Chemistry of Prayer
I pray you all are well. We will continue to glean from Dr. M.R. DeHaan’s book, The Chemistry of the Blood. Today we will look at the science of prayer or the chemistry of prayer.
Prayer is everybody’s gift and privilege. While we often need preparation and training to become efficient preachers, evangelists, and ministry workers, the gift of prayer is offered to all who believe. God gives to each man or woman their gifts and their calling, according to their ability. But there are no such restrictions upon the art of prayer. This gift is for all. There is no special call necessary to the ministry of prayer. The humblest child of God may have as much power in prayer as the most recognized evangelist or theologian.
Even though this is the case, the fact remains that the power of prayer is the power which is least exercised by the average believer. Many believers are frustrated because they cannot do great things for the Lord. There is no greater power committed to the believer greater than the power of prayer and intercession.
God needs more of us praying than he needs us preaching. I respectfully submit that the reason the church is in such a mess is the lack of prayer and confession by those in the church. This lack of prayer by the majority of believers leads to a condition of carnality and worldliness within the body, as well as, a loss of power leading to indifference among believers. This lack of praying by the average Christian has led to the churches decline from within.
Our cry should be that of the disciples in Luke 11:1,
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his
disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”’
Now please note, that the disciples of Jesus did not ask the Lord to teach them to preach, or teach them to sing, or teach them how to encourage people to tithe.
No, they asked for this one thing; Lord, teach us to pray.
In answer to this question, Jesus gave a definite answer. In the corresponding passage in Matthew, Jesus lays down some general rules concerning prayer and then follows it with a model prayer that has become known as The Lord’s Prayer.
Before we look at this model prayer, we must note some of the things that Jesus said just before he gave them The Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:5-8,
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
This passage is then followed directly by what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. But notice that in verses 5-8 Jesus presents the negative teaching on prayer and in The Lord’s Prayer, he gives the positive teaching on prayer. In verses 5-9 Jesus warns us of the things we must not do whenever we pray. In verses 9-13 the Lord teaches us what to pray and how to pray.
Prayer is a science (this is why I love this book). Prayer means study. In fact, though we study to become preachers, missionaries, and church money managers, very few of us make a study of the art of prayer and the science of prayer as taught in the Bible.Of all my scores of hours for seminary and course of study classes, I cannot remember any real focus on prayer, much less the study of prayer as a science.
As a direct result, when most of us look to our prayer lives we are found wanting. How little thought most of us give to making our prayers scriptural, per Jesus’ teaching. How little we follow the rules set down by our Lord Jesus. How often our prayers match those of the hypocrites and how often we pray for things which God’s wisdom forbids him to answer.
Now, I must interject a slight disclaimer, for Opportunity House and 2Gather2Gether ministries. OH has a community filled with prayer warriors and 2Gather2Gether is no different. So for many of you this may be a review. But it is a most important review.
Let’s look first to the negative teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus tells us some things that we should not do when we pray.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites…”
What are the characteristics of the hypocrites’ prayer? First, a hypocrite’s prayer is in public. Hypocrites love to pray in synagogues and on street corners. They pray to be seen and heard by others. This is to elevate their status among their peers. They spent much time in public prayer, but sadly, little time in private prayer. Thus their prayer was insincere, it was focused on inflating their status and not connecting with God.
Next, hypocrites pray for a long time. Remember, they want to attract attention to themselves. It is a safe bet that the longer a person prays in public, the less they have prayed in private. Most public prayers by people who pray in private are relatively quick. I wish preachers understood this about preaching. Long sermons do not necessarily promote a transfer of knowledge from the Lord to the parishioners.
Study the prayers of scripture and see how many long prayers that you can find. Not many. Study the prayers of Jesus and you will discover two things:
He was a man of great prayer. He spent whole nights on the mountain without sleep, praying to God.
You will not find a long prayer anywhere in his public ministry. The Lord’s Prayer is about thirty seconds long.
Jesus' prayers in private were hours long. His prayers in public barely lasted more than a couple of minutes.
So, from this, we know that prayers in public are not for self promotion and that less is definitely more. There is one more habit of the hypocrites in their prayer life for us to avoid: Vain repetition.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
Vain repetitions. What is this anyway? Think about how you communicate with God. Do you find yourself praying the same prayer, always? Maybe speaking in generalities, praying trite sayings time after time? Or are you really trying to communicate with God? Are you inserting new details, thanking God for blessings and answered prayers, listing new requests and people for whom you are interceding? Take out the vain repetitions, and you will be shortening the prayer and enhancing communication.
We use these vain repetitions because we have never really studied how to pray. Our petitions generally are haphazard and lack confidence.
Take an honest look at your prayer life. Examine your prayers. Compare them with the prayers of Jesus or Paul. Do you notice a difference?
If you want to begin a prayer life or improve your prayer life, we will be digging deeper into the science of prayer next week. Pray this prayer with me now:
Father, thank you for your Son Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. Thank you for his many teachings, especially this one on prayer. Help me to improve my prayer life with you. I want to talk freely with you. I want to hear from you as well. Guide me with your Spirit to understand how and what and when to pray. Thank you Lord. It is in Jesus’ name that I pray for this understanding of prayer. Amen.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC