And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
It is not dependent on us. If it were, we would have failed long ago. God who began a good work in us will finish what He started. It is dependent on Him.
Prayer is a dialogue with God.
Many people have a difficult time praying because they incorrectly learned that prayer requires the use of some holy tone, special methodology, or devout wording. In its most basic form, prayer is a conversation between a parent and child, or among friends. Those who genuinely know God at a personal level recognize that God is their Father, the One who provides for all their needs and guides them (1 John 3:1). Yet, Jesus also calls us friends (John 15:14–15), and that allows us to speak to Him as friends do.
If prayer is speaking to a parent or a friend, it should be easy. However, the real problem that people have when it comes to prayer is that they have forgotten how to be a child who is dependent on their parent. This dependence is what we call faith or trust in God who is our Father. Additionally, because of trends of individualism and the proliferation of social media, many people have forgotten what it is to have true friendships. In other words, we may no longer know how to relate with others. If we cannot relate with others whom we can see, how can we relate with God whom we cannot see (1 John 4:20–21)?
Therefore, to pray effectively, we must treasure relationships here on earth, which also translates to our relationship with God. The depth of relationships we can have with one another will be shown in our relationship with God. This is the call to discipleship.
In this chapter, let us focus on becoming a child of God in our hearts so that we may pray effectively. We are given the right to become a child of God when we receive Jesus and believe in His name (John 1:12).
Full Trust and Dependence
A child, without their parents’ care, is unable to do anything, yet alone survive. This is true for children even into their teenage years.
Children usually do what their parents ask. When they don’t, it is likely because they are growing in independence. They are beginning to think that their decisions are better than their parents’. Even though children may not have the wisdom that parents have, as children grow older, they will begin to operate on their own and become self-sufficient adults, no longer requiring their parents’ permission. Disciples of Jesus figured the blessings of Jesus belonged to adults like them. Jesus told them otherwise.
Jesus spoke to the people who desired such adults to be blessed. Consider the following passage:
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Jesus is seeking people whose hearts are like children. They are people who recognize their need of God (Mark 2:17). They are people who, even though they may have the ability to be independent, choose to depend on God.
This is shown in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). The younger child wanted to be independent. He figured that if he had the money that was owed to him, he would be better off. But his plan did not end well for him, and the story ends with him returning to his loving Father empty-handed. This is a picture of what happens to those who trust the world and the apparent benefits that it provides.
To be practical, consider what life was like a few centuries ago. Generations of families lived together, often raising crops in their lands. The industrial revolution, the advent of the assembly line, and the increased availability of transportation drastically changed what seemed to be stable in the world back then.
Recall that the people recognized for their great minds such as Leonardo Da Vinci were known for their multi-faceted talents in various fields such as the arts, sciences, and philosophy. Yet, now, the education system teaches us it is better to excel in one talent. Many people seek specialized careers such as a tax accountant, criminal attorney, or a structural engineer.
Just a few decades ago, the dream of parents was for their children to do well in school so that they might work in a large corporation where they would be set for life. The thinking behind this idea was that a secure job would provide a regular salary and a dependable pension. Today, the system does not work in quite the same way. What we know about the world or what we learn from the education system today is not trustworthy as times change. Yet, there is one source who is firm, and that is our loving Father (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8).
Today, we may put our trust in technology while others may place their trust in government welfare, and others, still, cling to employment as their source of sustenance. But these things will all change and fade away. However, our Heavenly Father does not change. His purposes are firm and has His mind on carrying them out through His children—you and me.
We are just like the growing children. We may have an illusion that we have what we need, and that we do not need God, however, the truth is that God is in control and we need Him. The willing choice to be dependent on God is the basis of being a child where we can now go to Him as a Father and speak with Him.
The people of Israel made the same mistake of being self-confident. When things were well, they stopped relying on God. They went their own way, even imitating the culture around them. Then as things went bad, they sought after God. We too are not immune to this, and if any of us are relying on trends, even those that seem as if they will stay around for years, we may be turning away from God. Just as the people of Israel did, we too may stop seeking God for guidance and help. We will become self-reliant and no longer be a child who depends on their Father.
We may also think that this cycle of sin-repentance-restoration is a good thing, but it is far from the truth. Yes, God may certainly use our circumstances to draw us back to Him, just as He has for the people of Israel, but they were an example of people who did not persevere in their faith in God. They were people who turned away from God and were eventually led to ruin. They did not make it. It is not something to which we should aspire.
The people who are shown to be different, such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David, walked with God throughout their lives. They were certainly not perfect and made many mistakes during their lives, but they began to trust God so firmly over time that their faith did not shake when hard situations arose.
God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Most people would cringe at the request to kill their son, but Abraham believed in his Father and was able to go forward with the sacrifice. He figured that God had something in mind that he did not know or understand. He reasoned that whatever God had in mind must be for good, because Abraham recognized over time that God is always good. Even when it did not make sense to him, Abraham still believed what God directed him to do was for good. To convince himself, Abraham had to imagine himself a scenario, that perhaps even when Isaac was killed that God may raise him from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19).
A person who can pray effectively is someone who believes that God is good and trusts Him without wavering. Building up this kind of faith is also the reason why we must grow together as the Church, as opposed to following the faulty individualistic trends of the world and seeking to be perfect on our own abilities (Romans 5:20–21).
Ask God How to Pray
When I gather in a prayer meeting, one of the first things I often pray is for God to teach us how to pray. This is because at the time I begin to pray, my mind may be cluttered with the things of the day and that may get me off track from praying. Perhaps to avoid being distracted, I may end up just going down a concrete list of prayer topics. However, neither of those approaches allow God to interject and direct the way that we pray. This is why I cling to the verse in Luke 11:1, where a disciple asked Jesus how to pray.
Before any prayer, whether it be your daily prayers alone with God, or in a group prayer meeting, ask God to help you to pray by enabling you to focus on the things He desires you to focus on (see Romans 8:26). Let Him lead the topics of prayer. Allow God to take you off on tangents and pray for the things you did not have in mind. Ask Him to remind you of your brothers and sisters for whom you ought to pray.
You may also note that the disciple asked Jesus to teach him how to pray just as Jesus completed praying (Luke 11:1). Jesus probably prayed out loud in public or in a small group and the disciple was touched by how Jesus prayed compared to the way he had seen others pray. This may be because many people were used to praying systematic and routine prayers (Matthew 15:8–9) while Jesus wants us to pray to God relationally.
Relational prayers, or a conversation with God, is not something written and it is not said in a perfect way to win the audience of others. It is a heart-felt, honest dialogue with our heavenly Father. This is how Jesus prayed, and how He teaches us to pray as well.
The Prayer that Jesus Taught
Our Father in heaven may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer that many Christians know may feel like a ritual for some people because it has been recited over the years without considering its contents. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that Jesus taught when His disciples asked Him how to pray (Luke 11:1). This prayer is a prayer of dependence, one that only a child can say with her/his heart. This prayer teaches us the heart we should have when we pray.
It begins with “Our Father in heaven.” This statement is like when children begin their sentence with “dad” or “mom.” It recognizes the person to whom we are speaking. It also reminds us that even though God is holy and beyond us, God is a Father who is close to us and listens to us when we speak. He considers us His children.
The next words are “may Your Name be kept holy.” This refers to the lifestyle we ought to live that demonstrates our Father to the world. It teaches us to keep living a life of holiness, or one that is distinguished from the rest of the world, so that we may show that our Father is different.
The word “holy” means different. In this context, it means to keep God distinguished in our hearts from the world. This statement means that we should ask God to help us place Him as our highest priority, one that does not even get close to any priorities of this world. It is to ask with sincerity to help us to ensure nothing ever competes with God. There are all the other priorities in the world, and then there is God who is completely separate and not even comparable to anything else in our hearts. This is our pleading asking Him to enable us to put down any potential competing priorities and surrender our hearts to His leadership.
“May Your Kingdom Come Soon” says that we look forward to our Father’s providence. It is a request similar to when a parent says, “We’ll go later,” then the child begs, “Can we go now ... please?” It is a dependent heart that says, “Father, you are the only one that can do this, and my heart relies on nothing else. Please handle my situation, and please do it soon.” As children, we want to see the best happen, and we are asking God, who knows the best, to fulfill it soon.
“May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” says that we are aligned with the Father’s will and purposes. We are saying that we want what our Father desires to be done. It is like a young child who blindly tries to up their friends by saying my father can do something better than yours. The child probably does not know what s/he is talking about and is probably not correct in what s/he is saying, but the child boasts this way because s/he believes her father is extraordinary and can do anything really well.
Fortunately, God is truly almighty, and He indeed provides far better than what any human father can. This statement is to say that we align with the Father in the things He is doing. We want our Father’s purposes to be done. The opposite of this statement would be the independence or belief that our own ways are better.
This is also how God’s call for our lives works. By aligning to His will, our calling gets done through His supernatural provisions. By not aligning to His will, we go our own ways and accomplish what we think would be the best. When you feel stuck on wondering what God wants you to do or focus on, ask God to enable you to believe and say, “may Your will be done.”
The next statement is “Give us today the food we need.” There is much to this passage, similar to Matthew 6:34 or Proverbs 30:7, where we do not want to ask for more than what we need. This is another statement that shows complete dependence on God to provide for our needs, and to provide just to the right amount. Jesus says the following in the same chapter where He teaches His disciples to pray:
Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!
Jesus says not to worry about the food, clothes, or anything else that we need for “everyday life” because He cares about us more than the animals who often have more than enough. This statement is simply an agreement that we believe in our Father to provide for our needs and that what He gives is enough.
The next statement is “forgive us our sins, as we have forgive those who sin against us.” This is the statement of a child who recognizes that s/he is imperfect. The child is stating that s/he knows s/he may make mistakes and go astray from the Father’s purposes. We may miss the mark, but we also know our Father forgives us and redirects us when we go the wrong way. We are asking God to correct us and cover our mistakes.
It also means that we recognize God’s forgiveness, that we too will bear the Father’s character and be lenient toward others who may do wrong to us.
“Don’t let us yield to temptation” means that we are asking God to protect our hearts, our thoughts, and the things we see. It asks for the divine protection of the Father to keep us aligned to His will despite what the rest of the world may feel, think, or see.
This is a prayer that asks God to keep us loyal and dependent on Him. Others may try to pull us away from the Father, promising the benefits that the Prodigal Son was looking forward to. He spent all he had (Luke 15:13) and was left with nothing. That is what happens when we allow temptation to lead us away from the protection of the Father.
The next statement goes together with this one, “but rescue us from the evil one.” It recognizes that there are temptations out there, or people influenced by the tempter, Satan himself, who will want to entice us to their seemingly good living. This statement says that we recognize that we are frail and can fall in so many ways. So Father, please protect us, especially where we cannot see.
Young children often do not know right from wrong. They may happily and recklessly approach the sidewalk where a car may be blazing by. They may also play randomly among kitchen knives and hot pans. If we recognize ourselves as children, we will admit that we too do not know what is out there including by whom and how we may be tempted. This is why we ask the Father, as dependent children, to protect us from the evil one who will cause us to yield to temptation. Of course, if we do not recognize ourselves as children, we will assume we know everything and no longer rely on the Father’s protection. We would be effectively saying, “God, You don’t need to rescue us from the evil one.”
Lastly, the prayer concludes with “For Yours is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” This statement places the emphasis back on God’s purposes. Whatever needs we may have, God will provide. Because of His provision, we can do the work of God. So, Father, may Your reign come because all power and glory belong to You.
This is the basic heart and mind of prayer, to have full dependence on God while seeking His purposes. Memorize the following verse, and let this be the guiding thought for all that you do:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Professional Prayers—Be Careful!
In a world that seeks efficiency wrapped in pretenses of professionalism, and which removes the importance of the heart-led passion, there are many pre-written prayers that can be found online or even purchased. Some even advertise themselves as effective prayers that move the heart of God. This is very discouraging as the relationship with God is pushed back for the sake of marketing and moneymaking.
Prayer is to be made from the heart, and that is what God desires more than any professional prayers that are read. The heart matters because we are to love our God with all our heart, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His direction. That does not mean blind obedience, but a desire for God and as a result, a desire to follow His ways. See the following:
Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, “Come, let us worship other gods”—gods you have not known before—do not listen to them. The LORD your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul.
Verse 3 says God is testing your heart, because the heart is what matters. Prescribed prayers are like the messages of the prophets in verses 1 and 2. Relying on them for prayer provides the illusion of accomplishing some religious deed to appease God; yet that was never the point of prayer! Prayer is a dialogue with God that stems from a relationship with Him.
That is why the Gospel is related to the transformation of the heart and mending the broken relationship with God rather than resolving the issue of sin. Many people misunderstand the Gospel to end where Jesus died for our sins as the way to provide eternal life. But the Gospel goes beyond that to say that as a result of removing the problem of sin, God now mends our broken relationship with Him. He mends our hearts, so that we can enjoy His leadership and walk with Him today as we live on earth. Our lives are no longer just waiting to die to meet God in heaven; but rather, our remaining days are meaningful since we can now be led by Him to fulfill His purposes in our lives. Here is the promise that God foretold, which Jesus took care of beyond simply resolving the issue of sin:
The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
Consider the people whom God seeks, they are those who seek God’s heart:
But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.
1 Samuel 13:14
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
Effective prayer is an honest dialogue with God. It is okay if writing inspires us to pray, but the writing itself is a prayer of another person, and we all ought to learn to speak with God directly ourselves. Jesus enabled that for all of us (Ephesians 2:18)!
The only caveat would be when one knows in advance to pray for a larger audience beyond a small group. If s/he wishes to write out the prayer, s/he should, again, without relying on words of prayers of others, but seeking God him/herself and asking how to pray.
The main source of our inspiration should be the Word of God. Ask God to lead your thoughts, and to direct you to passages that may be most suitable for the congregation in front of whom you will pray. Other sources too can inspire you, but you should not have to depend on them. The same principle is to be followed when preparing a message before others. See chapter 5 for more details.
God can use anything to grab our attention, so these points are not to be used dogmatically. Perhaps through your external readings the Holy Spirit may inspire you to pray for things that you did not think about, such as for the President of your country (2 Timothy 2:2). Regardless of how you are inspired, be honest and personal before God. He is your Father and loves you for who you are.
Do You Believe that God is Good?
One of the biggest lessons I learned during the development of my faith is the question, “Do I believe God is good?” This may seem like a simple question to which many would answer with another question, “Isn’t the answer obvious?” Well, the answer is not obvious over time.
Christians tend to ask a person if s/he believes in God. The problem with this question is that many people believe in God, including Satan (James 2:19). In fact, many people believe that there is a higher being who created the universe. Yet, they do not believe in a God who is good, especially good to them.
Rather than ask others, it is a question to ask ourselves. It is indeed a foundational question to our faith. Abraham believed in God in Genesis 12, but when times got tough, such as going to a land where his life might be threatened because he had a beautiful wife (Genesis 20), Abraham, at that time, did not believe that God was good. Since Abraham did not believe that God was good, he took it upon himself to protect himself. But Abraham’s faith developed over time and he began to believe that God is good all the time. He even believed it was good when he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac.
Do you believe that God is good? This is the question to ask ourselves, especially when we experience difficulties in our lives. In the midst of the hardship, do you believe that God is still good? It is that heart that enables us to go to the Father.
If we ever believe that our Father is not good, it is reasonable for us to pull back and no longer depend on Him. Would you believe in the following message when times are hard?
Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
Despite the difficult times, when we persist and believe that God is good, we will say as David and other psalmists spoke:
I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. (Psalms 13:6)
I said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” (Psalms 16:2)
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:6)
The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. (Psalms 25:8)
Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. (Psalms 27:13)
I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people. (Psalms 52:9)
Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. (Psalms 73:1, 28)
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalms 86:5)
For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalms 100:5)
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (Psalms 103:2, 5)
Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalms 106:1)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalms 107:1, 9)
But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me because you are so faithful and good. (Psalms 109:21)
All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. (Psalms 111:7)
How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. (Psalms 116:5, 7)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalms 118:1, 29)
You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees. (Psalms 119:68)
But the Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. (Psalms 129:4)
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music. (Psalms 135:3)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalms 136:1)
Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me. (Psalms 142:7)
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. (Psalms 145:7, 9)
Would we be able to say this about God from our hearts if we did not believe that God is good? It is only when we believe that God is good that we can trust Him despite any circumstances we may encounter.
David certainly shared in his sufferings too, but he grew in faith over time to believe that God rescues and delivers him even when the situations looked bad. That growth in faith is exactly what it means when we ask ourselves in our difficult circumstances, “Do I still believe that God is good?”
When the answer is a resounding “Yes!” that is when we know we are praying to God honestly. This is when our relationship with God grows and our prayers get deeper.
Of course, the opposite of this would be when we do not really care much about God but rather, our minds are more focused on the next task at hand, especially how we will handle it based on our experiences. If we are not even interested in listening to God or, for that matter, speaking to God from the heart, there will be no honest conversations. To be clear, in case you may want to call such heartless words prayer, it is not, but rather, a practice of rituals or religion that Jesus came to remove (Isaiah 29:13).
God desires a Father-child relationship with us. For those who are older, consider a time when you were angry at your parents. If you are living under your parents’ roof, consider a more recent example. When there is no trust between the two people because one feels the other is not good toward her/him, conversations do not happen. Perhaps there may be one-sided messages being shouted, but there are no messages that are well received.
That is exactly how it works when we do not believe God is good. We turn to religion and rituals as if we need to please who-we-may-believe-to-be an angry God. Often, people do this weekly by attending a worship service. They believe that someone else’s prayer from the pulpit suffices to meet their requirements toward their relationship with God.
Yet, when we believe that God is good, we would speak with Him, we would welcome Him to all the things we are doing, we would want to join in on the things He is doing, and we would look forward to hearing from Him and following His guidance. We would read the Scripture to see if He has any special guidance for us. We would want to go to a place where we can quiet our minds and remove ourselves from any distractions so that we can speak comfortably with Him. Conversations would happen, and we would enjoy the leadership and provision of our Father.
So the question we must keep asking ourselves is a foundational one, one that would persist all throughout our journey of faith—do you believe that God is good?
 Read the book of Judges where the cycles of turning away from God, repentance, restoration is repeated in small chunks.
 Examples of these are many. For example, the people who left Egypt did not make it to the Promised Land because of their failure to trust in God except for Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:30). After the failure of the judges that God appointed, kings were established who eventually followed the ways of other pagan cultures. They too turned away from God (see 2 Chronicles 36:13–17).
 This is contrary to what the world teaches us, which is to store up riches in excess. See Luke 12:16–21. The passage even concludes with the emphasis on the priority of having a relationship with God in verse 21. Yet, if something is needed to accomplish God’s purposes, such as a million dollars, that is included in this request for the right amount.
 Definition of sin is actually missing the mark. This is explained in greater detail in the book written in Korean by Sang Kwan Lee titled The Gospel that Jesus Taught: The Kingdom Gospel, translated into English by the author. ISBN for the English Translation: 978-1-953167-98-9.