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Online Course

Session 1: What Prayer Is and Isn’t

How to Experience God in Prayer

When it comes to prayer, we can mix good intentions with poor assumptions. In this session, Chip exposes three myths about prayer based on the truth clearly found in scripture.

Online Discipleship: How to Experience God in Prayer
Part 1: What Prayer Is and Isn’t

 

Hi, my name is Chip Ingram and welcome to How to Experience God in Prayer. I have been a pastor for a little over thirty years but, before that, I was a basketball coach and a basketball player, and I got to travel around the world. I came to know Christ as an early adult.

From that time until now, both in my life and in the lives of all the people that I know, if there is one thing we tend to struggle with it’s praying. There are all kinds of things we could talk about in terms of prayer. When does God answer? Power in prayer. Does it really make a difference? There are all kinds of issues.

But here’s what I have found. As I have coached people over the years, the real issue, at least for me and for them is: how do you experience God in prayer? I just read earlier this week that eighty percent of people pray for themselves and eighty percent of Americans, Christian or not, pray for someone else.

But when I talk, even to Christian leaders, I find one thing we have in common. When I ask them: “How do you feel about your prayer life? Do you feel like you really connect with God?” I rarely meet anyone, even mature Christians, who says, “You know something? That’s a strength in my life.”

We are going to go on a journey together and I am no expert, but I have been a practitioner and a coach and I think that God, because of my own struggles and not growing up as a believer, He has helped me learn how to connect with Him. And that’s my desire for you.

This is a very short course, five sessions. I want to get you going and then give you some very specific ways where you can actually practice how to experience God in prayer.

So, in this first session, let’s framework what prayer is and what prayer isn’t. Number one, very important, is that prayer is relational; it’s not transactional.

The Old Testament and Jesus, through the New Testament, both of them say “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and mighty things that you do not know.” That’s Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Jesus would say “Ask, seek, knock. I want to hear from you. I want to respond.” Prayer is an invitation by God for a relationship and it’s rooted in promises. “Draw to near to God,” James would say, “and He will draw near to you.”

All through the Old and New Testament it’s this appeal for a relationship. Now, left to ourselves we can make it a transaction. Let’s see, did I pray five minutes, seven minutes, or twelve minutes? If I pray really loud, or if I use my voice like this, or if I can get God to do this, or… We tend to bargain with God. I want you to first realize is what God wants and what you really need and what I want is to meet God. It’s keeping company with God. It’s enjoying God. It’s having a conversation that is transformational. This is all about experiencing God. Certainly, He wants to answer. Certainly, He wants to give you peace.

What I want to talk about is that it’s not a transaction. It’s promise-centered; it’s not performance centered. Now, really think about that. For so many of us it’s about “how long did I pray? And did I do it right? And did I say the right words?” This is about a relationship. And what we are going to learn is how to have that relationship.

The second thing I want you to know is that prayer is simple; it’s not complex. There are certain skills to learn, of course. I remember growing up as a kid and I wasn’t a Christian and I was about, I don’t know, maybe twelve years old, learning to play golf. And my uncle took me out with a couple of his friends. And I played by myself and I hit some really good shots. And I wanted to impress him and I was doing terrible. I mean, terrible, terrible, terrible. And, so, I said to my uncle, “I’m so frustrated. What should I do?” And I think he was joking, but he said, “Say the Lord’s Prayer about five times and you’ll probably do better.”

And so, I’m eleven, twelve years old: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will…” right? I’m saying five of them.

You know what? For most of us in many of our traditions, we would say, “That doesn’t work. That’s not how God wants us to pray.” But I wonder how many of us really have a deep-seated thought, “I need to perform”, or “how am I doing?” or “am I saying the right things?” or “Is there some secret code?” The fact of the matter is that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father,” you are accepted, you are loved. “Who art in heaven,” He is the Creator; He invites you; He has an unlimited power; He made you; He saved you; He forgave you; and He is holy.

We are going to talk about a kind of prayer that you can experience where you connect with God. But you need to understand that it’s a relationship; it’s not about performance.

Finally, prayer is powerful. It’s not magical; God isn’t Santa Clause; He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not some sort of resource that, if you can pray a certain way, you can get Him to do what you want.

Here’s what I want to tell you: Jeremiah wrote, “‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for good, plans for your welfare.” But we often don’t quote the very next verse, “then you will call upon Me and you will come and pray to Me and I will listen to you, and you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Prayer is powerful. You can experience God in ways, I think, beyond most of us have ever dreamed. Now, here’s what I would like you to do: I would like you to take just a few minutes and go through what we have laid out for you and analyze some of your assumptions about prayer where we begin to focus on: it’s relational, it’s not transactional. It’s simple, it’s from the heart and it’s sincere. And, finally, it’s not magical, but it is powerful. We are going to go on a journey and learn a kind of prayer in our next session where you really experience God.

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