Learning to pray

My prayer life has been a journey of fits and starts. There are seasons when I feel like I pray constantly and God‘s presence is as real as the people around me. I hear him and I see him act. Then there are times that I feel completely lost in prayer. It’s a bit like being gifted a beautiful house that is a dream home. Then knowing that it’s somewhere in Chicago but not knowing where. Looking for this gift can become frustrating. Eventually, I might give up and return to the home—the reality—that I know.

What follows is a biblical vision for prayer. It’s goal is to give you encouragement to keep “looking for the house”. It is my hope as a pastor that it encourages you like it does me. May we together find the place of rest, intimacy and power.

We know we need to pray. We have all read books or heard a sermon about how to pray. But most of us do not embody the New Testament vision for prayer—praying without ceasing and seeing supernatural results. I believe that the reason our prayer life is so lacking is because we deeply misunderstand the nature of prayer.

What is prayer?
Prayer is interactive relationship. It has in its nature mutuality. It is based on the necessity of interaction—us praising, pleading and lamenting; God answering, revealing and responding. If our prayers are merely monologues to the ceiling, something is wrong.

The Bible is clear, prayer is fundamental in our lives and much will not be done if we do not pray. Imagine a hospital without medicine. Imagine a house without electricity. Imagine a car without gasoline. Imagine a relief agency that could not and did not do anything to help others. This is life without prayer. It is a life without divine help, energy, and resource to do the things we desire as followers of Jesus.

Below are biblical examples of prayer:

1 Samuel 1

1 Kings 13:1-10

2 Kings 20:1-6

Matthew 14:22-32

Philippians 4:4-7

Does it matter if we pray?
It is this question that befuddles so many Christians. This is a vision of prayer that says we are just repeating what God will already do. Many of us do not pray because we think, “What’s the point?”.

This is such a big issue that I want to see if I can bring some biblical clarity concerning prayer. Far from being boring and unnecessary, prayer is about partnering with God in life.

First, we are called to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). We can think of this as the New Testament command concerning prayer.

Second, faith-filled prayer can do extraordinary things (Matthew 17:20). Jesus makes sure to emphasize this point by saying that even a tiny bit of faith can move mountains.

Third, God can change his mind (2 Kings 20:1-6). We must not explain this away. God does not lie. He said one thing. Hezekiah prayed and God said another thing. This does not diminish God’s sovereignty in the slightest. He is the kind of community of persons that will still get everything he wants while at the same time treating you with the respect that a person made in the divine image deserves.

We cannot say this too strongly! God is in complete control of everything, and he is the author of the past, present and future (Isaiah 45:7). Consequently, it must be that God has created a principle of relationship called prayer that he willingly submits himself to in our universe.

Here, we can lay out a a biblical vision of prayer. We are called to pray all the time for everything because even with a little bit of faith our prayers can result in powerful changes. Our prayers can even change God‘s mind. This doesn’t make him less powerful but more. He has made a universe in which you have importance, but he still rules and reigns over everyone and everything.

I invite you to do an experiment. Choose something in your life that is a challenge or an obstacle. It can be finances, a relationship, or an inner issue of sin or pain. Then, pray about it for three days. As you pray keep a careful watch for what others might call coincidences, but we know biblically are called answers.

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