“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Tennyson once said that “more things are brought about in this world by prayer than we can ever dream about.”
I’m sure you have heard many of the mining horrors over the last several years. Several years ago in a Salem, Kentucky, zinc mine, there were five miners in the mine together when there was a major rockfall in the mine – a collision of the ceiling. They were trapped. There was no light. There was no food. There was no water. They were there in the darkness.
“Now, these five men were non-religious. But at a time like that… You think your life is passing in front of your eyes, and indeed it was for these five miners. So one miner suggested that they pray and sing. Ordinarily if he would have done that, he would have been beaten up. But not today, not in this mine after the collapse.
So, they sat there on the floor, gasping for air, and they started to sing and pray. They sang old gospel songs. One would lead and then another. And they prayed for a total of fifty-three hours. They never slept. They continued to pray. They got into such a feeling of oneness with God that after a while it didn’t even matter to them if they were found or not. They knew there was something more to life than that zinc mine and their daily hum-drum existence. Through personal spiritual experience each miner knew God. And they knew God was present with them there in that mine.
They continued to pray even as they heard axes chopping, chopping, chopping, and they knew they were going to be saved. They heard people talking and calling them but they never stopped praying even as they were being hauled out of the mine; they kept praying and singing. On the helmet of every miner was scrawled, ‘If we’re dead when you find us, we are all saved.’”
So, when people say they’ve been saved, what do they mean? Being saved is not just a one time event. Things happen to us all the time, things that knock us down, and what do we do, how do we get through it, do we do the typical human things, like cry out, isolate ourselves, try to dig ourselves out? Or, do you do what the miners did and humble yourselves in prayer? Every miner went on to have a profound religious life. All the miners said the collapse was the finest thing that had ever happened in their lives. They said, “Thank God we were trapped in that mine for fifty-three hours, for the experience gave us new life.” That new life gave them a new life in Christ.
Psalms 4:1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
We often go through periods in our lives and in the lives of our family and our friends when the outlook can be pretty bad. Instead of hanging on to the negative, look to God – instead of focusing on the situation. Try it and see what happens. I am sure many of you already do that but for those of you that are making this the first time event, you will make the discovery of your life. And that is a discovery that everybody can make, regardless of their religious ties. You are going to find God because God is with you right now. Prayer is a feeding time for your soul. Sometimes our souls are starved, especially when bad things had been happening to us. It is time now and will be to feed our soul. That is you are in communion with God. Let that, Prayer, be a homecoming!
It seems very often that we get the message, maybe from childhood, that it’s really difficult to pray or to pray correctly. But that is so wrong. It’s easy to pray. When we pray we are just talking to God. It’s just a message to Him from our human mind; we were created to pray; our minds are made to pray, just as our lungs were created to breathe. Let me repeat – Our minds were created to pray, just as our lungs were created to breathe.
When we’re in prayer, we are in agreement and allowing God to work through us- which He does. He will work through us and with us and for us for as long as we desire. “And it’s ever-expansive. The more we permit God to work through us, the greater it is and the greater we are.”
In the Bible, it says, “It is done unto you as you believe.” That is because prayer, like electricity, travels in a circle. When you pray, it is like a boomerang. It’s going to come back into your life. Prayer produces after the pattern is set.
The famous Mayo Clinic is in Rochester Minnesota. The Mayo brothers (Will and Charles Mayo) had a dream of better healing. Will Mayo once said this:
“I have seen patients who were dead by all standards. Everyone knew they could not live. We knew they were going to die. But I have seen a minister come to the bedside of one of these patients and do something that I could not do. I have seen that patient’s life touched in some way that I can’t explain as a medical doctor, with some immortal spark that defied medical knowledge and materialistic common sense. Believe it or not, that patient lived.”
We see this every day in ministry. Through this and many ministries, we see people who aren’t supposed to live, live; people who aren’t supposed to be able to pull their business out of where it is, pull it out and prosper. People have changed their lives around. People who are destroying themselves with their habits and various things just turn their lives around because of a power they connect with–a power which does not have those problems, a power that is readily accessible to us all.
Prayer, as Jesus Christ understood and used it, is communion with God. In the Bible, Jesus used a pattern in his prayers. Let’s look at the story of the raising of Lazarus in that prayer that Jesus spoke, there’s a pattern that can help us with our prayers.
Reflect on what’s going on with Lazarus. He had been dead for four days when Jesus arrived at the tomb. Let’s take a look at this scene. Many women are standing around crying their eyes out. Then we see the curious crowd–not so much a faith-believing crowd, but a doubting crowd. They doubt with everything inside of them that a miracle could possibly take place. Then we see the grim, gray, rock-hewn cave with a large, circular stone rolled in front of the opening. [John 11:39-44].
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. I knew that Thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.’ When He said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hand and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
First of all, how does Jesus address God? Jesus addresses God in a different way than we sometimes address God. He addresses God as if He were an immediate, close, available, mighty and loving Presence.
Let’s look at the basic pattern, six easy steps that we can take and use in our prayer life.
“1. “Take away the stone.” The very first step is to take away whatever barrier exists in your life, your mind and your heart. Open your eyes and your mind and your heart to betterment. Agree with God that improvement is possible and consent to whatever changes this may demand of you. Prayer, you see, does not change God. It changes us.
“2. “Jesus lifted up His eyes.” This means He lifted up his vision, and His perspective, as well as His sight. What a thing to do in prayer. Sometimes the people praying never get to this point. They are so locked into the problem that they just beg God to save them from their problems. Their eyes are centered on the problem. Never once do they give God the credit for possibly being able to bring something higher into their lives. Jesus saw that with God working through Him, something more was possible.
In the highest form of prayer, we do not ask that God lower God’s sight to ours, but rather we seek to raise our sight to God’s. Raise your sights, to see through God’s eyes, to think through God’s thought, to hear God’s words.
“3. “Father, I thank Thee.” Now Jesus had a Bible just like we do, but His Bible was the Old Testament. Jesus read the Old Testament. He was familiar with it.
The Old Testament teaches to thank God. The Jewish people thank God as a matter of habit. The difference here, (and it’s a big difference), is that He didn’t thank God after Lazarus came out, but through his faith, and vision, thanked God in advance. There is a world of difference in that kind of faith.
Have enough faith in your life to know that when you pray, you’re not wondering, “Gee, I wonder if God heard that? Did God hear me that time?”
Have faith to permit God to work through you. Have faith enough to give thanks in advance. The ultimate prayer is giving thanks continuously.
“4. “He cried out with a loud voice.” This is the voice of unquestioning assurance. This is the voice in you that knows. I often ask people, “How would you act if your prayer was already answered?” They have answered, “Well, I would be exuberant. I would be on fire with God.” I would then tell them to act that way right now, because it has been answered. It has to come through you—YOUR FAITH.
“5. “The dead man came out.” The things that are impossible to you and me as mortal women and men are possible to God. And anything IS possible for you with God working through you if you are God-filled. The Bible says, “Where one thing I know: where I was blind, I now see; whereas I was once dead, I have come alive again; whereas I was impoverished, I am enriched; whereas I was abandoned, I am loved and accepted. Old thoughts and old things are become as waters that have passed away. Behold, all things are made new.”
“6. “Unbind him and let him go.” Even though this dead man lives and has walked forth, he is still bound to the old thinking that got him there in the first place. He still has it wound in his consciousness and all that has been healed is the effect. Go beyond just healing the effect to—healing the cause. To heal the cause we have to unbind ourselves, and loose ourselves from that type of thinking. So many times we see a person healed of some disease and then a couple of years later they get it again in a different place. You have to go inside, and, if necessary, turn yourself inside-out, and unbind yourself. Completely become new, where the old things have passed away once and for all.” Steps given are quoted from I.C, Chenoweth
Sig Paulson once said, “When we pray, things work out great. But when we don’t pray, our troubles prey on us.”
Emerson once said, “Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of your life from the highest point of view.”
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We must make prayer a way of life rather than a series of isolated acts. In his wonderful book, Prayer the Master Key, James Dillet Freeman said, “The great purpose of prayer is this: to turn wordless longing into words of faith; to turn words of faith into life-supporting attitudes; to turn life-supporting attitudes into brave, wise, loving acts; and to turn the brave, wise, loving acts into a full life.”
Prayer is spiritual. It is mental only in the sense that the mind is the necessary agent of it. It is mental to the spiritual, and then the spiritual becomes translated in the mental of you. But prayer unifies us with a realm where discord and imperfection do not exist. Problems are solved through prayer, but this is secondary. The main thing prayer does is lift us up.
Make an investment in you! Create a “Pray As You Go Plan.” This “plan” builds you up and creates an on the job training, teaching you to be a strong Christian. This OJT is prayer. It’s the real thing; and you don’t pray about it, you pray it through with strong belief.
I love this quote, “Prayer without ceasing is a persistent effort to educate our minds and hearts to the qualities of God’s nature. When we read of Jesus spending whole nights in prayer, our first thought is He was asking and begging God for something. But we find that prayer is many-sided. He was not only asking, but He was receiving. The Son of man must be lifted up. And there is no way to do this except through prayer.”
How long do you pray every day? Take a moment and figure it out. There are 1340 minutes in a day. If we pray for about five minutes that leaves 1335 minutes left for just plain old human rambling. If we want to be focused on our spiritual lives, we need to pray more. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to take his three best hours of the day and save that for prayer. Jesus’ spiritual cycle was continuous prayer, but He did it in this way—taking prayer into everything He did. He prayed. He worked. He rested. Then he repeated the cycle. And during the time he worked and rested, he remained in prayer, in close communion with his Father. Like Jesus, through prayer we know how and when to take action – not ending our prayers during this time but continuing to pray throughout. We have to put feet and arms onto our prayers and continue praying when we’re doing our work.
“The first thing in the morning when you wake up, you say, “Dear God…” and you begin your prayer. You keep in mind that everything you do that day, every word you speak, and continue your prayer. And then, the last thing at night before you close your eyes, you say, ‘Amen.’”
A Fellow pastor told me this story the other day. He said he was at McDonald’s with a friend and his friends said, “If continuous prayer is so important and if it is to be a way of life, why is church necessary?” I loved this. I had French fries in front of me. I took one French fry out of the pack and laid it aside. Now the French fries were piping hot. But in thirty seconds or less, the French fry I laid aside was stone cold. I said, “Feel that French fry. Now feel these other French fries.” They were still piping hot because they were together. They were keeping each other warm. I suppose that is what church is about.”
Here is another wonderful story, a true story about the earliest African converts to Christianity. They were very serious and very regular in their prayer, and during their devotions daily they would walk down separate paths through a field into a large area where each one would have his or her private prayer sanctuary. If the tribe would notice the grass growing on a specific path, they would know that this person had not been to their prayer place. They would go to that person and let him know that the grass was growing on his path and let him know that they knew he was not praying. They watched each other’s paths every day to make sure their brothers and sisters, the new converts, were praying and meditating and staying in close communication with the Lord.
Since we don’t live in the African bush, and we don’t have a path in the wilderness that leads us to our prayer sanctuary, we have to focus and police ourselves. We have access to God’s power, and that is a great opportunity. It is obvious to us, perhaps better than to others, that we are children of God; and we realize we are very connected to God. We know we can pray anywhere, anytime, and all the time. I have special places in the house and the backyard where I like to sit and commune and meditate with God. If you have not found a special place where you feel even closer to God, I encourage you to open yourself up to that idea.
The greatest power in the world that we can participate in, alone or with others, is true and honest prayer. That is the greatest power in the world, and it can change you – your attitudes, your conditions, your thoughts, your feelings, your words, your actions.
When you pray, you are the miracle that happens. The true end of prayer is not to develop a power to perform miracles, but to develop yourself so in faith you will be able to accept miracles. You, yourself, are the miracle. If you let yourself develop into what you were made to be by God, you’re going to find yourself with innate God-given powers and extraordinary capabilities.
There’s a song that has some wonderful words. I’d like to share them with you.
It is the melody of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but with new words. It talks about continuous prayer and having that attitude of faith.
“Mine eyes have seen the coming of an age that is to be.
When from every limitation, I shall know that I am free.
For prayer is rich in promise and my soul has eyes to see.
God’s Truth is marching on.”
Yes, you are the miracle.