If we are honest with ourselves, our prayer lives are myths. We talk about prayer, preach about prayer, read about prayer–just about the only thing we don’t do is actually pray. If surveyed, I doubt there would be more than a tiny fraction of churchgoers that feel like their prayer life is as they would like it to be. Most of us are confused, frustrated, and disappointed when it comes to prayer. It may be that we have a great deal of difficulty praying because we don’t understand why prayer matters in the first place. It’s hard to find motivation to do something difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable if you haven’t been convinced that it will be worthwhile in the end. There is no way to come close to covering a subject so important, so profound, and so difficult in a short blog, but my goal is to provide a small taste of the value of prayer, which I pray will prompt you to commit to deepening your prayer life.
- Prayer matters because it is a moment of conversation with God. This may not be a great revelation to you, but we need reminded of this truth because we forget it so often. How many of our prayers are centered on taking from God instead of talking with God? Sadly, we can allow our minds to focus on what we can get out of prayer instead of who we meet when we pray. Not for a moment am I suggesting that God doesn’t want to help us or hear our needs (see Phil. 4:6; Mt. 7:9-11). But I am saying that viewing prayer only in terms of which of my needs and wants God can meet simply doesn’t do prayer justice–it is much more than this. Prayer is a conversation. Like any conversation we may bring up our needs, but we don’t only talk when there is a need. Consider what God spoke in Jeremiah 29:12-13: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (ESV) When is God found? When He is sought wholeheartedly. This means that talking to God must be the aim of our prayers–not to receive things from Him, but to know Him. Prayer, then, is the wonderful expression of a relationship between the wonderful God of the universe and His children. This is why Jesus began the “Lord’s Prayer” addressing God as “our Father who is in heaven” (Luke 11:2). Prayer allows us to talk about the joys of life with God, as well as the struggles. We can bring our complaints to God (e.g., Ps. 55:17) and we can thank God for our blessings (Ps. 100:4). And the wonder of it all is that He hears (1 Pet. 5:7).
- Prayer matters because it is a moment of transformation by God. Praying requires humility and honesty. If we commit to having an intimate relationship with God in prayer, we must be honest about our failures and our flaws. Confession in prayer is a tool God uses to get us to view ourselves properly. Sincere prayer eliminates the possibility of pride and self-righteousness, and replaces them with humility and dependence. David, an expert on confessing to God, wrote: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps. 32:5 ESV) God does not just use prayer to change how we view ourselves, though. He also uses prayer to get us to properly view Him as God, Father, and Savior. From the very moment we begin praying, we are admitting that there is a higher being than ourselves. As we confess, we admit that we are dependent upon God for salvation. As we con- verse, we come to know God better as our Father. All in all, we elevate God to His proper place in our heart and in our mind. This prayer of C.S. Lewis illustrates this wonderfully: “May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.”1
Prayer is worth it! Talking with our wonderful God and submitting ourselves to His transformation is of indescribable worth. I must tell you that prayer is not always easy or full of emotional feelings–though it certainly can be both. But whether it is easy at one moment or not and whether we feel God’s presence like we want to feel it in a moment or not, we must be convicted that prayer will ultimately be worth it. Above all, we must not stop praying. To stop praying is nothing less than shutting the door on God and resigning ourselves to stagnation and sin. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18 ESV)
By Nathan Diller