If there is one singular importance in the life of a Christian, I would definitely say prayer is at the top of my list. There are so many things I’ve learned and come to understand over the last year regarding prayer in the life of a believer, so I think I’ll split it up into multiple posts. First, I’d like to speak to the importance of prayer as a spiritual discipline.
Why? Well, firstly, Christ died in our place. Because of his sacrifice, we can bow our heads in prayer, marching boldly into the throne room of God to present before him our requests, desires, pains, burdens, sins, and we can know with confidence he hears us. The Bible tells us in Matthew 11:22-26 and John 14:1, 6, 13-14 that when we pray in full assurance of faith in the name of Jesus, we can be sure that God hears our prayers, and answers them.
Secondly, prayer is not only how we talk to God, but it is also how he speaks to us. This is one of the mysteries of the faith that still awes me every time I bow my head in prayer. God speaks to us through many ways, one of which being the conviction by the Holy Spirit of sin in our lives. I pray Psalm 129:23-24 regularly! “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” This is my desperate plea for God to look at my heart and my motives- both good and bad- and to convict, and purge me of all unrighteousness. Some days, there’s an especially long list and I am always floored by God’s willingness to faithfully forgive my sins. There is value in listening prayer; asking the Lord to speak to your heart and then actually listening for the still, small voice. That’s why prayer and Bible reading are so important. Prayer is how we communicate with God, and His Word is where instruction is given, and understanding and wisdom gained.
Thirdly, there are numerous and infinite possibilities for God to use his children in the world for the furtherance of his kingdom. BUT, He has ordained that he will only do those things when we humbly do so in HIS strength and not from our own. Matthew 17:14-21 is an excellent example of this principle in scripture. Jesus had sent out his apostles with his full authority to drive out demons, heal the sick, and proclaim the good news of Jesus (Matthew 10:1) but when a man with a son possessed by demons approached them for help, they failed. Why? Jesus said because of their little faith and that the kind of demon could only be brought out by prayer and fasting. Not by their own wills or abilities, but only when they were truly devoted to God in prayer and fasting could they be close enough to God to be used as conduits for his mighty power. I think of my husband’s deployment often when I think of prayer. He was in Okinawa Japan, so non-combat tour, but there would be months solid of absolutely zero communication between us. He had no idea what was going on in my life, I had no idea what he was doing, where he was, with whom he was working or training. It was a very difficult time in our relationship because we lost a sense of intimacy; we weren’t close by proximity, or in familiarity. That’s how it is when we don’t pray to God. We lose out on the intimacy of the relationship and we don’t get the chance to truly know Him and he cannot work through us if we maintain that distance.
God hears our prayers, He wants to answer them according to His will for his glory, and there are some things that God will only do when His people obediently come to Him in prayer.
What would the world look like if every person who claims they belong to Christ Jesus would actually commit to praying daily? I imagine it would be something like what happened in the first century church.
“When they had prayed, the place where they assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.” (Acts 4:31, HCSB)