A School of Prayer for Seventh-day Adventists? Do we need a renewed and deeper comprehension of communion with God? Have we analyzed our motives in prayer? Why should we pray? Why do we pray? What is prayer?
The Bible tells us that sin has separated us from God and robbed us of the knowledge and understanding of His character. The Master sought to reveal the extent and tragedy of this gulf as He focused our attention on times when the separation reached its limits (during the reign of sin). (See Matthew 24:12, 3739.)
"There was but one hope for the human race—.. . that the knowledge of God might be restored to the world. Christ came to restore this knowledge. . . . He came to manifest the nature of His law, to reveal in His own character the beauty of holiness. Christ came to the world with the accumulated love of eternity."—Education, p. 76.
Reverence and Adoration
How earnestly the Master prayed, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Our first need, then, is personally to know God. Immediately comes to mind the text, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7). This was spoken, not by Job but by one of his so-called "comforters." Job thought that he knew his Creator, but what blessings came when he really received a vision of God (Job 13:1-3; 23:3-5; 42:1-6)!
What is our concept of God? How do we approach Him in prayer? We read, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). The word "God" is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning wholeness, perfection, or completeness in goodness. We derive our word "good" from the same source. The Scriptures present many names and titles, given to lead us to know our Creator and Redeemer. Ancient Israel used the word "Jehovah," the existing One, and "Elohim," the living One. It is most rewarding to "be still" and recall, in quietness, the many titles in the Bible through which He seeks to reveal Himself. Take a pencil and paper; write down and meditate on each name. Review and seek to share the effect a vision of God had on Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and many others.
"When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (Luke 11:2). This name—Father—is perhaps the dearest and most revealing to man. There is, however, this to consider, that today some, yes many, are unimpressed. False standards, laxness in discipline, lack of respect for elders, overindulgence by many, and the busyness of life have robbed too many of what God intended to reveal about Himself in this name.
What is our concept of prayer? How do we approach Him in our prayers? While it is true that He invites us to come to Him as to a father, we must come in holy awe and reverence lest He cannot honor us with His presence. "Because of the irreverence in attitude, dress, and deportment, and lack of a worshipful frame of mind, God has often turned His face away from those assembled for His worship."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 499. Is this the reason so many prayers seem to go unanswered?
Praise and Thanksgiving
"Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness" (Ps. 97:12). "We do not pray any too much, but we are too sparing of giving thanks. We are the constant recipients of God's mercies, and yet how little gratitude we express, how little we praise Him for what He has done for us. ... The soul may ascend nearer heaven on the wings of praise. . . . Let us with reverent joy come before our Creator, with 'thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.' "—Steps to Christ, pp. 103, 104.
When we catch this vision of our God—His love, His gracious goodness, His majestic greatness—all our prayers will be cast into new and wonderful experiences. We will know what Paul experienced when he wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4).
Repentance and Confession
Precious to every seeker after peace and righteousness is the promise, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). But how many fail to receive the fullness of the promise! True repentance and confession go much deeper than the sorrow and regrets over errors and faults committed. This would be merely the picking off of some leaves while the tree would bring forth more leaves. "Repentance, as well as forgiveness, is the gift of God through Christ."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 353. "We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ."—Steps to Christ, p. 26. "True repentance is more than sorrow for sin. It is a resolute turning away from evil." —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 557.
A knowledge of God, the privilege of heavenly citizenship and membership in the royal family of the universe, will make us "hate every false way" (Ps. 119:104). Our repentance and confession will be heart sorrow that we have denied our citizenship and royal heritage. Let us keep in mind that we are not asked merely to imitate the life of Christ. "The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity."—The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
How do we approach God in prayer? Do we come in gladsome anticipation to be alone with Him? Are we the type of worshiper the Father is seeking? Many are puzzled over the statement of Christ in John 4:23, 24. While it is true that we cannot fully know "how great is our God," we can understand His spirit and so participate in true worship. To worship in spirit means to choose God's way of life, emptied of all selfishness, to accept our rightful place in the family of heaven.
Petition and Intercession
Let us meditate on the word petition. Too often we assume this to mean intense, mournful pleading. The thought of "formal request" too seldom enters our meditations. True, "It is part of God's plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask."—The Great Controversy, p. 525. Let us not think of this as a denial of blessings but rather that we may be made more conscious of our dependence and need. How often a loving parent conceals himself from the child to share the delight of the little one when he is discovered. God may deny Himself to us that we may have the greater joy in finding Him. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. 37:4).
We must ever remember that "prayer is not intended to work any change in God; it brings us into harmony with God" (Messages to Young People, p. 248). God knows our every need and has promised to "do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). We are urged, "press your petitions to the throne, and hold on by strong faith."—Early Writings, p. 73. Little children are to be taught to "ask the Lord to help them in the little things of life" (Child Guidance, p. 31).
"If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision. Whatever may be our situation, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexities, we have a sure Counselor; whatever our sorrow, bereavement, or loneliness, we have a sympathizing Friend. If in our ignorance we make missteps, Christ does not leave us. His voice, clear and distinct, is heard saying, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' "—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 173. Such personal preparation and consecration prepare us for effective intercession.
Marvelous beyond our comprehension, "it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). "The intercession of Christ is as a golden chain fastened to the throne of God. He has turned the merit of His sacrifice into prayer. Jesus prays, and by prayer succeeds."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on 1 Tim. 2:5, p. 914. "His offering is complete, and as our Intercessor He executes His self-appointed work, holding before God the censer containing His own spotless merits and the prayers, confessions, and thanksgiving of His people. Perfumed with the fragrance of His righteousness, these ascend to God as a sweet savor. The offering is wholly acceptable, and pardon covers all transgression. Christ has pledged Himself to be our substitute and surety, and He neglects no one."—Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 156, 157.
For whom are we to intercede?
"It were well for parents to learn from the man of Uz a lesson of steadfastness and devotion. Job did not neglect his duty to those outside of his household; he was benevolent, kind, thoughtful of the interest of others; and at the same time he labored earnestly for the salvation of his own family. Amid the festivities of his sons and daughters, he trembled lest his children should displease God. As a faithful priest of the household, he offered sacrifices for them individually. He knew the offensive character of sin, and the thought that his children might forget the divine claims, led him to God as an intercessor in their behalf."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Job 1:5, p. 1140. (See also Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 701; Child Guidance, p. 494.)
For work at this time "they should make mighty intercession with God for help now" (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 454). (For missionaries and leaders see Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 22.)
Prayer of Commitment
We sing, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus." Do we really believe that? We are burdened for ourselves, long to pray effectually for loved ones, for those who request our prayers. Yet how inadequate seems our prayer life. "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5). "The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God." —The Desire of Ages, p. 173.
"Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was."—Ibid., p. 664.
"Every sincere prayer is heard in heaven. It may not be fluently expressed; but if the heart is in it, it will ascend to the sanctuary where Jesus ministers, and He will present it to the Father without one awkward, stammering word, beautiful and fragrant with the incense of His own perfection."Ibid., p. 667.
"If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14).