As we try to navigate through these uncertain times the need to pray weighs on our hearts. Sometimes we get stuck on what to pray or how to pray. Should we pray for our own needs or only the needs of others, and what do we do when we haven’t received an answer?
Let’s learn from a man who knew and taught others about prayer. His name was Andrew Murray and he wrote a book, With Christ in the School of Prayer that was published back in 1885. His understanding may help us go a little deeper in prayer.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught His disciples.” Luke 11:1
The disciples had been with Christ and had seen Him pray. They observed the connection between His wonderful life in public and His secret life of prayer. They knew Him as ‘a Master in the art of prayer’ because no one could pray and receive answers like Him. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
In his book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray wanted readers to go deeper in their prayer life by learning from Jesus’s teachings. To be students of prayer like the disciples had become. Each of the thirty-one chapters in his book tackle different aspects of prayer.
Murray pointed out that nothing delights Jesus more than to find those whom He can take with Him into the Father’s presence.
“Jesus taught His disciples not how to preach, but how to pray, for to know how to speak with God is more vital than knowing how to speak to man.” Andrew Murray
I’m highlighting only seven of those thirty-one chapters.
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4: 23 & 24
For Murray the very first lesson in the believer’s school of prayer is to understand what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus came to open the way for this worship and to teach it to us. Murray goes on to say we can have prayers that are earnest, heartfelt and sincere but still not be praying in spirit and in truth. The Samaritans were examples of it, as were the Jews, but Jesus assured the Samaritan woman that the hour had now come (because He had come) when the true worshipers will worship (and pray) in spirit and in truth.
Having a relationship with the Father, through Jesus His Son, provides the means for us to become worshipers in spirit and in truth, and brings joy to the Father’s heart.
“We are hardly prepared at our first entrance into the school of prayer to grasp such teaching. We shall understand it better later on. Let us only begin and take the lesson as He gives it…knowing Jesus came to give the Spirit.” Andrew Murray
2. ALONE WITH GOD
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Jesus gave His disciples their first public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He explained to them the kingdom of God, its laws and its life. In that kingdom God is not only king, but Father. The revelation of prayer was part of His teachings about this new kingdom He’d come to set up.
Murray stresses that the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must have a secret place for prayer. “Everyone must have some solitary spot where he can be alone with his God.” Jesus had already taught that worship was no longer confined to times and places. Now prayer was also not limited to the temple or synagogue. The spot may change from day to day but there must be a quiet place to be alone with the Master, to be prepared by Him, to worship the Father – in Spirit and truth.
“To the man who withdraws himself from all that is of the world and man, and prepares to wait upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself.” Andrew Murray
3. THE WORD AND PRAYER
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7 (NASB)
Murray writes that the vital connection between the Word and prayer is one of the simplest and earliest lessons of the Christian life. As someone once said, “I pray – I speak to my Father; I read – my Father speaks to me.”
He explains the role of God’s word in his own prayer life.
“BEFORE prayer, it’s God’s word that prepares me for it, by revealing what the Father has told me to ask.
“IN prayer, it’s God’s word that strengthens me by giving my faith its grounds for asking.
“AFTER prayer, it’s God’s word that brings me the answer, for through that answer the Spirit shows me I have heard the Father’s voice.”
Murray clarifies that hearing the voice of God is more than the thoughtful study of His Word. There may be a study and knowledge of the word with little relationship with the living God.
“In God’s Word He gives Himself. In every promise He puts Himself in our power to lay hold of and possess (them). The entrance His words find with me, will be the measure of the power of my words with Him.” Andrew Murray
4. THE CERTAINTY OF ANSWERED PRAYER
“Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7 & 8
Murray insisted, throughout his book, that Jesus wants to teach us what Scripture considers the most important thing about prayer: the assurance that prayer will be heard and answered.
Murray thinks it’s significant that the Lord thought it necessary to repeat the truth in so many forms (ask, seek, knock). It proves that He knows our heart and how quickly we tend to doubt, and how easily we are inclined to see prayer as a religious duty without expecting an answer. Instead, we ought to be excited and gain confidence in our asking, by the realization that God wants to answer our prayers.
“It is sad that many prayers are merely wishes, sent up for a short time and then forgotten, or sent up year after year as matter of duty, while we remain content with the prayer without answer.” Andrew Murray
5. PRAYER MUST BE DEFINITE
“And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabbi, I want to receive my sight!” Mark 10: 51
Murray believed the Lord has put this same question to many praying people who cannot get the help they are seeking until that question has been answered. He believed that our prayers must not be a vague appeal to God’s mercy or an indirect cry for blessing, but the distinct expression of a definite need.
“Praying in this way,” he clarified, “helps us know our own needs better.”
Murray also wrote that praying specifically helps us recognize whether our desires are honest and real. Whether they conform to God’s word and whether we’re willing to persevere until we’ve received the answer. It also helps us recognize the answer when it comes.
“Each believer has his own circle, his family, his fiends, his neighbors. If he were to take one or more of these by name, he would find that this really brings him into the training school of faith, and leads to personal and pointed dealing with God.” Andrew Murray
6. THE POWER OF PERSEVERING PRAYER
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him…now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day and night…” Luke 18:1-8
Of all the mysteries of the prayer world, Murray states that the need for persevering prayer is one of the greatest. We cannot understand that the Lord, who is love, and longs to bless us, should have to be asked for something time after time, sometimes year after year.
How many of us are quick to give up when we haven’t received an answer? We often take the easy way out, Murray says, by assuming that the reason God isn’t answering is because it isn’t His will stops us from persevering.
Instead, Murray was convinced that our faith should take its stand upon God’s word and the name of Jesus. If we’ve yielded ourselves to the leading of the Spirit and in seeking only the Father’s will and honor in our prayer, we should not be discouraged by delay, but continue to pray.
“Faith, just like water, must be gathered up and accumulated until the stream can come down in full force. Often there must be a heaping up of prayer until God sees that the measure is full and then the answer comes.” Andrew Murray
7. THE POWER OF UNITED PRAYER
“Again, I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19 & 20
Prayer is both personal and public. In public prayer we learn that God is not merely My Father, but Our Father, who is in heaven.
In unity and fellowship with other believers, the Spirit can manifest His full power. The marks of true united prayer are found in the words of our Lord recorded by Matthew.
They are the following:
Agreement about what is being asked. There must be a general agreement with what’s being asked, as well as united desire for the answer.
Confidence in the answer. A prayer meeting without recognized answer to prayer should be an anomaly. If we are too weak to exercise the needful faith, we ought to seek strength from others.
Gathered in the name of Jesus. His name must be the center of union for believers and the bond that unites them into one. It’s Jesus’ living presence, in the fellowship of His loving, praying disciples, that gives united prayer its power.
“Most churches do not know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints; that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered; that by prayer the church on earth has disposal of the powers of the heavenly world.” Andrew Murray
It is my prayer that this blog has encouraged you to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth. To challenge you to spend time alone with the Father. To always abide in God’s word and then pray with confidence because of His promises. To pray big, bold and definite prayers. To not give up in what you are asking for from the Father AND to pray together with other believers.
There are many more aspects of prayer Andrew Murray goes into. I hope this was helpful in understanding God’s purpose and desire for prayer in the life of a believer. If you really want to go deeper consider Andrew Murray’s book, With Christ in the School of Prayer or, later called, The Believer’s School of Prayer.
Why not leave a comment below about a prayer the Lord has answered for you during these crazy days we’re living in!