Prayer — to help build a Vital Spiritual Life

(main ideas from Jesus and Paul, assembled by Craig Rusbult)

 

One of the best things we can do is to pray for each other, and for ourselves.  We can pray for specific situations, and also for an improvement in the general quality of our lives, in our love and wisdom, with God supplying the spiritual power that will produce Christian character and action, enabling us to be God's people and do God's work, to fulfill God's wonderful plan for life.  How?

God can supply what we need for spiritual transformation, and for the continual empowering that He provides for a purpose, to equip us for His service, bringing glory to God by joyfully doing what He commands: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the most important commandment.  The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself."  { Matthew 22:37-39, Good News Bible }   The first commandment, to fully love God, is the solid faith-foundation that lets God supply us with the abilities we need to be more effective when doing the second commandment, in our interactions (our relationships & actions) with other people.

How does God supply us with what we need for productive living?  In John 14-17, Jesus describes relationships within God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)* and of God with abiding disciples:  "I am the Vine, and you are the branches.  Whoever lives in me and I in him bears much fruit.  However, apart from me – cut off from vital union with Me – you can do nothing. ...  If you live in me – abide vitally united to Me – and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you." { John 15:5 & 7, Amplified Bible }

 

Divine Supply — Prayers for Love and Wisdom

We constantly need love and wisdom, usually for the little everyday things that (when all blended together) are the core of our lives, and occasionally for big decisions and actions.  God's abundant supplying of love and wisdom is a theme in two prayers of Paul:

    My deep feeling for you all comes from the heart of Christ Jesus himself.  I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment, so that you will be able to choose what is best.  Then you will be free from all impurity and blame on the Day of Christ.  Your lives will be filled with the truly good qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, for the glory and praise of God.  { Philippians 1:8-11, Good News Bible }
    We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him.  Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience.  { Colossians 1:9b-11, GNB } { A context for these prayer requests is in verses 12-23. }

These prayers {with other translations below} can serve as focal points for our requests and as points of departure for other prayers, both general and specific, with variations of their main themes.  You can pray the prayers for others (as did Paul) and also for yourself.  God will be faithful in answering our requests for healthy spiritual vitality, because this is what He wants for us.

During times of abiding meditation it can be edifying to think about Paul's portrayals of spiritual health, as in these two prayers and elsewhere, including "fruit of the spirit":  "When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." { Galatians 5:22-23, Living Bible }

What often limits a divine supplying of love and wisdom?

 

How? — Process (DTprocess-pages), AdamVJesus ito attitudes/actions (PeterRust) of submission/obedience with Christ on throne

What? - relationships, below

 

Relationships with God and People

The diagram below is a reminder of the important connections in your life:  The first, and most important, is your relationship with God.  The second is the interpersonal relationships between you and other people, both Christians and non-Christians.  You can pray for each of these three life-connections, and for the other five relational connections: of Christians with God and with each other, of non-Christians with God and with each other, and between Christians and non-Christians.

When your foundational relationship with God is whole, when you have said "yes" to God so you have the potential for a full relationship (indicated by a full connection between yourself and God, when you fully love God) and you are using this opportunity to fully abide in Christ, God can supply what you need for living an obedient Christian life, for obeying – in attitudes and actions – the commandments to love God and love your neighbor.

 

A Wonderful Plan for Life

What is the plan?  How do you live it?

The Wonderful Plan:  A modern summary of the Gospel – the Four Spiritual Laws – explains, in Law 1, that "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life."  How can you take advantage of this opportunity?  You can say YES to God, accepting His gracious offer of a better life, by repenting (by changing the way you think), by telling God to "Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."  Law 4 emphasizes that "Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of the will."  Living by faith requires continuing acts of will, which Law 4 illustrates by comparing two kinds of lives:  In a Self-Directed Life, "Self is on the throne."  This is contrasted with a Christ-Directed Life, when "Christ is in the life and on the throne; Self is yielding to Christ… [and] Interests are directed by Christ, resulting in harmony with God's plan."

The Kingdom of God:  When you have Christ "in the life and [because while living your daily life you are accepting Him as your King] on the throne" you are participating in The Kingdom of God (an important goal-of-living often emphasized by Jesus) on two levels, as a person and as part of the church.  Individually, you are making God the king of your life in daily living.  And if you are being directed by Christ, you will want to participate in the Church, in the community of Christ-followers who acknowledge that God is their king, so they are serving Him with their hearts and minds, decisions and actions, with their feeling, thinking, and behaving.

 

What and How:  In Romans 12, Paul describes the What-and-How of a Christ-Directed Life.  What?  Living every day with your thinking-and-actions dedicated to serving God.  How?  Doing the life-actions wanted by God requires an attitude of wanting to be personally transformed in the ways wanted by God.  As described in Romans 12:1-2 {GNB}, "[what] Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him.  This is the true worship that you should offer.  [how] Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.  Then you will be able to know the will of God — what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect," and then (how) by obedient acts of your will, you (what) do these thoughts-and-actions because you have "[offered yourself] as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service."

Learning from Experience:  God wants to help you learn more from your experiences in life, so He can be more effective in "transforming you inwardly" to help you become a better person.  How?

 

Transformation requires Cooperation

In the supplying of love-and-wisdom from God to me, so I can participate more fully in the Kingdom of God, too often the limiting factor is my lack of cooperation, when I'm not totally willing to "let God transform me."  Sometimes I don't "hunger and thirst for righteousness {Matthew 5:6}" and don't want to live totally "dedicated to his service."  This is my personal confession, but I think a "lack of cooperation" is a common human weakness.

In fact, this is the basic human sin, beginning with Adam who rebelled against the guiding of his conscience by God (thus disobeying God's command that "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil") and in doing this Adam sinned.

By contrast, when Jesus joined us by living on earth, He was able to live without sin because He is part of the triune God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Jesus temporarily gave up some of His divine powers during His life on earth, but He was able to live with total effectiveness (to achieve the purpose of His incarnation) by "remaining in perfect communion with the Father and in subjection to him, so the Father [through the Holy Spirit] could guide him continuously."*  This way of living well — by achieving & maintaining a relationship of loving communion with God, and an attitude of subjection to God — is the goal of dedicated Christian disciples, in our efforts to keep Christ "on the throne" for all thoughts-and-actions of daily living.    {*quoting Peter Rüst)

 

Following the Leading of God:   I.O.U. - This section needs to be developed more thoroughly;  later it will be expanded into a full page.  Eventually it will describe, more clearly and thoroughly, analogies (with similarities and also differences) between leading-and-following in ballroom dancing and in daily living when the Holy Spirit “leads us” so we can live more effectively as followers of Christ.  Here is a rough-draft summary of some basic ideas:

 

Yes or No:  Many times during each day we can try to understand what God wants us to do, and decide whether to say “yes” or “no”, whether to obey.

Humility in Obedience:  Sometimes the leading of God is clear.  But many times during life it's difficult to KNOW for certain "what God wants us to do," so a reasonable goal is TRYING OUR BEST to understand His will, and to obey.     { We should do this "trying" with humility, not with a prideful attitude that would, for example, occur if we view ourselves as being in competition with other people to win a “most obedient follower” award. }

 

To follow well, we must WANT to follow well.  Then, if we are motivated by our love for God and people, so we are sincerely trying to follow the leading of God, we can ask “how?”

How can we know what God wants us to do, so we can follow His leading?  Some principles, useful for all situations in life, for everything we do, are described earlier in this page:

    • in the contrast between a Self-Directed Life and a Christ-Directed Life within your own personal "kingdom of God", plus what-and-how in Romans 12, and a limiting factor (when we don't want to cooperatively follow, when a Christian temporarily returns to a Self-Directed Life);
    • and in the prayers of Paul asking God to spiritually supply us with love and wisdom.

• And of course we should read the Bible, to learn general principles for living.

 

Some practical principles for trying to understand the will of God in specific situations, and obediently following the leading of God, will be examined in Following the Leading of God.

 


 

APPENDIX

 

Why do we need a divine supply of love and wisdom?  One possibility is...

Life as Educational Drama

Is there proof for the existence and activities of God?  and if not, Why isn't God more obvious?

These questions motivated me to write a web-page that concludes with speculations about The Drama of Life.  We are the actors & audience, and (along with God) the co-authors of our own scripts for living, for the ways that we (by our thinking and attitudes, decisions and actions) affect what happens, with significant real-life consequences for ourselves & others.  Our experiences, and our responses, produce the drama.  Why would God create life with drama?  My response, which is speculative because "none of us fully understands the ‘why’ of God, in His purpose for our lives," is that maybe "the drama performs an essential educational function, helping us learn how to live by faith and giving us opportunities to ‘practice’ so we can improve this valuable skill through our dramatic experiences with faith-based living."

 

Different translations can offer useful insights for Paul's prayers in Philippians and Colossians:

I pray "that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight — that is, that your love may [display itself in] greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment;  so that you may learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value." { Philippians 1, Amplified Bible }

We pray "that you might be filled with all spiritual wisdom and insight so as to understand His will clearly, and to live in a way worthy of the Lord and to His entire satisfaction, by producing results in all sorts of good work, and by growing in the knowledge of God.  We pray that you may be invigorated with complete power in accordance with His glorious strength, for the cheerful exercise of unlimited patience and perseverance." { Colossians 1, Revised Berkeley Version }

We pray "that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things; That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in (and by) the knowledge of God — with fuller, deeper and clearer insight, acquaintance and recognition." { Colossians 1, Amplified Bible }

 

Relationships within the Tri-Une God:  Somewhere in the page, probably in an appendix, I'll write a summary-paragraph describing relationships (among the triune God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit) by quoting-and-paraphrasing from John 14-17.

 




 
OTHER PAGES
If you like this page, you may also like these:
More thoughts about spiritual vitality are offered
by Andrew Murray in his classic book,
ABIDE IN CHRIST
 
Wise Advice from Mother Teresa
"... It was never between you and them anyway."
 
Christian Education for Living a WorldView
( What is a Worldview? )
The important ideas in this page were contributed by Jesus and Paul.
These ideas were assembled, with introductions and comments added,
plus ideas from The Four Spiritual Laws, by Craig Rusbult.
 http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/views/prayer.htm