Monday, August 15, 2016

Devoted to Prayer

When studying through the book of Acts with our church, there was one verse that particularly stood out to me when Acts 2 was taught on recently. It is a verse that gives quite a clear description of how the church, the body of believers in Christ, functions together when they gather as the church. It also presents a picture of how the heart of each of us should be . . .

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

Each one of these four things that they were “continually devoted” to are so important! And they are an integral part of our individual lives and of the church. Yet the one that my attention was immediately drawn to was the last. Devoted to prayer.

This past year has been a hard one for me to say the least, yet a blessing that came from going through something so hard was a much deeper life of prayer. Prayer became and is a refuge for me . . . God was and is always faithfully there (even at times when He may not feel near.)

He listened as I poured out my heart to Him so many times. I cannot tell you how many times I went (and still do go) for walks out in His beautiful creation just to talk with Him! Through those times of prayer, my relationship with Him has deepened and become much more intimate. He was, and continues to be, near to me, and He helped me in ways that I cannot put into words. And prayer has been such an integral part in that.

Yet I readily admit that I still struggle . . . and I still have much room for growth in this area of prayer. This was realized to even a greater extent when I studied further than I have before about what it is to truly be devoted to prayer.

Before looking at the definition of it, let's look a bit at what prayer is. It is simply communication with God either silently in our hearts or verbally spoken. Yet it encompasses so much . . . praising Him for who He is, thanking Him for His blessings, expressing our trust and faith in Him, asking for His help, bringing our requests to Him, lifting up others and their needs to Him, and more.

Sometimes I think we forget how very powerful prayer can be. As James teaches though: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV.) And it does! Prayer is powerful, and it is also beautiful communication with our Creator, our Father, our Lord.

Prayer is such an integral part of strengthening and deepening our relationship with our God and Savior. It is communicating with the One who bought us and redeemed us, the One whom we love and desire to serve and please. Through prayer, our heart becomes more in-tune with God, more open to His voice and leading, more softened to receive and follow His instruction.

Keeping in mind that prayer is also intimately linked with God's Word. It is through God's Word that we receive His guidance, and His Spirit speaks to us through it. And whatever answers we receive from God to our prayers, will always be in complete harmony with Scripture.

Prayer also communicates trust when we humbly bring our requests to Him – both for ourselves, our families, and others – it is placing all of these into His wise hands and into His control. It is a surrender to Him of those things, whatever they may be.

And to think that His ear is constantly attentive to our prayer! Whether it be praises, requests, or thanksgiving. There is a verse in 1 Peter, which is taken from the Old Testament, that speaks of this and I find it really encouraging:

For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer,” (1 Peter 3:12.)

And again in Psalm 116:1 . . . “He hears my voice and my supplications.”

Isn't it incredible to know that the God of the universe has such a great love and care for us as this? He hears our voice, He knows our innermost thoughts (Psalm 139:1-3), and He always, without fail, answers our prayers.

When considering all of this, how very much we should desire to pray to our Lord! Just think . . . He loves us more deeply than anyone else ever could. He gave His life and died in our place that we might be forgiven our sins and live eternally with Him if we believe in Him as our Savior. He cares for us in ways that our finite, short-sighted minds cannot begin to comprehend.

This is a well-spring to the example we find in Acts 2 (and also in Acts 1:14) . . . they were continually devoted to prayer. In Romans 12:12, we are also instructed to be “devoted to prayer.” Again in Colossians 4:2 we are commanded to: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

Yet, what is it to be devoted? I am sure we all have an idea in our minds of what this would look like. I know I did! And I found my defining of it significantly paling in comparison to the rich fullness of what the Greek word means.

The word for devoted used in Acts 1 and 2, Romans 12, and Colossians 4 is proskartereo (Strongs 4342.) It is one Greek word that I love . . . how very, very deep and far reaching it is!

As you read through these definitions, remember, this is to be describing our heart and action in prayer.

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines it as:

- to be earnest towards
- to persevere
- to be constantly diligent in
- to attend assiduously [“showing or characterized by persistent attention or untiring application”]
- to adhere closely to

Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it in part as: “to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting [“never slacking, persistent”] care to a thing . . . to continue all the time in a place . . . to be in constant readiness”

Just typing out these definitions brings such conviction to my heart! O to have a heart of prayer like this! As these definitions sink into my heart and mind, I can see how very beautiful such a relationship with Him can be.

It is a heart in constant and/or ready communication with the Lord . . . one that is instantly ready to thank Him for blessings (or trials) when they come . . . to praise Him all throughout the day for who He is (the Psalms give such clear examples of this!) . . . to immediately turn to Him and ask His help whenever a need arises, however large or small . . . to express our trust in Him when hard times come . . . to simply talk to Him . . . to pour out our hearts to Him.

It is a heart that instantly turns to Him in prayer when confronted with difficult situations. Or when we are asked “to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15), or when we defend our faith, share the gospel, or anything like that.

It is knowing and relying on the Holy Spirit's guidance in all situations as we ask God for His help, wisdom, strength, and discernment. And it is through prayer and preparation from God's Word that we can “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2.)

It is as though prayer encompasses and surrounds our every moment of every day. It is such a part of our hearts that it is who we are . . . we are characterized by a deep heart of prayer.

A heart that has a growing love for and trust in the Lord . . . and the fruit of which is being “devoted to prayer.

- Posted by Sarah