Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Pray?

This is a tricky thing to think about. Primarily because I fully believe that God can and will do whatever He chooses whether or not I pray about it enough. Or pray about it in the right way. Or pray about it at all. He is God. His plan will be accomplished whether or not I choose to participate in it.

However, as firmly as I believe that, I equally as firmly believe in the importance and power of prayer. Not because God needs it, but because *I* do. Isn't it just like an omnipotent and yet oh-so-loving God who needs nothing from us to make our prayer times helpful to *us*? It boggles the mind really. But it also makes prayer a joy and an honor.

So why pray? For so many reasons for which there are many helpful resources far better than this blog to help you understand. :-D But if for some reason you are already reading, here are a few of my favorite reasons.

1. The Bible commands it. 

Ephesians 6:18--And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4:6--Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 4:2--Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

If we are to walk in obedience, we must pray. It's just that simple (and yet of course never that simple.) Not only does this please God and bring honor to Him, but it also gives us the right perspective that God is fully in control and we, in fact, are not. It correctly establishes the relationship of a helpless, needy human (me!) desperately needing the grace and love and peace and power of the God of the universe.

2. It establishes and strengthens Gospel community.

Have you ever shared deep, heartfelt, significant prayer requests with a friend? I don't mean stuff like praying that you can find your misplaced keys or praying for a little head cold to go away or praying for a "safe trip", although each of those things are certainly important. What I am referring to here are the stirrings of your very soul, the deepest longings of your heart--things like deliverance from abuse or addiction, the desperate cry of a parent whose children are far from the Lord, the unbearable pain of watching a loved one die a slow death, the ache in the soul after multiple miscarriages. Agony that only the grace of Almighty God can heal and soothe.

Conversely, have you ever prayed for someone dealing with scenarios like these? I mean, really prayed from the gut, maybe on your face in utter helplessness?

Is it possible to do so in such a way that doesn't knit your hearts together? I would argue that the answer is no. This kind of intimacy of the soul irrevocably causes people to link arms and journey together through the storm. What a beautiful testimony of Christian community.

3. It brings glory to God.

Have you ever witnessed a miracle that *didn't* get a response of awe and wonder? Well, actually, you know what? Never mind that, because I already know the answer is yes. The truth is that we ALL walk by dozens hundreds thousands of miracles every single day and treat them as though they're invisible. But that is a discussion for a different day. Let me re-phrase. Have you ever been one of many people praying for a specific outcome that everyone agreed could only be accomplished through the power of God? A miraculous healing? A person in the throes of addiction finding Christ and being transformed? Deliverance from a dangerous situation that defied all the laws of nature? My guess is that most of us have experienced something along these lines. And how do people respond in such situations? PRAISE GOD! Right? As we should.

To be clear, we should never conclude that God honored our request because of our prayer. God performs miracles because that's what he does. Our prayers simply bring attention to them in such a way that many can witness God's power and attribute to him the glory that he is always due (even when we aren't paying attention).

4. It destroys self-absorption.

At any given moment, if we're honest, we could all list at least 100 ways we'd like to see God intervene in our lives to make it easier/better/more successful, etc. And praying about those things isn't necessarily wrong or bad, though at times that list could certainly indicate some of the idols in our lives if we're willing to see them as such.

But there is something about begging God from the very depths of our hearts to spare a young mother from cancer so that her young children don't have to watch her die that makes praying for alleviation of some of our inconveniences seem far less important. This doesn't make praying for our seemingly less urgent requests wrong. It just keeps us from dwelling on them to the point of allowing self-pity and entitlement to creep into our hearts.

5. It stills our usually way-too-busy lives.

I know that everyone is different. Some can lose themselves in a book even when they are surrounded by noise and distraction. (I cannot.) Some can multi-task like champs as long as none of the individual tasks require calm or quiet. (I'm pretty good at this.) Some need calm, quiet and intense concentration on one task at a time, whether it be reading or any other activity. (I don't think I've ever had this opportunity. ;-))

Regardless of where any of us fall on this spectrum, I suggest that prayer should be focused and free of distractions as often as possible. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to "pray without ceasing" while we're driving or doing chores, etc., but this shouldn't be the only kind of prayer we engage in. Prayer warrants time sitting still and paying attention as we speak to and hear from our Savior.

6. It gives us a glimpse of our own sanctification as we seek to model Christ's behavior.

This was a bonus that I never thought about much until recently, and I certainly didn't know to expect this to happen. But I have found that as my prayer life has grown, I have become aware that my heart agrees with God and his word in ways that it didn't in my past. This is *unarguably* the work of sanctification and nothing that I can take any credit for.

Christ is the ultimate pray-er, right? Certainly he wins the award for intercessory prayer. No one does it like him. Thank GOD he sees fit to intercede for us the way he does! And if we are to pursue Christ-likeness, prayer and specifically intercessory prayer is part of that journey. The irony is that the more we understand the work of Christ in our hearts as we pursue him through the practice of intercessory prayer, the more we see our own transformation in the process. Brilliant.

7. It develops relationship with God.

There is no better way to grow and strengthen a relationship than to spend time talking and listening. Just as this is true of your relationships with family and friends, it is true of your relationship with God. Reading the word is of course absolutely critical to growth, but if that is all you do, it's sort of like getting voice mail messages from a relative you never see and not calling them back. Prayer is dialog. It's getting the message, calling back, and then getting a personal response. And we get to do this with the KING of the universe and LORD of all! Why would we NOT do that?

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