Reverence of God

6. Prayer – As a Means of Filtering Toxic Thoughts

Prayer is a soul filter. Alone with God in prayer, I am safe in pouring out my deepest feelings. Here, a therapy takes place. A cleansing comes. The Psalms give us blunt prayer language, full of despair and sometimes loaded with less than noble motives. But in the end, the psalmist turns his head upward and is reoriented. “But, I will wait for You!” (Psalm 59:1-10; See also: 71:14; 75:9; 77:10; 119:69, 78). In prayer, we pray through our own objections. We overcome our own noncompliance. We confront our own doubts. We face our own fears. We pray through such things and God gives us grace.

7. Prayer Over An Open Bible

We allow an unhealthy practice when we consistently pray without a Bible. Good prayer is over an open Bible: “Read the Word, and pray!” The Bible is the Christian’s prayer book. It is not to be read passively. It is to be read as if one were having a conversation with God. It is a love letter as well as an instruction manual for life. You read, and you respond in prayer. You borrow from the concepts and language of the Bible. You wrestle. You ask God, “What does this mean? To me? Right now?” In the pages of Scripture, we find the clearest and soundest resonance of God’s voice.

8. Prayer As a Means of Purification

Prayer deals with the toxins that collect in the soul. It purifies. In prayer, I take my anger and cynicism, my unbelief and despair, my disappointment and fear of failure to God. There, in the presence of a holy and loving Father, I find myself saying, “But, God I really want to be like you. I want to be free of this. I want you to change me, strengthen my faith and cause me to triumph.”

If we would go to God in prayer with all of our deadly and carnal inclinations and not to our neighbor, talk to no one about our hurts and disappointments until we talk to God, it would cure a great deal of gossip and slander in the church. Prayer corrects wrong thinking. It realigns character. It nudges us toward Christ-likeness. Richard Foster adds, “When we pray, God slowly and graciously reveals to us our evasive actions and sets us free from them.”[1]

9. Living In An Atmosphere of Prayer

We are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). If prayer were talking, how could we do that? If it was primarily comprised of religious activities, how would that be possible? No! Prayer, at its deepest and purest level, is living in unbroken fellowship with God. Out of this communion, we offer our needs to God, and He enters into our lives with His bountiful supply. Out of this connection, we intercede for others. In a state of peace, we engage in the warfare of prayer, confident of our victory. As Oswald Chambers observes, “Prayer is not an exercise. It is the life of the saint.”

10. Prayer as Transformational

Christianity is not a sweet supplement. Christ did not come to make men better. He came to make men new. The theologian Emil Brunner said “Only he who understands that sin is inexplicable, knows what it is!”[2] It is “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Human acts are sometimes bizarre and unthinkably wicked. Yet our culture rationalizes away a personal devil that tempts and twists the nature of men. We are getting help with evil! (Ephesians 2:2). And we must get help to do good. Salvation is a liberation event, wrestling us from the powers of darkness. It is the transfer from the body of Adam to the body of Christ (Jude 1:23; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). It makes all things new.

Saved and now liberated, man is free to worship, free to do right, free to serve God. And this freedom must be exercised. So many Christians define themselves in terms of what they don’t do or where they no longer go. But a man or woman is not free if he is only “free from.” We must be “free to” – free to pray and praise, free to worship and witness, free to bless others and demonstrate love. Freedom from is neutrality. It is only in the embrace and exercise of our new liberty, specifically in the area of the disciplines of faith, that we move forward and stay free (Romans 6:13, 16, 18-22). The discipline of prayer is at the heart of this new liberty.

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.

[1] Richard Foster, “The Main Business of Life,” The Contemporaries Meet The Classics on Prayer, ed. Leonard Allen (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 2003), 17.

[2] Ron Phillips, Vanquishing the Enemy (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1997), 29.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Small, Part II is wonderfully challenging!

    It moves us to actions (i.e. Pray over and open Bible, purify our lives, etc.).

    The end result is TRANSFORMATION! How wonderful for us to recognize that we do not need to be ‘better’; that we need to die to our carnal nature, so that Christ can live ‘in’ and ‘through’ us.

    Thank you so much!

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