How To Pray
Incense typifies "the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). "Let my PRAYER be set forth before you as INCENSE; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps. 141:2). This incense offering was performed TWICE a day, every morning and evening (Exod 30:7, 8) -- indicating a minimum of TWO prayers to God per day. "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up" (Psalm 5:3). Our prayers should not be "sour" or "bitter" but "SWEET" like incense (cp. Ex. 30:34-38). "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight" (Pr. 15:8). They must be beaten "SMALL" or DETAILED, not mere vague generalizations -- "My speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain" (Deut. 32:2) -- and must be "HOT" (Rev. 3:15-16) or "FERVENT" (James 5:16) so the incense rises. Otherwise it doesn't give off its aroma and is dead, lifeless, useless (Matthew 15:7-8)! Therefore talk about issues of importance to you. Areas of concern. "When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7). They won't!
"In My Name"
Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.... Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24)!
On Your Knees
And pray on your knees during your daily prayers (Psalm 95:6, Luke 22:41), unless it is physically impossible for you to do so. Of course, in emergencies, or when you simply have a spare moment and would like to talk to God, you may pray wherever you are. "Pray without ceasing," says I Thessalonians 5:17.
Why Doesn't God Answer Our Prayers?
"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:1-2). "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps. 66:18).
Why Does God Let Us Suffer?
"It is not for man to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10:23). "We are bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:18-20). "If we love him, we keep his commandments" (John 14:15) -- not for reward or blessing. God answers prayer, but not as a reward or something we earn, but we must be obedient to receive answers and must believe in his Son. Job kept God's commandments, but was afflicted. Joseph also suffered, even though righteous. All the OT prophets were persecuted, yet righteous, and NT apostles were persecuted, though righteous. Our Lord foremost among us has suffered undeservedly and we are told "If they have hated me they will hate you, if they have persecuted me they will persecute you. To claim promises such as protection, health or wealth is not the full picture. God also promises "much tribulation", "persecution" and "fiery trial" and "overcoming". We owe him everything and he owes us nothing. It is our duty to serve him regardless.
How To Get Answers To Prayer
"As he (the prophet) cried, and they would not hear, so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 7:13). If we do what He asks through the pages of the Bible, He will do what we ask through prayer. "Do His will as if it were your own, so that He will do your will as if it were His. Nullify your own will before His so that he will nullify the will of others before you" (Pirke Avot 2:4). "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John 3:22)
God makes his promises come to pass. "Ask and you shall receive" (Matt. 7:7). "Call upon me in the time of trouble and I will answer thee and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50:15). "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Ps. 81:10) "But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.... thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified." (Isaiah 43:22-26). "Call upon him while he is near" (9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm; Sabbath and festival) "But seek ye first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself to do God's will, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (success, fame and fortune). "The mercy of the Eternal is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children, To such as keep his covenant, and to those who remember his commandments to do them" (Ps. 103:17-18). Also Jer. 29:11 "They who trust in the Lord shall never be confounded" (Rom. 10:11). "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps. 84:11) "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). "He who loves his neighbor and lends money to the needy in his need, concerning him it is written: 'Thou shalt call and I shall answer'" (Yebamoth 62).
Jesus' Sample Prayer Outline
Jesus explains in Matthew 6:9, "In this manner, therefore, pray." In verses 9 through 13, He went on to give a basic outline you should follow when you enter your private place (verse 6) to converse with God the Father. Of course, the exact words you should speak are not these. Jesus was teaching that you should take His outline and enlarge upon it. Let's examine this sample prayer:
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever -- "The words of Jesus' model prayer to his disciples sum up all the above when he says to the Father: 'YOURS is the kingdom (the agenda, the program, the project); YOURS is the power (the supply, the energy, the accomplishing ability); YOURS is the glory' (the praise, the credit, the honor for what has occurred)."
After Stephen gave a DEFENSE, they cast him out of the city " And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my
Stephen's hands were undoubtedly TIED BEHIND HIS BACK and it would have been FUTILE for him to have tried to RESIST. If a Christian subject RESISTS these "higher powers," he is RESISTING "the ordinance of God" in the sense that "there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God" (Rom.13:1-2). On the other hand, if Stephen had merely stood there SILENTLY as the rocks hit his head, he wouldn't have shown that his submission was VOLUNTARY, so he KNELT DOWN rather than STANDING or trying to RUN AWAY. Then he followed Christ's advice in Matthew 5:44: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies (when hating means fighting lawfully consistuted authority over you), bless them that curse you (when cursing means fighting lawfully consistuted authority over you), do good to them that hate you (when doing harm means fighting lawfully constituted authority over you) and PRAY FOR THEM WHO DESPITEFULLY USE YOU, AND PERSECUTE YOU (when praying against them means fighting lawfully constituted authority over you)." Anything less is merely REQUIRED submission.
Notice that Stephen didn't QUIETLY pray this "FACE-SAVING" prayer. That would have served no purpose. Instead he CRIED with a LOUD VOICE so his persecutors could hear and FEEL ASHAMED. Christ did the same thing in front of his executioners by saying OUT LOUD, "Father, FORGIVE THEM; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He didn't pray a SILENT prayer for his enemies as so many do today, who misunderstand the whole purpose of this kind of submission.
In different circumstances we find Christians DEFIANTLY praying AGAINST their ENEMIES just as David did in Psalm 35:1-6 where he said, "FIGHT AGAINST those who fight against me.... Let them BE CONFOUNDED and PUT TO SHAME ... let them BE TURNED BACK and BROUGHT TO CONFUSION ... Let them BE as CHAFF ... Let their way BE DARK and SLIPPERY" etcetera. "DESTROY thou them, O God" (Ps.5:10). "Let DEATH SEIZE upon them" (Ps.55:15; cp. 109:9). "BREAK thou the ARM of the wicked" (Ps.10:15). "SCATTER THEM ... BRING THEM DOWN ... CONSUME THEM IN WRATH" (Ps. 59; see also Ps.69, 79, 83, 94, & 140). "And David saith, Let their table be made a SNARE, and a TRAP, and a STUMBLING BLOCK, and a RECOMPENSE unto them" (Rom.11:9). Or as Zechariah said, "The Eternal look upon it (the evil), and REQUIRE it" (i.e. "avenge me") (2 Chr.24:22). We also read that Jeremiah was commanded by God to "PRAY NOT FOR this people" (Jer.7:16; 11:14; 14:11; cp.18:18-23) because their sins were so great. Or as Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4:14: "Alexander, the coppersmith, did me much evil; THE LORD REWARD HIM ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS," and in 1 Corinthians 16:22: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA MARANATHA (Literal Aramaic means "Let him be ACCURSED at Christ's coming")" (cp. Gal.1:8). Christian martyres in the middle ages are even pictured as praying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not JUDGE AND AVENGE OUR BLOOD ON THEM that dwell on the earth?" (Rev.6:10). If our persecutors blame us for such prayers, they need to be reminded of the scripture that says, "As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come." (Pr. 26:2).
AMEN: (Hebrew "emun" means "faithfulness" or "steadiness" -- Deut. 32:20 or Hab. 2:4) "The word solemnly confirms that which went before; and Jesus is the great Confirmer; immutable and forever is 'the Amen' in all his promises. He was a Priest to pardon and cleanse once; he is Amen as Priest still. He was a King to rule and reign for his people, and to defend them with his mighty arm; he is an Amen as king, the same still. He was a prophet, to foretell good things to come; his lips are most sweet, and drop with honey still -- he is an Amen Prophet... He is Amen in every single title which he bears; your Husband, never seeking a divorce; your Friend, sticking closer than a brother; your Shepherd, with you in death's dark vale; your Help and your Deliverer; your Castle and your High Tower; the Horn of your strength, your confidence, your joy, your all in all, and your Yea and Amen in all" (CHS).