For many people prayer isn’t a joy but a burden. When they fail to pray, they feel guilty; when they do pray, they worry that they might not be doing it correctly. Or their prayers are wooden and lifeless, perhaps only repeating words learned in childhood but never engaging their minds or hearts.
But this is the opposite of what prayer should be. Prayer shouldn’t be a burden but a privilege–a privilege God has graciously given us because He wants our fellowship. Remember: Jesus Christ died to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God, and when we give our lives to Him, we have a personal relationship with God. In fact, we have access to God in prayer only because of what Christ did for us on the cross.
But central to any relationship is communication. It’s true on a human level; what kind of relationship do two people have who never talk with each other? In a far greater way, our relationship with God involves communication–not just an occasional brief chat, but a deep sharing of ourselves and our concerns with God. Because Christ has opened heaven’s door for us, the Bible says, we should “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).
What Is Prayer?
Our relationship with God involves communication, and that, quite simply, is what prayer is: talking with God. In the Bible God speaks to us; in prayer we speak to God. Both are essential-and both are gifts God has given us so we can know Him. Prayer is a gift from God’s hand just as much as the Bible, and He has given us the privilege of prayer because He loves us and wants our fellowship. Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23, NIV). Think of it: God seeks our fellowship!
Strength Through Prayer
Why do we need to pray? The reason is because the Christian life is a journey, and we need God’s strength and guidance along the way. One of the major ways He supplies these is through prayer. God doesn’t leave us to our own resources! Instead, He “has given us everything we need”everything we need” God has given us.
Every man or woman whose life has ever counted for God has been a person of prayer. A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. A prayerless Christian is also a contradiction, because we should yearn for fellowship with the One who redeemed us. Throughout both the Bible and the history of the Church, those who made the greatest impact for God were those who prayed the most.
Most of all, Jesus demonstrated the importance of prayer by His own example. His whole ministry was saturated with prayer. On one occasion, “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV). On another occasion, “Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray'” (Luke 11:1, NIV). He responded by giving them what came to be His most-quoted words, the Lord’s Prayer. As His death approached, He withdrew to the Garden of Gethsemane, a secluded place outside the walls of Jerusalem, to pray, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44, NIV). His last words from the cross were a prayer: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, NIV). If prayer was this important to the Son of God during His journey on earth, shouldn’t it be important to us?
Bringing God Our Needs
“I don’t see any reason to pray,” a young man wrote me recently. “After all, God already knows what I want, so why should I bother telling Him?”
He was right up to a point. God is sovereign, and He knows all about us: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8, NIV). Yet God still commands us to pray for ourselves and for others, and He often responds only as we pray. This is a mystery we will never fully understand this side of eternity.
One of God’s most comforting promises is that we can bring every need and burden to Him: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22, NIV). The Bible also says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV). One of my strongest memories of our trips to Africa and India was the prayer meetings we attended–sometimes with thousands gathered in the early morning. I have seldom heard such fervent prayer, and the reason their prayer was so fervent was because they deeply believed prayer is “powerful and effective.” God’s Word is filled with promises about prayer, and He repeatedly tells us to bring our burdens to Him.
We may be convinced of the importance of prayer and yet still not pray. Why? What are the hindrances to prayer? There may be many reasons why we don’t pray: lack of discipline, unconfessed sin, failure to see our need of God’s help, unconcern for others, doubt that God will answer our prayers, even a lack of assurance that we can come directly to God. Whatever the reason, ask God to give you a greater hunger for Himself and a deeper desire for His fellowship. Then be honest about whatever is keeping you from prayer, and ask God to help you deal with it.
Remember: Pray most of all because God wants your fellowship and you need His fellowship on this journey He has set before you.
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