The concept of prayer can be as varied as the cultures and religions who practice it. All over the world people participate in prayer in many different ways. The Tibetan Prayer Flags, for example, are a beautiful symbol. I’ve known guys who have them hung in their garage or outdoor stores. But the truth behind their symbolism is more than meets the eye. The flags’ deeper meaning is a prayer that pursues a spirit of enlightenment, with a rather ambiguous combination of values. Muslims practicing Islam pray prayers that include ten steps, prayer mats and even must pray in a specific direction – an obviously very involved commitment to the ritual.

But what about Christians? According the scriptures, we understand Christ-followers are, “[…] like living stones being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). This theological truth, known as the priesthood of the believer, shows us that everyone who is a Christian has a relationship with Jesus that needs no mediator, go-between or ritual. Our prayer lives should reflect this truth. Hebrews 4:16 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Prayer as direct communication with God is both a privileged gift and a sincere encouragement.

Therein lies the conviction. If we have such a privilege and should be so encouraged, what is the role of prayer in our life? Consider your life and prayer in the context of the following:

Prayer Ensures Humility Men have the stereotype of never stopping to ask for directions. No matter how lost or how frustrated, a man will rarely confess he is lost. Same for assembly instructions. Most men give a quick look at the picture on the cover of the box and then get started – if he is like me, then left holding several screws, nuts and bolts that were mysteriously never used! Often, we treat prayer the same way. Prayer is considered a secondary option in our lives. If we can’t figure out the problem or overcome the life-challenge on our own, we’ll finally stop and pray about it.

Whenever we pray about all things, we are submitting our life to the leadership of God. Whenever we pray about decisions we must make, we declare God’s wisdom is greater than ours. In order to be a mature Christ-follower, our prayers should not be our last resort. Instead prayer should be the first, humble step we take in walking through life in a relationship with God. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

When I had the privilege to visit a dear pastor-friend in Brazil we prayed many multiple times during the day. He never took a moment for granted. His humility toward and recognition of God’s love was inspiring and convicting. We shouldn’t have to be “on the mission field” to have that kind of perspective.

Prayer Encourages Trust Hopefully all of us have a mentor. Or possibly multiple people we trust to give us advice. I’ve heard it said everyone should have a “Board of Directors” for their life. If you’ve seen someone who has a healthy marriage, go to them for marriage advice. If you know someone who is financially secure, ask their help managing your finances, etc. No offense, but the guy who has never been married, plays video games 10 hours a day and lives in his momma’s basement isn’t the best person to ask for relationship advice! Whenever we spend time in prayer listening to God, we are living lives that trust Him. God isn’t just a magic eight ball who gives us answers whenever who shake Him and turn Him over. He communicates with us and grows in us passion and clarity. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Prayer Engages Relationship Without raising your hand, how many of us are guilty of never praying at any point during the day? But then when finally crashing with our heads on our pillows, we offer up a weak collection of sentences as we drift off to sleep! In what world would that describe a healthy relationship with anyone? Imagine, if you are married, only talking to your spouse for a few minutes each day and expecting that to be enough to maintain a healthy relationship. I can remember whenever my wife and I first started dating we lived about five hours away. We talked every night. Without a doubt, we would both reorganize our schedules to never miss a phone call. Yes, we were that sappy couple that ended each phone call with, “no you hang up, no you hang up…” Sadly, there exists a God of this universe who loves you more than you will ever fully understand (Psalm 139), who gave His Son to die for your sins (John 3:16) and chooses to give you grace and mercy every day (Matthew 7:9-11) yet we barely acknowledge He exists in our lives. Some people who profess to be Christians will go days without spending time in prayer. James 4:8 tells us as we draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. Prayer keeps our relationship with God healthy and His presence in our lives even more experiential.

Prayer Evokes Power There is a dark evil in our world. Some days it feels palpable. If you’re not careful, as has been my experience on occasion, you can become completely overwhelmed by it. That darkness is called sin. The consequences of sin can seem devastating. Cancer, for example. A unique emotion it is to be furious, blood-boiling angry and have no one to direct that anger toward. No person to be culpable for such a devastating killer. Today is the day after the bombing in Manchester. Will these spineless acts of terror ever stop?! Each world-stopping, news-breaking event more gut-wrenching than the last…

If there were to be a transcript of our prayers, how brave would they be? Do we actually take time to pray for the things that break our hearts? Or do we simply surrender to the fact that world is a bad place and there’s not thing anyone (including God) can do about it? I’m afraid we are guilty of only wearing awareness bands and retweeting the latest trendy, post-tragedy graphic. Or maybe even worse, I know I’m guilty of learning of a situation and immediately picking up my phone to “jump into action”, as if I alone hold the power to fix the problem or heal after the catastrophe. It is great to be active in restoring the brokenness around us, but may we never forget God alone has the ability to save and heal – spiritually and physically. Jesus teaches us such in Matthew 19:26, “But Jesus looked at them and said,  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Therefore, we should call out on the name of Jesus to break chains, the name of Jesus to heal sickness, the name of Jesus to put a stop to life-ending calamity.

If the engine of a car is like your life situations, as you are under the hood stop asking for Jesus to hand you the right tool – start asking Jesus to be the tool who is the answer and source of all you need.

Jesus doesn’t only provide us the answer to our prayers –

Jesus is the answer to our prayers! 

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord 
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford. 

I need thee oh I need thee 
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now my savior 
I come to thee.

I need thee every hour
Stay thou near by 
Temptations loose their power
When thou art nigh. 

I need thee oh I need thee 
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now my savior 
I come to thee.

Annie S. Hawks, 1872

 

 

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