I want to begin this post by asking you a question…what does prayer mean to you? This isn’t a test, but just think what your answer is to that question…what does prayer mean to you?
It seems clear from the Bible that prayer can be very different in both content and character. There is tremendous scope for creativity in prayer, and that is a creativity that comes from knowing God’s heart.
We can all become disheartened in our walk of faith and in our prayer life. We can all enter into wilderness periods that seem very dry and very bleak, times perhaps when God might seem to be very far away.
But I want to share with you today some aspects of prayer which may fit with some of the things that prayer means to you. For me prayer is many things:
- A declaration of truth
- At the heart of relationship and intimacy
- Knowing God’s heart
- A lifeline to the Lord
- A vehicle for confession
- Worship & praise
- A way to restore balance through humility
- Drawing close to the Lord
- A request for God to act from an open hand of need and hope
- Intercession; a desire to gain God’s intervention in a specific situation
- Joyful and continuous (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Prayer is interwoven with faith, hope and love. We pray in faith, we pray in hope, we pray in love. We pray to be in relationship with God. Even if God knows our thoughts from afar, we must put effort into maintaining that relationship with him.
Jesus is the foundation stone or heart of discipleship. He is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) His practice in prayer was:
- in secret, away from the crowds (Luke 5:15-16)
- in conflict, anticipating his death (John 12:27-28)
- in thanksgiving, upon return of the 72 (Luke 10:21)
- in intercession, for the disciples (John 17:6-19)
- in communion, at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28)
- in choices, choosing the disciples (Luke 6:12-16)
Don’t you think it exciting that even Jesus as God still needed to pray; and that should speak volumes to us?
It is sometimes said that there are three answers to prayer…yes, no or not yet. We like the yes, we don’t like the no and we struggle with the not yet. But how do we deal with what we consider to be unanswered prayer? When we pray, is our heart’s desire to do God’s will, or do we have our own private agenda? What is it that really matters – that God’s will be done? As Christians we can struggle with unanswered prayer, but we have to try to understand why our prayers can remain unanswered:
- We ask with the wrong motives (James 4:3)
- We are not in obedience to God (1 John 3:22)
- We are not praying in faith (Matthew 21:22, John 16:24, Matthew 17:14-22)
- We pray in complacency (Proverbs 1:32)
- God answers in a way that we do not expect or understand (Isaiah 55:8)
- We do not listen (James 1:19)
- We have forgotten that prayer is two way!!
- We give up too easily
And on that last point we come to our reading where Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. When we face resistance and obstacles in prayer, we should not give up. And notice how Jesus didn’t simply say don’t give up. He also said always pray. Or as Paul later goes on to say in the New Testament “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18) Other translations use “pray without ceasing”.
Jewish custom and practice at that time was that it was considered best to pray three times a day so as not to weary God! But to pray without ceasing and not give up does not mean an endless monologue, but keeping our prayer requests constantly before God as we journey through each day, believing he will answer. When we sleep at night our vital body functions persist…it is how we are hard wired. We continue to breath even when we are asleep…and that is how our prayer should be, as natural as breathing. We are hard wired to be in relationship with God too.
We are told in Scripture to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-8), which concerns our personal and intimate prayer lives with God. Yet we are also told in Scripture the importance of corporate prayer (Matthew 18:19-20). We must also remember to put on the “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-20)
If we know God, and we know the heart of God – through his Son Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit – we would never ask for anything in prayer that is out of kilter with God’s right and holy way. And when we are in that depth of relationship with God, as children of God, we begin to realise what covenant is all about which was mentioned in our first reading. And in that covenant, God says “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
That is what Christ has accomplished. That we may come before a Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Father, in faith, hope and love. So don’t give up, may your prayers be as natural to you as breathing, and may you be led into a deeper relationship with Him.Amen