Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Practice update.jpg

PRAYER – PRACTICE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever said, “Lord, have mercy?” If you grew up in the south, I’m sure you have either said that or heard that at some point. It’s a prayer, but it’s really a stress relief or an exclamation of happiness, surprise, or anger. It’s like the other one – “Lord, help me.” Again, not a real prayer, just a colloquialism. Unfortunately, they are no different from some of our “real” prayers, which are a little longer, but they have also become just an extended colloquialism. Here’s the main point of today’s message: Just because we begin with “Dear God” and end with “Amen,” it does not mean that we are really praying. Prayer is a conversation with the living true God as our heavenly father. We come to him in sincerity and speak from our hearts. As we recognize who he is and express what we need, we receive the assurance that our heavenly father is already working the best answer for us. Last weekend, we focused on the doctrine of prayer. Today, our focus is on the practice or the mechanics of prayer.

Matthew 6      5 “And when you pray…”

Before we go any further, notice that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God assumes that we will pray to Him. He expects us to pray to him. Prayer is our daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him for our needs and receive from him the answers. Since the beginning of time, men and women in the Bible have prayed daily. Even Jesus had a daily time of prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” It’s like the song “What a friend we have in Jesus,” where it says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.” Many of us are not praying. How do we know that? You don’t return from God’s presence fearful, hopeless, defeated, doubtful, and discouraged.

Application: Do you come to God in prayer? What comes first? Plans or Prayers. Are you bearing needless pain?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered 3 important guidelines for prayer:

  1. Avoid prayer as a show.

6      5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

Context: After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. The priests and the scribes created an elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. Their daily prayer was a long list of 19 petitions known as the “Shemoneh Esreh,” each starting with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ending with “The whole world is full of His mercy.” They had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people would begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolized moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolized approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there was a certain way of bowing – “Barukh Atha Adonai.” You had to come back up when you said “Adonai.” Then when you said “Kadosh,” you had to get on your toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone followed this and there were many variations. When it was over, you bowed to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and said – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then, you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.

Some of the people would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Keep in mind that the Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets but some would do it anyways. It was forbidden to interrupt anyone praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. It was a big show! Jesus knew the hypocrisy of their hearts. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” Instead, he was saying – “Don’t pretend to pray only in public.” Imagine if your kids only talked to you in public with grandiose words! At home, “Get out of the way, old man!” Jesus knew their hearts and he confronted their hypocrisy. One antidote for hypocrisy in public prayer is private prayer. Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation.

Application: Do you pray for a show? Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? How is your private prayer life?

  1. Avoid vain repetitions.

7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…”

Background: The word for “vain repetitions” is a Greek word battalogew, which is a very unique word. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or in ancient Greek literature or the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). It was a description of the worship of heathens. Listen to what Jesus said about it in verse 7 “…For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them…” We may not be heathens but it is not much different than what we do even today. We mumble unnecessary words in prayer that add nothing to our conversation with God. Imagine if your kids talked with you and repeated your name and used unnecessary words! Sometimes, we even use “magical formulas” like “Plead the blood of Jesus” or “In Jesus Name.” Other times we repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology or the Apostles Creed. I’m not suggesting that any of this is sinful or wrong but the point is this – “Do we really mean what we say in prayer?” 8“…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Here’s the whole point – Prayer is family talk. It is a loving conversation between a father and a child. You cannot fake it.

Application: How do you see God when you pray? Can you see Him as your Father?

  1. Approach God as your Heavenly Father.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Now, we come to what’s known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster or sometimes even known as the Disciple’s Prayer. It is found twice in the Gospels – one here in Matthew 6 and a shorter version in Luke 11. It could be that Jesus taught the same prayer several times or it could be that Luke placed it at a different point in his gospel, as he often does. What is interesting about Luke’s version of the prayer is that he gives us the context in which Jesus gave this model prayer. Listen to Luke 11:1 “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” What is very interesting to me is that the disciples did not ask Jesus – “teach us to preach” or “teach us to evangelize” or “teach us to do a miracle” but “teach us to pray.” Why? Because they witnessed how important prayer was to Jesus. Everything in this prayer has to be read with the mindset of God as our heavenly father.

9 “…Our Father in heaven” = God is our Father—Creator, Superior, and Redeemer.

“…Hallowed be Your name.” = God’s names are His character and His work in our lives. He will hallow his name. But, how about in my own life?

10 “Your kingdom come…” = It is the sovereign eternal rule of God over His world. It begins in our hearts when we are saved and will be completed when Christ returns.

“…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” = God has a revealed will (what God expects) and a secret will (what is God up to). Here the prayer is for the secret will.

We’ve come to the midpoint in the Lord’s Prayer and, so far, we have looked at the first 3 lines known as the “Thou Petitions” – “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and Thy will be done.” Now we will look at the next 3 lines known as the “We Petitions” – “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Forgive us our debts,” and “Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one.”

11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” = Daily we should come to God as a little child looks to his/her parent for sustenance. But, the bread is not just physical but also spiritual.

12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” = This is probably the hardest line in the Lord’s Prayer, if not the whole Bible. E.M. Bounds said “A heart all love, a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful concern, a heart from which all bitterness, revenge, and envy are purged—how rare! Yet this is the only condition of mind and heart in which a man can expect to command the power of prayer.”

13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one…” = Even though God allows us to go through trials to purify and humble us, he wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

“…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” = He is the rightful owner, now and forever. He can change circumstances, now and forever. He gets the glory now and forever.

Invitation: How is your prayer life? Is it a show? Is it filled with vain repetitions? Is it a child coming to his/her father? Have you said the sinner’s prayer? Have you prayed to ask Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Discipleship: Pathways by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – PATHWAYS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Pathways

Introduction:  Every summer I speak at a camp in Bryson City, near Cherokee, to the western part of our state. Our kids have been going to this camp for about 16 years and many of our church kids now go every year. It’s a beautiful place in the Smoky Mountains! While there, the kids get to choose an outing like horseback riding, gem mining, tubing, hiking, etc. Several years ago, I decided to join the kids and go hiking up Alarka Falls. It’s a gorgeous 200 ft tall water fall that cascades down the mountain. The hike is up the side of the falls. If you’re a hiker, it’s moderately difficult. It’s not bad but they didn’t tell me that it would get steep towards the top. I was in the back of the group and we were getting closer to the top. I stopped to get some pictures and then when I got back on the climb, everybody was gone. I could hear them but I could not see them. Then it happened – I got stuck. My feet starting slipping on loose rocks and I had to dig my fingers into the dirt to hang on. All I could think of was Cliff Hanger with Sylvester Stallone but it was nothing like that. Finally, one of the counsellors realized that I was missing and she came back to check on me – “Do you need any help Mr. Shah?” My answer – “Oh no, I’m just resting. But, just in case, how did you get up there?” She told me to put my foot here and pull here and so on. I said – “I guess that’s one way to get up there.” Long story short – I made it and it was well worth it! Here’s the point – “I needed someone to show me the pathway on how to climb to the top.” So also, when it comes to discipleship, it’s not enough to know the goal and importance of discipleship. We also need to know the pathways on how to get there.That’s the message today.

2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Question: Paul told Timothy to show others the pathways of how to walk with God. Who do you have in your life who has or is showing you the pathways of how to walk with God? Do you know the pathways of discipleship? Who are you helping on the pathways of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:As you know, Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We created the acronym WATERto represent what a disciple looks like – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. When all 5 of these work in tandem, we are the disciples Jesus called us to be. Unfortunately, there are obstacles. We need certain disciplines to overcome these obstacles. Last weekend, we looked at 5 such disciplines: Discipline of Evangelism, Discipline of Confession, Discipline of Church Attendance, Discipline of Daily Bible Intake, and Discipline of Discipling.“Without Disciplines, there is no Discipleship.”

The next question is – what are the pathways we need to take in order to become disciples? Let’s go back to the acronym WATER. No pathways needed for W (Once you can articulate your testimony, it’s simply looking for opportunities to share your faith. Neither for T (Once you realize the importance of moving from the crowd to the congregation – church – and from the congregation to the community – Sunday School or Bible Study – it’s not that complicated). But A – Accountability, E – Established in the Word, and R – Reproducing Disciples require some pathways, some help in taking the next steps. I’ve been sharing some of these things throughout the series but now I want to deal with them in depth.

Let’s start with the Pathways for Accountability: Once again, think back to those concentric circles – Crowd, Congregation, Community, and Inner Circle. Robby Gallaty (I’ve learned a lot through him) calls the last one D – groups. Preaching helps but it cannot do it all because it’s only a one-way communication. Sunday School and Bible study help but they cannot do it all because they are more evangelistic or too study oriented and too many to hold accountable. An Inner Circle is a 3-5 member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period. The ultimate goal is for each person to become conformed to the image of Christ by growing in the Word and then replicate the process. It requires confidentiality, confrontation, and confession. You have to be careful here. Robby Gallaty says – “A quick word of caution: you must wisely discern to whom you will make yourself accountable, carefully guarding whom you allow to speak into your life. Never seek spiritual guidance from unspiritual people.”

A good verse to help us here is Galatians 6   1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”Meaning: We are to help one another but ultimately, we are responsible for our actions.

How do you start?

  • Pray (Just like Jesus before he picked his disciples)
  • Decide (Believers who have a desire, are determined, and have a demeanor to learn)
  • Ask (Not “I want to disciple you,” but “would you like to join for Bible Study, Scripture Memory, and Prayer on a weekly basis for a few months.)
  • Prioritize (You have to take it seriously)
  • Replicate (Don’t get stuck but remind the group members to start thinking about who they would like to include in their group)

What happens when each accountability group or Inner Circle meets? (Taken from Robby Gallaty, Growing Up: How to be a Disciple who makes Disciples)

  1. Study the Word together.
  2. Hold each person accountable for Scripture memory by reciting the previous week’s passage before the group.
  3. Ask accountability questions of each other. Hold each person accountable for achieving their goals. For example, “How is your relationship with Linda? You mentioned last week that you were working on the way you spoke to your wife.”
  4. Pray together before departing.

In the next couple of messages, I will deal with how to study the Word and how to pray.

I know that some have already made up their minds that they will not do this. Others may start but not stick with it. Keep in mind that this is biblical2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Are you a disciple? The Communion is for those who are saved –Luke 22    19And He took bread, gave thanks and brokeit,and gaveitto them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He alsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cupisthe new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Are you ready to take the pathway of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

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