If we’re honest with ourselves, at some point we’ve each wondered if our prayers matter. And we either just keep praying because, well, that’s what we do. Or we stop the conversation with God completely. Or we dig-in and start investigating this mysterious spiritual practice.
That’s what we’re doing in this series. We’re investigating — which means we’re asking some basic investigative questions. The who, what, when, where, why, and how kind of questions.
We began with the simple WHAT, and now we’re in our second session of considering WHY — why do we pray?
In Part One, we looked to Jesus and Scripture to help answer that question, discovering that Jesus prayed, He tells us to pray, and He taught us to pray. Three really good indications that pray is something that matters! We can also see in the greater story that Scripture bears that prayers have carried great power and great effectiveness throughout all time.
Today, let’s start-off looking at some really smart, spiritual people of our era to see what they have thought and said about why we should pray.
Several of our contemporaries would say we have an innate need to communicate with God. Hear it first from Charles Stanley in his book, Talking With God:
“Each of us has a need to communicate with God. That need has been built into us by our Creator. It is part of God’s design — part of His putting His imprint on our lives. We desire to be in touch with our Maker.”
Texas author and speaker, Carla McDougal, in her book My Prayer Chair, says:
“Believers in Jesus need to breathe, walk, and live in constant communication with the One who gives us eternal life… Frequent conversations with Him focus our heart, minds, and souls on Him.”
Though not a contemporary, Blaise Pascal, a famous French mathematician and philosopher from the 1600s, tried to put words to this deep-seated need we all have for God. He called it an “infinite abyss,” which many have since dubbed a “God-shaped hole.”
The idea is that we’re created with this God-shaped hole. And the only thing that can fill such an infinite abyss is an infinite object, God Himself!
I wonder if perhaps this translates to our need to communicate with God, as well.
I’m a girl who loves story — hearing it firsthand from someone sitting across from me, reading it in a great novel, or watching it on the big (and small) screen. It’s always amused me how many times a story with a non-religious, non-Christian plot or character shows that character sending up a prayer when life gets hairy.
Even in my personal life I’ve had several people call me over the years asking for me to pray for something for them, even though they admit they don’t typically put much value in prayer. Yet, when life got hard, they wanted prayer.
I don’t judge that. Not at all! In fact, I’m encouraged by it.
There is something IN us that knows prayer does something. We have that need in us to communicate with our Creator!
And for those of us who do ascribe to the power of prayer, we look to prayer as a way to deepen our relationship with God.
Ruben Job, a Methodist elder and prayer warrior in his own right, said in his book, Listen: Praying in a Noisy World:
“Prayer is a pathway for a vital, growing, and fulfilling relationship with God. When our relationship with God is healthy, prayer and discernment are natural consequences of our daily companionship with God’s Holy Spirit.”
Ruben Job kinda flips things upside-down for me a bit. I would typically say that prayer, the act of talking with God, is what helps make our relationship with God healthy. And I do think so.
But he develops it out further, saying the opposite is true too. When we already have a healthy relationship with God, prayer comes as a natural result of that relationship.
I think of my relationship with my husband. We’ve been super intentional in our 27 years of marriage (happy anniversary, babe!) to keep the lines of communication open. And in some seasons we had to be ultra-intentional…because life was hard and it was just plain easier not to talk to one another.
But we did, and our marriage is stronger for it. We’ve said the hard things, as well as, the kind, lovely things.
The reverse is true too, though! The more I hang out with this guy, the more I WANT to hang out with him!
And there you have it. The theology of hanging out from Shelley Johnson!
Ruben Job continues:
“As those who seek to follow Jesus, we want to deepen our relationship with God and learn to know and do God’s will. We know this is the path of faithful and fruitful living.”
Guess what he’s saying about prayer here? That when we pray, we can know and do the will of God for our lives. THAT is a fact I seem to be living out a lot in this season of life. And when I look back, I think it’s one of my big motivators to pray in general.
I’ve desired to know God’s will for where to live, when to move, how to respond, how to wait, where to work, and when to quit. And God has never, ever led me astray.
Want an example?
When it came time to move to OKC, we didn’t seem to ask God so much IF we should go but WHERE we should live once we moved. It’s like we already knew we were supposed to move.
I did my due diligence and looked at schools for my first grader, hired a real estate agent, and spent a weekend looking at homes. But when I left OKC that weekend, we were no closer to knowing the answer to where we were supposed to live.
Another layer in this story is that we assumed we’d be living in this new place/home for 2 to 3 years, maximum. We thought we knew our future path.
That next Monday, I went to my Bible study and those ladies stopped everything to circle around me and PRAY. I was extremely humbled…and a little convicted. I needed to trust God more.
Within a day or two my husband found our house. In fact, he was so sure it was our house that he put money down on it without telling, before I’d even seen it! (what???)
Nearly 18 years later (yes, EIGHTEEN) we’re still in that home. And I cannot tell you the number of times we’ve looked at each other and said, “God really knew what He was doing when He put us here.” So. Many. Times.
And that’s just one of many examples of how I’ve sought God’s will through prayer.
If you do the same thing, you’re in good company…because even Jesus prayed to know and do God’s will. In his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey elaborates, “Jesus clung to prayer as to a lifeline, for it gave him both the guidance and the energy to know and do the Father’s will.”
Here’s a great example:
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
In his humanness, Jesus didn’t want to face what He knew was coming. Instead of hiding or running, though, Jesus knelt before His Father and prayed — not my will, but yours.
Jesus continues to be our model for why we pray. We’ll discover later that He’s also our model for how we can pray.
The Apostle Paul, too, is a great model. He lived out his life with great faith and a lot of prayer. In fact, Paul calls all believers to pray:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:2-6
Peter Grieg, in his sermon entitled “Praying 3D,” teaches that the word DEVOTE in Greek is a very strong word, meaning constant vigilance in prayer, perseverance in prayer, relentless attention to prayer.
So, Paul is telling us that prayer is something we need to prioritize and pursue — relentlessly. And it’s not just something for those who are a little mystical or who have the spiritual gift of intercession. It’s for the WHOLE church.
Are you getting any closer to grasping the depth to prayer and why we should do it? I do have one more post on the topic of Why Pray? And in it we will try to apply what we learned in our What Is Prayer post. We’ll look to J.D. Walt and Scripture for guidance and direction.
Until then, ponder what we’ve discussed over the last two posts. Why should we pray? Because…
- Jesus prayed
- Jesus told us to pray
- Jesus taught us how to pray
- The Bible demonstrates the effects of prayer
- We have the need to communicate with God
- We want to deepen our relationship with God
- We want to learn and do the will of God
- Paul called us to pray
Starting to see prayer more clearly,