"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6
Prayer is our greatest Christian privilege but — we may as well admit — our greatest Christian failure. All of us need to learn to pray more and to pray better. But one of the reasons we don't pray better than we do, or any more than we do, is that we have questions about prayer. These questions cause us uncertainty. Then our uncertainty sometimes neutralizes us and we become hesitant about prayer.
We will look more closely in the coming weeks about the vital subject of prayer. As we begin this new year, what more important commitment could we make than to commit ourselves more to prayer? If we're going to impact our families, our nation, and our world in these critical days, prayer is where it begins.
What was the first thing the Early Church did after Jesus' ascension? "They returned to Jerusalem…to an upper room" and "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication..." (Acts 1:12-14).
Even a casual reading of the book of Acts confirms how totally the disciples depended upon prayer — how they dared not make a move without committing to prayer, seeking God for His guidance and deliverance through prayer.
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
"Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer..." (Acts 3:1).
If those who walked alongside our Lord for three years were dependent upon prayer, how much more so are we? What a grave mistake we make if we are casual about our prayer life.
One of the questions most often asked about prayer is: Why should we pray when God already knows our needs? Why tell God what He already knows or ask Him to do what He already wants to do?
Thank God we don't have to understand prayer in order to pray. Yet, there are some consistent valid questions people have concerning prayer, but these must not hinder us from relying upon it.
First, here are two reasons we don't pray:
• We don't pray to impress God. We're not heard for our "much-speaking." You don't have to use poetic language or be an amateur Shakespeare. If an earthly child can speak to an earthly father, you can speak to your Heavenly Father. We're told to cry out to Him as our "Abba" Father — literally translated, "Daddy." (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6). We're not praying to impress Him.
• We don't pray to inform God. You can't tell God anything He doesn't know.
So if we don't pray to impress or inform God, why then do we pray?
We Pray to Invite God
It's very important to understand this: we are inviting God into our lives when we pray.
When we pray, we experience —
• Fellowship. We become "workers together with Him" (2 Corinthians 6:1). When we pray, God gives us the joy and privilege of administrating His kingdom, His affairs — working together with Him. He could do it without us. We could not do it without Him. But what a glory that God allows us the privilege of doing it with Him!
• Development. When we pray, God is growing us. Have you ever prayed and didn't receive immediately what you asked for? What did you do? You kept on praying, but you also began to search your heart and life to see if something was hindering God's answer. Many times there is. God uses prayer to grow us.
• Dependency. God never wants us to live lives independent of Him. If God just did everything for us and we never had to pray, soon we would begin to take things for granted. We would cease to depend upon God.
Prayer Binds Us to God
That's why we tell God what He already knows. He knows what we have need of before we ask, but we're definitely, specifically, unqualifiedly told to pray and to ask — not to impress or inform God, but to invite God, so that we might have that fellowship with Him, so that we might grow, and we would learn to depend upon Him.
What is it all right to pray for? Does God answer the prayers of the unsaved? Next time, we'll answer those questions.