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Living well is a byproduct of intentionally implementing essential practices into the fabric of our daily lives. Taking care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water, and engaging in activities that stimulate our minds and having life-giving hobbies and friendships all need to be part of our regular routines.  Those are basic necessities for enjoying life, and you know as well as I do, that sometimes we neglect the basics.  We may go several days without eating a real vegetable.  We run on too little sleep for weeks at a time and miss time with people we love because of busyness. Sometimes we spend time having to play catch up with ourselves.  Life can be so hectic that sometimes people have to remind themselves to eat and drink. I saw a Facebook post this week on someone’s wall that was a picture of a water bottle that had hashmarks on it with encouraging sayings to remind them to drink enough water each day.  If our bodies will work as well as they are able to, there are some basic, routine activities have to take place. 

I firmly believe that prayer is one of those essential, life-giving daily “musts,” if we are going to live well spiritually. Those who know how to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer are going to have supernatural strength, they will have “their wits about them,” they will have an internal compass to know what steps to take and which direction to travel.  There will be a calmness and stability that is exhibited in the way they do life.  For too many believers, prayer is an act of desperation rather than an act of daily consecration.

Prayer is a gift that gives us an opportunity to check-in with God every day and to access the benefits that come from hearing from Him.  Do you ever schedule time with someone because you know they are wise, you know they will have something good to share with you, you know they will encourage you, that they are for you and are in your corner?  That being with them will give you energy and focus and renewed confidence?  I hope you have someone in your life that has been there for you in that way.  On a much larger scale, with greater wisdom and reliability, God is there to lift you up and point you in the right direction.  To neglect prayer is to neglect the opportunity to receive the Divine inspiration and information you need to live well.

We have a Wednesday prayer group that meets at 11:30 each week and often when we finish praying, I say, “That was better than a massage,” because God meets with us in such wonderful ways that we leave truly refreshed.

Here are some of the tremendous benefits of prayer:

Prayer reminds me I am never alone.  We all go through times when we feel alone.  Even the most socially connected person experiences moments of isolation and helplessness. Every one of us has times in life where we feel like no one knows what it is like to be us or to endure what we are enduring, that no one knows the pressure we feel or the fears we are facing, whether real or perceived. 

Satan wants you to feel alone.  He wants you to think you are the only one.  He wants you to feel walled off and left out in the cold.  Prayer is God’s gift to us to remind us that He is always there. Now, I know you can’t see God like you could see the person across the table from you at Panera.  It’s perhaps easier to talk to someone you can see with your physical eyes.  Maybe that is why it became the practice to close your eyes and to almost look within as you pray. If you are a believer, you know the Spirit of Christ lives in you, don’t you?  When you talk to God, you aren’t talking to yourself.  You aren’t talking to thin air.  You are having a conversation with the Almighty God, Emmanuel, who is with you.  You can be confident of that on the authority of Scripture:

Joshua 1:9-The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Psalm 94:14 (NLT) The LORD will not reject his people; he will not abandon his special possession.”

Isaiah 41:10-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Hebrews 13:5-NEVER will I leave you.  NEVER will I forsake you.

So, just the exercise of prayer, the very act, becomes a trigger, to jog our memory and to snap us out of a sense of isolation as we acknowledge that God is with us.  Prayer does that.  It acknowledges that God is in our midst.

Prayer is an act of faith. One way you exercise faith is to bow your head on the regular and to talk to the God you can’t see but believe by faith that He is there. Prayer is the flexing of spiritual muscles routinely in a way that will build your faith up.  Over time you will become spiritually strong, resolute, firm, and able to stand because you have prayed the price in prayer.

Dr. Vanscoy didn’t get those muscles and become a Pro Body Builder by reading magazines about how to build muscle.  He got in the gym day after day after day and over time, he has become a force to be reckoned with.  The same can be true for you and me as we routinely, daily place our trust in God through prayer. 

When you pray you aren’t only exercising faith to believe God is there, but in prayer you are also conditioning your spirit to accept that He will listen and act to meet your need.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  I mean, what good would it do to talk to God about your issues and concerns if you didn’t actually believe He would do something to help you.  I mean, why bother?  When you pray you are stretching that faith-muscle.

The discipline of prayer will prove your faith in the Word of God to act on your behalf.  If you have ever wondered how you exercise and activate faith, you now know.  Pray!  Prayerlessness is an act of doubt.  Prayer is an act of faith!  And the more you do it, the more your faith will grow, and you will begin to see where and how God is working in your situation.

Prayer is an act of humility.  When you stop and pray, you are expressing that you have needs that you cannot meet on your own.  You are admitting you don’t have the wisdom for the next step.  You are looking outside of yourself for strength and power to move through a situation.  You are acknowledging God as your Source.  You are laying your life and your will before God and are acknowledging His ways are higher and better than any solution you could come up with on your own.

Philippians 2:6-7 talks about the humility of Jesus, how He condescended and became like one of us.  We read, “Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  What humility and meekness!  And one of the main ways we see Jesus exercised that humility was in prayer.  He was always sneaking off to have time in prayer with the Heavenly Father.  Before He chose the 12 disciples, He spent all night in prayer! (Luke 6) All night. Jesus was getting the wisdom He needed to choose the right people. What humility!  Jesus didn’t just offer a ten-second, “Help me get this right, God,” kind of prayer.  You get the sense that He and the Heavenly Father went back in forth in conversation during this all-night session.  That is humility, right there.  To take the time, to be in dialogue with the Father about exactly who should be selected to follow Him.  If I was Jesus, I think I would have been tempted at about 2 am to say, “Look, I am God as well, and I’ve got this, so let’s call it a night so that I can get some sleep!”  Not Jesus. Because He had become a servant, because He had confined Himself to the human experience, He showed us what humility looks like when you need to depend on God to lead your mind to make the right decisions.

When faced with the crucifixion, the horrific torture that He would endure to pay the price for the sins of the world, Jesus wasn’t thinking, “What can I do in my last few days to live it up before the torture starts?”  He wasn’t planning a quick party with His friends so He could go out with a bang.  He didn’t think, “What trip can I take to have one last hurrah?”  He also didn’t spend time trying to plan a way of escape.  What was He doing? He was praying.  He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, pouring out His heart to the Father and was humbly laying down His will!

And what does Scripture say about those who exercise humility?  Proverbs 3:34 says God gives favor to the humble.  The KJV says God gives grace to those who are humble. I’ll take either one, how about you?  I’ll take the favor of God on my situation.  How about you?  I’ll take the grace of God which is power infused into my life that will enable me make it through. I believe Jesus could only endure what He endured on the cross because the Father had supernaturally infused Him with the grit and grace to do it.  It was like God front-loaded Him with all that was needed in order to be successful, and you know it was beyond belief hard.  You know it was horrendous.  Jesus could never have endured Calvary if He hadn’t exercised humility and received favor and grace in Gethsemane.  And when everything went silent and dark for Jesus, as He hung there, and couldn’t hear His Heavenly Father’s voice, when all He had to go on was what He had heard in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, whatever it was that the Father had spoken to His heart, it was enough to get Jesus through the whole ordeal.

Look at the account in Luke 22:  39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

I truly believe that Jesus got what He needed from the Father before the disciples deserted Him, before the inquisitions and beatings ensued, and well before He was stripped naked, spat upon and the spikes were driven into His hands.  He got what He needed…He got the answers to His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Thank God that Jesus knew that if He went to the Father in prayer, that God would strengthen Him and enable Him to endure what was coming. Listen, prayer becomes a way to access the strength you need before the crisis comes when and if you humbly and routinely come to God in dependence upon Him, ahead of your crisis, ahead of your diagnoses, ahead of your suffering, ahead of your trial, ahead of your confusion, that even if you are falsely accused, deserted by friends, railroaded unjustly, and if you are shut out and put out and shoved out into the public to be persecuted and mocked, my friend, you will have what you need to endure and overcome the situation.  Get ahold of this, Believer!  Bow down so that God can fill you up.  Bow down and pray so that God can pre-load you with the fortitude you need to persevere. 

Prayer is preventative medicine.

In Matthew 26:41, in that Garden of Gethsemane experience, Jesus told the disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  What I take away from this verse is that prayer can strengthen me before temptation comes and it can give me what I need ahead of time to resist every temptation.  Jesus acknowledged the weakness of the flesh.  It doesn’t take much sometimes to get us to look the wrong way, to take the wrong step, to do the wrong thing.  Why?  Because we are weak, and this verse helps me understand that something is conveyed to me, in my weakness, when I pray, that will help me avoid whatever trap Satan is setting for me.

Listen, Satan doesn’t go on vacation.  He is always on the prowl, looking for ways every day to distract us and to lead us away from abundant life.  He wants you spiritually impaired.  He wants your mind clouded.  He wants you in a state of panic.  He wants you anxious and always looking over your shoulder.  He wants you to run to drugs, alcohol and sexual experiments to try to calm and quiet what is eating at you.  He wants your reputation to go down the toilet and your self-esteem with it. And guess what, with the internet, Satan doesn’t have to be as busy as he once was, trying to come up with individual temptations.  He can just use technology and hook the masses.  It’s true.  He knows what triggers us, and he knows how to set it right in front of us in a moment of weakness. 

Jesus said as we pray, we will be wise to Satan’s schemes AND we will gain the spiritual savvy we need to escape his snares.  Prayer shines a spotlight on what the Bible calls “the way of escape.” (I Corinthians 10:13) When you pray, God begins to whisper, “Here’s the door.  Here’s the escape hatch.  Here is the way out of this peer pressure.  Follow Me.”  The place to resist temptation is in prayer before you get into the situation itself.  It’s tough to say “No” to something in the heat of the moment, but if you have aligned your will with the will of God in prayer, He promises to come to your rescue in times of weakness.  Young people, you need to be prayed up before you are in the backseat of a car and the situation is getting out of control.  You need to be prayed up before you step into that party and things aren’t what you thought they would be.  The same is true for all of us. 

There is a direct correlation between how much and how often we pray and how victoriously we will live.  Plain and simple.  I also believe that as we stay in prayer, the temptations become less and less tempting, less and less powerful.  They will lose their appeal.  They will lose their attraction.  They will lose their allure.  I believe that because I believe prayer whets our appetites for the things of God instead of the things of the world. 

Finally, I believe Prayer is an invitation to the supernatural.  God says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  Anybody interested in a tour of the unsearchable things of God?

Now listen, Satan can only show you what he has access to, and that is the things of this world.  BUT GOD, He can show you deep things, things beyond the natural, and into the realm of the supernatural!  What do you want to see, believer?  If you want to see the unseen, if you want to know what isn’t perceivable to the human eye, if you want to understand what defies logic, if you want to ascertain the heart of God, start praying.

When God told Jeremiah in chapter 33:3 to call to Him and He would tell Jeremiah great and mighty things he could not know on his own, do you know where Jeremiah was?  The NIV says in verse 1 that he was confined in the courtyard of the guard.  It was the courtyard of the prison.  Jeremiah was in prison, and there, God promised to show him great and mighty, unsearchable things.  Listen, no matter what kind of limitation or physical restraint you are under, God promises to give you a supernatural glimpse, a behind the curtain view, a backstage tour to the inner workings of God, if you will cultivate your prayer life.

It starts with calling upon God.  God’s offer is for those who call upon Him.  “Well, Pastor Melissa, I prayed before I went to bed last night, and I didn’t get an answer, so prayer must not really work the way you think it does.” Trust me.  God hears every prayer that is prayed, even the one-time desperate ones, but the ones that get answered on the next-level, the ones where a window to the Heavens is opened to see into the inner workings of God, that is the result of a continuous pursuit of God and His will.

Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Every verb here, “ask,” “seek” and “knock” is written in the present, ongoing tense.  It’s a continuous pursuit.  There is regular and ongoing conversation that precedes the reception and finding of the answers for life and the door to the mysteries of God.  You could easily read this text to say, “Keep asking,” “Keep seeking,” and “Keep knocking.”

I believe God will not only give you Heaven’s perspective about the things you are praying about, but I believe He will also give you a spirit of discernment to know and see other things on a supernatural plane on a regular basis that you couldn’t otherwise see and know.  Pray with an expectation to see God in a deeper way.  Prayer isn’t a common activity.  Yes, it should be a commonplace activity for believers, but it isn’t a common activity.  It is the way to experience the Divine, the supernatural, the miraculous, and when you pray, you should expect to experience such.

Prayer reminds me I am never alone.

Prayer is an act of faith.

Prayer is an act of humility.

Prayer is preventative medicine.

Prayer is an invitation to the supernatural.

If you want to live well, learn to make prayer a routine part of your daily life.

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