we approach His throne to try to get Him to hear us so that He will give us what we desire (Heb. 4:16).

 

 

TWENTY PRINCIPLES OF PRAYER

 

A ttentiveness to God.  If we want God to answer our prayers we must be attentive  to Him.

P riorities of Prayer.  God’s will should always take first place in prayer over our own needs.

P ower in Prayer. Every believer can have incredible power in prayer if he abides in Christ.

R esponsibility to Intercede. Every believer has a grave responsibility to intercede for others.

O nly to God. When we pray we should take the focus off of ourselves and pray to Him alone.

A nswers to Prayer. God wants us to know that we can pray to Him and receive answers.

C onfidence in Prayer. True prayer is always in faith, that is, with confidence in God.

H ear us. All true prayer is an attempt to get God to hear us.  It is the very nature of prayer.

I mportunity. True prayer is made with importunity—with a bold, intense persistence.

N ecessity of the Word. The Word teaches us to pray and gives us power to pray.

G od. The focus of prayer must always be God.

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H is Desires and Burdens. His desires and burdens must be the central force of our prayers.

I n His Name. Jesus empowers our prayers when we pray in His name.

S pecific Prayer. Faith filled, effective prayer is always specific.

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T ransparency in Prayer. True prayer is pray that is open, honest, genuine, and true.

H indrances to Prayer. Many things may hinder prayer, all of which have a root in pride.

R esisting. When we pray we are always standing against and fighting against the enemy.

O bey Him. True prayer is prayer that obeys God.

N eed for Unity. God established that believers would pray together in unity.

E arnestness. When we have urgent needs God wants us to pray with earnestness.

 

 

 

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Following in His Steps: Part 1 — Finding the Power

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I previously wrote a short review of the book, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.  I told how the book has deeply affected me and how I now feel led to do this bible study on the subject of following in His steps.  I began this study by looking at nine different scripture passages: three that have to do with our unity in Christ; four that have to do with how Christ lived His life, showing us how we should live; then two passages in Philippians, which give us excellent teaching from Paul on what our attitude should be, which is the attitude of Christ.  This gives us a great three point study.  This post is the first point, having to do with our being in Christ.  We must begin here because it is where we get the power to imitate Him.

 

Our Unity in Christ: Finding the Power to Follow in His Steps

We will begin by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:17.

 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 In order to be able to do as Jesus would do we first need to be made new—to become a Christian.  Then, as Christ comes and lives in us, He will give us a new life with new desires.  Our old life, with our old desires, will pass away, and we will receive a new life with new desires.  Thus I see in this verse that in order to do as Christ would do we first have to desire to do it, for without desire to do a thing our effort will soon grow cold.  But with a godly desire, God will move us to pray and to follow hard after Him.  Another good verse is Galatians 2:20.

 Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

In this verse we see clearly that as a new believer we live the Christian life by the power of Christ who lives in us.  We generate this power by faith in Him who loves us and gave His life for us.  We can’t possibly live the life God desires us to live in our natural bodies; but through Him, as we trust in Him, we can live that new life.  Let’s look at one more passage.

Romans 8:3-5

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

 This passage is deep with meaning, but the point I want to make from this passage is that we cannot follow Jesus and do as He would do in our flesh; but we can do it in the Spirit who dwells in us (if we are a Christian).  However, as a Christian we still need to set our mind on the Spirit and be constantly asking Him to fill us and empower us.  A Spirit-filled Christian has all the power of God supplied to Him to walk as Christ would walk.

 The next post on this subject will be, Following in His Steps: Part 2 — Looking at Jesus’ Example.

 

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