“Mark, IF you want to know God and His promises, IF you want to understand how He works in the lives of men through prayer, including WHY God does WHAT He does, then put these two–Scripture and Prayer–together.”
(from my novel: A Reason to Pray at Mountainview)
Did you know that your practice of prayer must be within the rules, the boundaries, and the requirements of prayer that God has set down in scripture? Someone may argue, “I don’t have any boundaries or requirements when I talk to God. That would be legalism! I just say what is on my mind.”
That may sound sincere and fundamentally true, but it is not in line with scripture. Why should someone think that they could approach God and expect His attention and favor outside of the way that He has established? Were the Israelites allowed to merely throw anything down on an Alter and believe that it would be acceptable to God? Was a priest allowed to follow his own ideas of how to worship God? Of course not; God gave detailed instructions on how He was to be approached, what was acceptable; and how to offer prayers and offerings.
This didn’t change in the New Testament. Jesus corrected erroneous practices of prayer in His Sermon on the Mount. He makes it clear that certain ways of praying are not received by the Father. I challenge you to read Matthew 6:5-8 and notice at least two wrong ways to pray and two correct ways to pray.
A few examples of prerequisites to prayer are found in the scriptures below. If these aren’t met, your prayers are bouncing off the proverbial ceiling.
Did you notice them, or read right past them? The prerequisites in the verses above are absolutes; they are theological boundaries. They are not as shallow or simplistic as we have made them to be. The Holy Spirit leads the humble within these boundaries and He confirms them with His word. The scriptures are given to us to learn the truth about God and His ways. Though we can learn some things about Him from other sources, such as His creation, we must rely upon the Scriptures as the final authority to discern truth from error. We should also use the Scriptures as a filter and a fountain to drink in the truth.
Scripture not only teaches us what God requires from us, but also what we can expect from Him. Therefore, having scripture as a part of your prayer time will help guide you in orthodoxy—in right belief, as well as with orthopraxy—right practice. Psalm 119:130 tells us that the entrance of His Word gives light and understanding. This applies to the subject of prayer as with all areas of truth. You and I need light to guide us, to search our hearts, and to show us the Father and the Father’s will in prayer. Psalm 119:169-172 is a good example of how God’s Word brings our prayers in line with God’s will.
Someone will say, “This sounds like you need to know the Bible before you can pray?” That is not what Jesus taught, as recorded in Matthew 6, and that’s not what I am saying. God gives us truth in His word to guide and help us. Our hearts and minds need these boundaries because we are prone to humanistic mindsets. We are prone to want to be our own gods–take the throne seat, make up rules around ourselves, and require God to adhere to them. Oh, but we do. If we are not trying to be gods, we are trying to earn or work for God’s favor. Or we are prone to interpret through our experiences and feelings–wow! that’s dangerous!
Jesus wants us to pray with simplicity, sincerity, and single-mindedness.
If you discovered in the scripture that you have been stepping outside the boundaries lines of biblical prayer in either the way (manner) that you pray … or … what you pray, how serious of an issue would it be to you? Just asking. We love our own ways and change ruffles the feathers. So, I’m just wondering how important it would be to you. The more you learn about how God works in prayer, the more you are drawn to Him. This is one of my motives to pursue God in prayer and the scriptures. He’s calling us to fellowship with Him through His word and prayer.
If you’re interesting in learning more about prayer, grab my books.