Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611

Lessons For Ladies
This Series was taught by Mrs. James Modlish

Lesson Twenty Eight

A Good Honest Prayer


When I was growing up in the southern Baptist we attended in my early years, I was exposed to many types of prayers, but those who prayed eloquently were the ones who made the most lasting impression on my young ears. It seemed to me that God must be compelled to listen more closely to those who used the most “thee’s” and “thou’s.” So from an early age I adopted that style…until I learned I can speak to God in the manner with which I conduct other conversations!

One of the greatest blessings in my life now is listening to my grandchildren pray, and somehow I believe those simple, innocent prayers fly to God’s ears and are received with much pleasure and attentiveness. Recently in saying night time prayers with Molly, she asked that I say the prayer and she would repeat it. After asking blessings on all we could name, I decided she should thank God for her health in this way: “Thank you for keeping me well.” She very diligently repeated my words with a slight variation: “Thank you for keeping Nana well.” Actually, that works, too!

With all this in mind, I decided to analyze simple prayers in the Bible and the results of them:

1. Mark 9:24 – “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” Can’t we all identify with this poor man’s confession in a desperate situation? How often have we found ourselves clinging tenaciously to what we believe as trouble and calamity swirl around us, only to be encumbered by the unbelief?

As parents we can all imagine the anguish of this father as he witnessed the torment of his son by this evil spirit. And his belief was undoubtedly enhanced by the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon. Jesus was his last hope, but this hope was fading fast after hearing Jesus tell him that belief was mandatory for a miracle.

In reading the complete story, we realize that the Lord heard his plea, responded to it and healed his son. This tells me that God makes allowances for our feeble, earthly bodies; He is aware that we will always struggle with some measure of unbelief, and He will help us with it.

2. Luke 18:13 – “God be merciful to me a sinner.” These seven words, or a variation thereof, are the foundation of a true salvation experience. They acknowledge both the state of the sinner, but also the power of God to extend mercy. This parable illustrates the stark contrasts between those justifying themselves and those who look at themselves realistically.

The Pharisee stands as a stunning example of self-righteousness and causes us to wonder why he even bothered to address God at all…as fine as he claimed to be, he surely assumed he was capable of saving himself?

Conversely, the publican tells with his words and with the smiting of his breast the total sorrow he feels for his wretched nature.

And in the end, according to Jesus, who is justified?...the one who spoke the simple, honest prayer.

3. Luke 23:42 - “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” This prayer has often been referred to as a deathbed conversion, and indeed it was, but there’s more to it than that.

First of all, this thief, sentenced to the same fate as Jesus, was an eyewitness to all that transpired that day. And this criminal, as indicated in Matt. 27:44 and Mark 15:32, had initially joined in on the harassment of the Lord. But as the day progressed, he heard amazing works from the Savior’s lips: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He observed the reaction of Jesus’ mother, His disciples, and the Roman centurion who declared, “Truly this was the son of God.” (Matt. 27:54) And in the waning hours of his miserable life, this common criminal looked at the Man dying beside him and made a wise decision. Putting his confidence in Jesus, he prayed a simple prayer. I am certain we will meet him in heaven as Jesus promised.

4. I Samuel 1:11 - Hannah’s heart-wrenching prayer is the longest one I’ve addressed so far, but then again, she’s a woman! We have a tough time saying anything succinctly! However, if I could extract a few words from it that encapsulate her desperate request, they would be: “O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me…”

Only a barren woman can identify with the overwhelming desire Hannah had to hold her own child, and only a mother can fathom what great fortitude it took to be willing to give up that child. However, before the day was over, Hannah went away with a changed countenance, knowing her request would be granted. From that simple prayer came the great prophet Samuel, and for her sacrifice Hannah was rewarded with three more sons and two daughters. God indeed remembered His handmaid.

5. Acts 9:30-31 - “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heart, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” We are not given the exact words of Cornelius’ prayer, but they were compelling enough that God stirred Peter, the ultimate Jew, to make a visit to a centurion of the “Italian band.” Of course, this required that a rather involved vision be presented to Peter in order to dispel his preconceived notion that the gospel was only for the Jew. This vision itself was a mystery to Peter until the three emissaries of Cornelius appear at his door; it is then evident that God is about to make an abrupt change in Peter’s philosophy.

Because of the diligence of the centurion in seeking God on a continual basis (vs.2), the Lord was faithful in sending someone to offer the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who sought Him. And Peter was rewarded with every preacher’s dream: an audience who sat down and gave him their full, undivided attention! Through the house of Cornelius, as a result of his prayers and fasting, the gospel was presented to the Gentiles…all from the words of a good, honest prayer.

6. Psalm 51 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” The entire chapter of this psalm contains the prayer King David offered in his overwhelming grief over his great sin with Bathsheba. As you read through it, the scenario is easy to envision: the king is overcome with the guilt of sinning not only against Uriah, whose wife he took and who he arranged to have killed in battle, but more greatly, the awareness that he had transgressed so profoundly against the God he loved so much.

There is no justification for the offense offered in this prayer; the only theme that runs through it is the sinfulness of the offender and the ability of God to forgive and cleanse. Verse after verse alludes to the dirtiness of the sinner and the beseeching of God to make the violator clean again. Notice that David realizes that a sacrifice of some sort would not be sufficient for this sin or he would gladly give it, whatever might be required. No, he is painfully aware that what God wants is “a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart…” and it is certainly evident through the outpouring of this prayer that that is what David is offering to the Lord.

It would serve us all well to have the words of vs. 10 implanted deeply in the recesses of our minds so that we may be able to repeat it on a daily basis for we need our hearts cleaned and our spirits renewed each day.

7. Matthew 26:39 - “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” We are told in the Bible of many occasions when Jesus prayed during His earthly ministry, but none hold the power and anguish of this particular prayer. The human aspect of the Savior’s character is demonstrated by His request to be excused from what is ahead of Him. There are probably few of us who can’t identify with that emotion; life is plagued with situations and trials from which we would pray to be exempted, but Jesus sets the ultimate example for us in His submission to the Father’s will. And on this willingness to do as God requires hangs the salvation of mankind.

Submitting to God’s will is a difficult task for us since the human spirit has such a strong urge to forge our own destinies, to chart our own course, to do it our way. But giving the Lord full rein in our lives is key to living a victorious, God-honoring existence. I am reminded of the words in one of my favorite songs: “Lord, keep me in Your will so I won’t get in Your way.”
What better example of total submission to the will of the Father than that of the Son?

Conclusion: In these few examples we are reminded that God does not require great flowery words, fine oratory or mind boggling doctrine in our conversations with Him. What lies within our hearts is what motivates a response from Him. Every one of these people offering their supplications to God were given an answer…they spoke in their own individual ways, and He listened. What a comfort that can be to us…we can have direct access to the God of heaven with our minor difficulties and with the ones that threaten to overwhelm us. All we have to do is start praying. Remember James 5:16—“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” 

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