God’s Bigger Purpose for Prayer

A godly man is a praying man. As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out. Prayer is the soul’s traffic with Heaven; God comes down to us by His Spirit, and we go up to Him by prayer.” Watson

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1, Matthew 6:5-13) He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.  Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.  He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray.  Prayer is to be a normal part of our life so much so that Paul said we are to never stop praying 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  

Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering and communicating with God.  It is like oxygen to our inner man.  It is the continual breathing in of the life of the Living God. 

When Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer the first order of business was the glory of God and His purposes being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This was before specific daily needs and guidance.  The focus is on God’s greatness and His will.  It is the continual reminder that He is God and we are not.

A story that highlights this important truth 

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray.  Their individual needs, will, and desires are often first and foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this.  Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation.  If He is the God of all creation then our alien friends obviously want to find out what this God is all about.

They decided to send an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  He was invisible so he was able to get an accurate account as he observed.  He watched and listened in on their communication with God.  He listened to their personal prayers.  Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently.  He also attended several varieties of Christians meeting together.  Most of the meetings had “prayer request times” or points in the gatherings where they prayed for each other.

Most of what he heard went something like this.

Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog.  Pray for me that I have the will power to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise God helped me win in the drawing at work.  Pray that God would get the devil off my back, he has really been harassing me.  Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to the school she really wants to attend.   Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better.  Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced so I have something to match my new outfit.  I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss.  How about making me the boss.

As the envoy not only observed the way Christians lived but listened to their prayers He was able to quickly determine what this Christian God is about.  He reported to those who sent him, “Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beckoned call.  He exists to give them the kind of life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future.  The sum total of His existence is to serve them.  The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing,  “THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME.  IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT ”

Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”  

Three things prayer brings to our life

We must understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God and asking Him for things.  Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to living for God.

  1. Prayer first affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze.  Through prayer, we become more Christ-like and we become more inclined to do God’s will.  As we come under the force of His gaze (sight) we become softened towards repentance in the things that are hindering Him working in us.  We are also stimulated to do the things of God that may be dormant in our lives.  Through prayer, He works in us what is pleasing in His sight.  Heb 13:20-22…, even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.
  2. Prayer affects our revelation and understanding. By praying and seeking God He is able to influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will.  “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9).
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart and we are influenced to live for His will.  The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It does emphasize that God purposely chooses to connect much of what He does with prayer. Our hearts also become intertwined with His causing us to progressively live more for “His sake” nor ours.

Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and co-labor with Christ in what He is doing.

If you want help in having a more Christ-centered and less self-centered prayer life here is a resource you can download called “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.”  It lays out the understanding of praying for God’s will then gives us examples as a guide to every prayer in the New Testament that the writers prayed.  This will help get us on track in co-laboring with God according to His will in prayer.

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