PRAYER: Questions & answers

QUESTIONS ABOUT PRAYER for Christians

  1. Why pray?
  2. Why pray if God already knows what we need?
  3. To whom do you pray? (The Father / Jesus / Spirit / the Godhead / Mary?)
  4. What prompts you to pray… or prevents you from doing so?
  5. What happens to our spiritual lives if we don’t pray?
  6. How many different kinds of prayers are there?
  7. How do we decide what to pray about and not to pray about?
  8. What is the relationship between prayer and praise?
  9. How important is it to repent of sin before praying?
  10. How true is it that that God only answers the prayers of the righteous?
  11. How do we achieve a balance between praying specific prayers for something or someone (e.g. about an illness) and praying general prayers about an issue? (For example, about poverty or elections)
  12. Why did Jesus need to pray?
  13. What did Jesus mean when he told the disciples to “ask and you will receive”?
  14. What did Paul mean when he encouraged the believers to “pray without ceasing”?
  15. What do we understand by ‘persevering in prayer’?
  16. When should we stop praying about a certain matter?
  17. How important is faith in seeing answers to prayer?
  18. Why does God apparently answer some prayers of faith and not others?
  19. When have you seen specific answers to your prayers?
  20. How do we know that the outcome to our prayers wouldn’t have happened anyway (i.e. if we hadn’t prayed)?
  21. How do we reconcile ‘praying for our enemies’ (as per Jesus command) with ‘praying that our enemies will be overthrown’ (e.g. prayers of King David)?
  22. What is the value / disadvantage of praying with others?
  23. Why are some organised prayer meetings so uninspiring?
  24. What does your “amen” to another person’s prayer signify?
  25. To what extent do you agree that ‘prayer changes everything’?

ANSWERS ABOUT PRAYER: Prompts for leaders

  1. We pray because God invites us to do so. It develops an intimate relationship with the Father. It gives opportunity for praise & worship. Jesus regularly referred to the importance of prayer.
  2. God knows all things, including our needs but looks for faith in us to believe that He will answer (see 17 below).
  3. Prayer is directed to the Father in the name of the Son and through the Holy Spirit. Scripture forbids worship of humans or angels.
  4. We tend to pray when a need is urgent and may forget to do so when life is easier, which denies God His rightful place as the focal point of our lives in every circumstance.
  5. Lack of prayer results in a dulling of our spiritual antennae to receive God’s word to us and thereby hinders walking in step with the Spirit.
  6. Prayer may be spontaneous or planned or both. Prayer should always give God praise and glory. We may need to confess our sin, doubt or fear. Specific requests should be stated then confidently left with the Lord. Interceding is through the Son, who ‘intercedes for us’.
  7. We can’t pray about everything but if we are walking in step with the Spirit (i.e. living a life of obedience) and genuinely listening for God’s voice (through the Bible, faithful ministry, the advice of godly friends or directly, as in “your ears shall hear a word behind you saying: this is the way, walk in it”) the focus for prayer will flow naturally.
  8. Praise should both precede and follow prayer (see 13 below).
  9. God will only receive prayer from the repentant heart.
  10. No one is righteous of him- or herself. Righteousness is found in Christ alone. God, in His grace and mercy, will respond according to His divine nature but prayer must always be faith-driven.
  11. God appears to honour specific prayers in a special way. General prayers about the state of the nation and so forth must be set within a framework of whole-church repentance or from courageous individuals who are prepared to “stand in the gap”.
  12. Jesus was in constant touch with the Father. He set us the supreme example. In human form, He desired only to do the Father’s will of which prayer was a key element.
  13. Jesus was emphasising the responsibility and privilege of the believer to approach God as Father. The ‘asking’ must always align itself with the Father’s will, which means that seeking His will should precede the asking. The ‘ingredient of preparation’ is praise.
  14. Paul is saying that prayer should essentially be a ‘state of being’ that may or may not be facilitated by formalised activity (see 22 & 23).
  15. God sometimes waits for us to persevere as a sign that our motives are sincere and wholehearted. Perseverance in all things should be a characteristic of the believer but should never indicate a lack of faith in God’s willingness or ability to act.
  16. We should stop praying when the Holy Spirit tells us to stop!
  17. Faith (trust) in God has to be the foundation for all prayer activities. Doubting prayer is not prayer at all.
  18. God is sovereign in all things. Our prayer must rest on the prayer that Jesus taught, which contains the essence of submission to the will and purpose of God, namely: “Thy will be done”.
  19. There are many testimonies as to God’s direct intervention in situations. It is important, however, to ensure that we give God the glory and continue having thankful hearts, especially when an answer is different from what we expected or ‘temporary’… E.g. a person may be miraculously cleared of cancer but subsequently afflicted.
  20. We trust that God is ‘above all things’. It’s not possible to know what ‘might have happened’. We simply obey God and leave the outcome to Him.
  21. It is perfectly scriptural to pray for our enemies but also to pray that their evil schemes are thwarted and God is thereby glorified.
  22. Jesus referred to “two or three gathered in His name” but spent much of His time in solitary prayer. Praying together cements fellowship bonds and provides mutual encouragement.
  23. Group prayer needs a clear focus and high expectation. Individual spiritual preparation beforehand avoids vagueness and passivity.
  24. Amen is not merely a polite expression of support but ‘entering in’ to a spiritual pact with the one who has prayed and a faith-driven belief in the authenticity of the prayer and God’s willingness to respond.
  25. If we genuinely believe this to be true, why don’t we pray more!

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LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS (Short play)

Light In the Darkness

By Denis Hayes (August 2019)

Cast:         Two heavenly beings, Magenta and Sapphire

Props: Table, chair, scroll

Magenta seated centre stage examining a scroll. Sapphire enters and approaches Magenta

Sapphire: [Speaking respectfully] Greetings, noble Magenta. I bring word from our messengers.

Magenta: [Looks up with interest] Tell me, Sapphire. What news have they brought?

Sapphire: [Sorrowfully, gesticulating] There is trouble. Serious problems and great distress have afflicted our world. People are turning from the True Light. They prefer the darkness of sin to the purity of goodness. Evil abounds across every area of the globe and casts its dark shadow over the earth.

Magenta: [Standing slowly] Then it is just as the ancient prophets foretold!

Sapphire: I fear so! Things are looking bad… very bad!

Magenta: [Seriously and with rising emotion] You realise what this means, don’t you? The Shining Light will not allow sin to destroy His creation; instead, He will choose to destroy it himself!

Sapphire: [Horrified] Do not speak of such a thing! There must be another way… some sort of solution. [Thinks] Perhaps the Shining One will give the people one last chance or send another prophet to warn them!

Magenta: [Sadly] He has already sent warnings and shown them how they must live… but they refuse to obey or even listen. Worse still, they despise and mock the Shining One and worship false gods made from pieces of wood, stone or metal. No, the situation has deteriorated too far and the Shining One will not allow such blatant sin to go unpunished.

Sapphire: [Sadly] Then there is no hope for the world!

Magenta: [With sudden determination] Do not say that things are hopeless. There may yet be a way to save the world. [Ponders before speaking] Send messengers to every corner of the earth. Tell them to seek out anyone who worships the True Light. I know that He will show mercy if we can find even one person who refuses to bow the knee to the Evil One.

Magenta and Sapphire bow their heads and freeze for a few seconds to indicate ‘time passing’ before slowly resuming their normal posture.

Magenta: [Hopefully] Well, Sapphire, is there any news yet from the messengers? Is there anyone who still follows the True Light?

Sapphire: [Glumly] Alas, the news is worse than I thought. Every messenger returns with the same story: people prefer darkness rather than light. Only one messenger has yet to report but it seems unlikely that his news will be any better!

Magenta: [Slowly and grimly] So be it. The word of the Shining One must be obeyed. Send the angel of death across the earth; every living creature must die. The Shining One regrets that He ever made His creation.

Sapphire: [Places hand over ear as if receiving a message] Wait for one moment! Do not give the command! I hear news from the last messenger. It seems that there is a man who worships the Shining One and refuses to walk in darkness. His name is Noah and his whole family seek to obey and serve the Lord of Creation.

Magenta: [Cheerfully] This is indeed good news, though I fear the Shining One will still bring judgement to bear upon those who refuse to repent. [Decisively] We will give the people another 100 years to follow and worship the True Light. After that time, whatever happens, Noah and his family will be given a way of escape.

Sapphire: [Pondering] I wonder how the Shining One will save that righteous family, yet destroy those who choose evil over good?

Magenta: [Shaking head] I don’t yet know but apparently it involves a lot of water and something called a ‘rainbow’.

Sapphire: [Incredulously] I’ve never seen a lot of water & never heard of a rainbow but I’m certain that the Shining One will do what is right. He’s never failed yet!

Magenta: [Brightly] That is true, Sapphire. And listen to this: several of the prophets are talking about “the final solution to sin” some time in the future. Apparently, it involves the Shining One himself going down to earth and dealing with it, once and for all time. [Shakes head] It sounds preposterous to me but the Shining One always has a perfect plan! I’ve heard that earth people will call that time ‘Christmas’ and ‘Easter’.

Sapphire [Shakes head, laughing gently] Imagine that! The idea that the Shining One would live as a man on earth! The prophets seem to have got carried away with their predictions this time! [Pauses then speaks thoughtfully] Or have they?

Destiny

Once just a gentle flame but now a roaring fire

Once just a stirring deep but now a strong desire

Once just another name but now the sweetest sound

Once just a friend I knew but now the One I’ve found

Once just a lovely tune but now a melody

Once just a pleasing theme but now a symphony

Once just a sweet desire but now a single aim

Once just a pretty light but now a scorching flame

Once just beyond my reach but now within my heart

Once just a passing thought but now we’ll never part

Once just a step away but now the central theme

Once just a wistful hope but now my life and dream

Denis Hayes


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Memories to Live By

The sound of distant water

The scent that lingers long

A snatch of conversation

A melody of song

The happy laughter brimming

A glimpse of someone’s face

An evening by the fireside

A touch of silky lace

The sight of arms extended

The hug when two friends meet

A look of deep devotion

From lovers in the street

The photo hanging sadly

The ringing of a phone

A time of contemplation

While sitting all alone

The jewellery on the table

The card upon the wall

A moment’s inspiration

Invites a distant call

The lips that quiver softly

The pulse that beats aloud

The words that echo fondly

While standing in a crowd

The pain of sudden parting

The anguish of goodbye

That etches on the senses

And moistens every eye

Each memory is fragile

And memories are long

They penetrate the armour

Of pretending we are strong

Hear angels singing softly

See nature’s graceful dawn

As life goes on forever

Beyond this mortal form

Sweet comfort blossoms gently

To know that though apart

Love’s enduring treasure

Lies sealed within our heart

D Hayes


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When God Speaks

WHEN GOD SPEAKS

It may be in the daytime bright when fragrance fills the air

And sunlight glances through the trees

And hearts are free from care

It may be in the midnight gloom while sitting all alone

And ragged breezes eat your heart

To chill you to the bone

It may be in the busy street with people pressing near

Or in the midst of work and toil

When time can disappear

It may be in a lovely place when walking by the stream

Or as you rest upon the shore

And life’s a tender dream

It may be in the agony of tragic news and pain

As sad tears bite your eyes and cheeks

And leave a purple stain

It’s often when we least expect to hear a word divine

That God confides most lovingly

A direction, gift or sign

He’ll tell us what we need for life, the way that we should go

But if our ears are full of self

We’ll never even know!

We need to keep ourselves alert and walk in step sincere

So Christ can whisper and be sure

We’ll always clearly hear!

Denis Hayes            25th January 2004 / Updated 20th December 2018

Song: He Is Coming

HE IS COMING! Sung to the tune of: Frere Jacques

He is coming. He is coming
Christ will come. Christ will come.
Every day draws nearer.
Now the light grows clearer.
Lift your voice. Soon rejoice!

Watching, waiting, light is breaking
Christ is born. Christ is born!
See Him in a manger. Precious little stranger
Sing for joy. Sing for joy

Follow Jesus; follow Jesus, every day, all the way
He will never leave you
Never will deceive you
Trust Him now; trust Him now.

Song: Close By Us Forever

Close By Us Forever  (To the tune Away in a Manger)

1. Lord Jesus, our Saviour, has promised to be…

Close by us forever and guide you and me.

His Spirit within us will help us to know…

That He never leaves us—He cares for us so.

2. Though we cannot see where our pathway will lead

Lord Jesus says follow; I’ll give what you need.

No matter how lonely or anxious you feel—

You’re never alone for my presence is real.

3. I trust you, Lord Jesus, so help me to stay

Close by you forever and thank you each day.

In school, home or working, your promise is true…

Whatever may happen, I’ll always have you!

D Hayes, October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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Poem: Palm Sunday

Welcome the King

The slow tread of animal feet

The swirling dust of a village street

The rising sound of loud hosannas

Palm branches scattered to welcome the King.

The slow tread of weary feet

The mocking taunts of a scourge’s beat

The rising sound of a hammer’s fall

A crown of thorns to welcome the King.

D Hayes (Poem first created on 10th April 1987)

Poem: Sing Like An Angel

Sing Like An Angel

Sing like an angel and open your voice

Sing like an angel to praise and rejoice

Sing like an angel and float through the air

Sing like an angel to banish despair

Sing like an angel and send your notes high

Sing like an angel to brighten the sky

Sing like an angel and reach heaven’s height

Sing like an angel with praise and delight

Sing like an angel and join heaven’s choir

Then sing with the angels in joyful desire!

D Hayes (2017)

Kool Skool!

 

Kool Skool

Patter of footsteps that echo and beat

Happy tip tapping from dozens of feet

Coats that sprawl loosely on pegs down the wall

Bright eyes that wait for the teacher to call

Children all seated to start the new day

Smiles and light hearts seem to brighten the way

Adults move round to encourage and show

Telling and guiding, so knowledge will grow

Windows that steam up from chattering breath

Tables with papers and books on the desk

Chairs that slide roughly across the class floor

Pictures and paintings and posters galore

Playtime comes quickly and bodies disperse

Running and hooting and shouts of great mirth

Teachers slip quietly into the staff cave

And gulp down some caffeine to keep themselves brave!

The morning wears on with learning more stuff

And brains become numb, as enough is enough

Then lunch break releases aromas of food

Tickling the nostrils, lifting the mood

Teachers dash to the loo in despair!

A quick bite to eat and a breath of fresh air

Then rushing about to compute or mark work

No time to relax or a meeting to shirk

A knock at the door means a problem to lick

Tommy’s hit Benny and Beryl is sick

Lenny is crying and Jane is upset

Gary is pushing again, you can bet!

Lunchtime is over and sighs all around

Teachers and helpers are now to be found

Setting up lessons with limited zeal

Trying to look more alert than they feel!

Flush of excitement as children troop in

Amy is smiling and Billy looks grim

David is proud of the cut on his knee

The classroom vibrates like a gay buzzing bee

It’s time for the gym, so there’s no time to spare

Marching and stretching and gliding through air

Dancing with joy and exploding with glee

Faces bright red as a sign life is free

So on through the day until the bell tolls

With noises and scrambling ‘til silence unfolds

A quick hug from Amy, a shy wave from Sam

Then out to the playground to greet Mum or Nan

The echo of laughter drifts in from the street

As children skip gladly in hope of a treat

And the mass of humanity fades from the scene

With pushchairs and buggies and toddlers that scream!

The teachers breathe deeply and wish they were home

But more work awaits them, they sigh with a groan

So much to fit in while the time slips away

The evening grows long as blue skies turn to grey

Much later, the hard grind recedes with the miles

Driving away with a heart full of smiles

Despite disappointments and moments of gloom

The joy and the glory shine bright as the Moon

The front door means freedom or so it now seems

Yet thoughts of the school day entangle your dreams

And visions of children whose lives you have blessed

Restore the conviction that God’s way is best!

 Denis Hayes (2017)

A young teacher commented:

‘I get the strong impression that most people see work as a means to an end. They have a job to get enough money to buy food and clothes, pay the bills and—if there’s some to spare—enjoy a few of life’s little luxuries. Now there’s nothing wrong with taking such a pragmatic view of things, but those of us who are called to teach see it as more than just a job. It’s a genuine vocation; you could almost say a ‘calling’. We are on a sort of mission to make the world a better place by helping children to make the very best use of their talents and intellect, to stimulate their imaginations, give them confidence, light a flame and promote a sincere love for learning. We are also keen to help them develop morally and become young people of true character. So much is expected of me that I sometimes think I’ve got to be some sort of super-hero with an endless reserve of energy, expertise and talent; in fact, a miracle-worker!

It’s difficult to pinpoint why people decide to teach. It certainly isn’t the money and it can often be an exhausting, even demoralising job at times. I guess it’s a mixture of reasons: a way of expressing our talents, commitment to the betterment of society, love of learning or simply a passion for children. There’s no doubt that the greatest rewards are internal; I mean things like the satisfaction that comes from seeing children grasp something for the first time or watching them enthuse over the work or smiling with delight after making a discovery.

I also love to see children happy together: their excited chatter and funny ways are like therapy for me. It’s great when a child or parent thanks you sincerely for something special you did with the class or with a group. When we have fun together—perhaps doing drama or practising for an assembly or playing games on the school field or just doing something slightly daft—it brings a thrill that can’t be measured or recorded on an assessment sheet. Only people who have experienced this level of happiness can fully understand what I mean.’

Self-worth and attitude:

There are a number of factors influencing a teacher’s self-worth and positive attitude: (a) General competence and skills (b) Gaining approval from significant others, such as parents (c) Receiving support from colleagues (d) Being convinced that teaching makes a positive difference to children’s lives (e) Strong moral convictions, including religious faith. A mysterious contradiction exists in that teachers often seem to be complaining about the unreasonable demands placed on them, yet they continue to love the job, which suggests that altruism and motivation to work with and help children outweigh self-doubt.

Extracts taken from Foundations of Primary Teaching (Routledge 2011) by D Hayes

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