How is your prayer life? Is prayer your first response for all thoughts and encounters in your life? If not, we need to examine, why not!
Matthew 6: 5-15; 7: 7-12; Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 23:46; John 15:4-5; Romans 8: 18-30; James 5:13-18
Have you ever thought through why you do not spend more time with God? What aspects of your time and commitment hold you back from prayer? Most of us do not have the kind of prayer life we should have; in my experience, most people give up because either they do not know how to pray, or they do not understand the significance of prayer. Others may have prayer lives, but they are not godly or effectual prayers; these tend to be the prayers with only the self-interests or personal agendas in mind. We may know about prayer, but is our understanding and practice lined up to Christ as Lord, or to what we want? One might presume that a Christian in a church automatically knows how and why to pray, but few are ever taught the power, relevance, and importance of prayer. Therefore, we go on presumptions and perhaps even model our prayers after someone else, not from what God has communicated to us.
The Purpose of Prayer
Prayer is not just to get what we want; it is aligning ourselves up with His thoughts, ways, and precepts. The focus of our prayers is Christ, His work, and His impact on you, your family, and the world. This is what the Lord's Prayer is about (Luke 11:1-4). The main theme of prayer is our vital connection with God as Lord and Savior, and His empowering us for all we do in life. He is sovereign; He directs our lives as well as the rest of the universe, so we must get in tune with Him. We must lean on and dwell in Him so we are infused with His Way rather than clouded and distracted by our ways or the ways of the world.
If prayer is our connection with God, then to ignore prayer means we are trying to put God out of our lives. When we misuse prayer, we are usurping God's authority and missing out on His best for us. We are treating God like a pet, giving Him the time and affection when it is convenient for us, when it fits our needs, concerns, and occasion. God must come first and prayer helps us make this happen. Prayer is one of, if not the most quintessential important aspect of the Christian life. Prayer needs to be number one for the serious Christian to whom Jesus is not merely Savior but also LORD. However, to make entreaty (deep prayer) with God our first priority, we must first receive His redemptive work through the power of the Spirit. Once we have received His amazing gift, and His work is transforming and renewing us (Rom. 12:1-3), prayer becomes our response to Him, and helps us continually commune His Work within us.
Do we truly understand the power, significance, and the eminence of prayer?
If not, why not? What is in the way of prayer being more momentous in our lives? We need to ask ourselves, what has happened in my life and how am I responding in prayer to my connection to God? What will it take to become more of a person who has "heartfelt prayer" at my core; what will it take for me to be a "prayer warrior," whose life goal is to make Christ first in all things? The prerequisite for this type of effective, prayer warrior prayer is consistency and growth in our prayers. In conjunction, we learn about prayer and life in general from spending time with Him and His Word, and by continually growing in that prayer life. We also become better equipped to handle all that comes our way.
Prayer helps us see the great expectations He has for us, but this insight does not come about all at once. As with any growth, it is gradual. Prayer is something that does not just happen overnight; it is like planting a seed that germinates, grows, matures, and then produces its fruit. The seed alone does not produce the fruit; it is only after its growth and development from its time in the sun, the water and fertilizer, and its care and cultivation that brings about its bountiful harvest. It is the same with our growth in Christ! Prayer develops as we consistently obey Christ. It is watered by the fertilizer of His Word. The care and cultivation come from effective, godly teachers. Our nurturing and learning feeds our roots in Him. If we negate our cultivation of prayer, we are negating Christ in our life and the result will be a very slow growth, perhaps even a retardation in our spiritual formation. Prayer needs attention and constant tending for effectual growth.
Prayer helps create more of itself. Prayer begets more prayer and that begets greater spiritual formation. When our prayers are not just self-focused, but engage others as well, our Christian walk becomes deeper, more relevant, and heartfelt. Heartfelt prayer is the sense of passion and urgency that needs to come before progress can take place. This is where prayer becomes more real and transfers into an authentic connection with God, not just regarding Him as a vending machine for meeting our desires.
Our prayer life grows when we plow the field and plant the seed so it can grow. We must plow away the weeds of our selfishness along with the things in life that distract and obstruct us. This must take place to bring more nourishment into our soil from His presence, so the seeds of our faith can grow into the mustard tree of maturity and service. We have to know God and His Word first; then we will know the importance of worship and faith development that fuels our prayer that in turn fuels our worship of God and connection with others.
Prayer is reciprocal, as it needs to be a perennial and continual attitude that begets a perpetual, continuous, constant action; thus, prayer is a ceaseless relationship we have with God and that echoes in eternity. Prayer begets our character and maturity, and in turn, our character and maturity help spur on our prayer life. Learning about God and worshiping Him brings us closer to His presence and makes our prayers deeper and more alive.
Prayer is Passion that honors Christ, synergizes our Christian growth; it forms from our realization of who He is and what He has done for us. Passion increases prayer from explorations, curiosity, or perhaps a selfish mindset, to a vigorous lifestyle. Prayer becomes more continual and effective as we build on our growing relationship with Him. Thus, the characteristics of knowing Christ, worshiping Him, learning more about Him, and practicing prayer through the work of the Holy Spirit fuel the growth of our prayer life. Then those characteristics backflow to cause each one of them to work synergistically better.
Consequently, as our prayer life grows, so does our worship and learning of Christ. As our relationship grows, our gifts and skills grow, our meaning and purpose in life grows, and so forth (2 Peter 1:5-9). Therefore, more prayer will cause us to be more passionate, have deeper worship experiences, become better leaders, develop more knowledge, maturity, and character, and become better servants and friends.
Readying ourselves for Prayer
For real prayer to function at its apex, we need to acknowledge who God is, and see Him as Lord Supreme over all things, including our very lives (Col. 1). We must have this mindset to see God as worth our prayers and surrender, and this worship as "worth" ship. We must seek Him out for all occasions in life so that in all situations, we have a first response of praising and adoring Christ for who He is, and because He is worthy of eternal praise (Isa. 6:1-8, Rev. 4-5). We then develop those great traits of love, faith, and hope that Colossians 1 tells us about. This fuels our attitude of praise and helps produce our attitude of prayer! Prayer requires us to have a mindset and attitude of pursuing our communication with God.
But, do we do this? We have to ask ourselves, what are we to do first in all situations? Is it to complain, or argue, or be stressed out? Usually, we do all three! In conjunction, we quickly skip prayer and venture to the art of squabbling and complaining to one another, while blaming God. We then worry, and get anxious and frustrated! What should we have been doing? The answer should be obvious! We are called to pray; prayer not only sets a tone for us in our behaviors and insights, but it also brings Christ into the picture with us more powerfully and effectively. Then, we are centered where we should be spiritually as well as in our thoughts and emotions. It is not about getting what we want, as we may get a yes, or a no, or maybe a call to wait for the right timing. Prayer is also not about seeking God selfishly, and asking, "What have you done for me lately?" Forgetting the magnitude of what He has already done for us! God calls us to prayer in all situations we face, the good times and the bad.
In James 5:13-18, we have a series of calls to prayer. It is a call to get ready and align ourselves with God and His interests, so we can apply His best for us. We are all indeed called to prayer; it is not a talent, a special ability, or a spiritual gift. It is not for specific times or with certain postures. Rather, it is the communication of an encounter with our loving, living Lord! Prayer is a call, and we need to know the veracity and importance of it.
Prayer is not about compulsory formulas.
Rather, it is the encouragement for us to pursue God! When we seek Him, we are ready to engage in the appeals and requests for those who are in need and in sickness, including ourselves. Being ready in prayer means we can see beyond ourselves to the work of God around us and in others so we can pray effectively. Prayer is not only about what we see in front of us; it is about moving ourselves into God's plan and purpose, and living in His Kingdom (Psalm 119).
How do we ready ourselves? First, we must have a yearning and desire to commune with our Lord and Savior. The Spirit must persuade us to be yielded and to respond and seek Christ out so He can mold us, indwell us, motivate us, empower us, and shape us to His will-inside and out (Ps. 27:8). We must seek to converse with God so we can have a real, personal relationship with Him.
It all comes down to our willingness and desire. If we do not desire to pray, we will not pray and we will not grow spiritually. No matter who we are in Christ or our position in the church, if prayer is not our number one personal priority, our desires are skewed and our attention to Christ is amiss! Prayer must be a passion for us, and when it falls away, we should miss it and seek to rekindle it. The first thing we need for a great prayer life is a great desire to pray! We must give our priority and our time to prayer (Daniel 6:1-3, 10; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 22:39-46).
Have you passionately sought God?
If not, then do it! If you do it, do it more! Make an appointment with God and keep it regularly and consistently! Remember, this does not just happen; it is a result of sometimes years of Christian practice and efforts. We must make the determination and commitment, and then stick with it. Real, authentic Christian formation is developed when we give up the rights to ourselves, and hand over our Will to Christ. In so doing, we begin to understand what is important in life, and experience true freedom as the chains of slavery formed by our self-willed actions and thinking are broken. We become transformed and renewed by what He has done; this works deeper and more powerfully as our devotion increases, and we become more aware of whom we are in Him.
We can take great comfort that God is concerned and cares about what we have to say. We can have the expectation that God will be there to receive us (Luke 11:13; Heb. 4:16). We can come to know and enjoy Him and to be with Him for He is already with us. God is gracious and good; He has promised and is eager to respond to us!
A pastor I worked with once told me why he does not pray. He said, "Why should I pray since God is all knowing; why waste my time?" Sadly, this pastor was missing the point of what prayer is all about. His personal life was in ruins, his wife was leaving him, his kids were in rebellion, and his church was in dysfunction. Yet, he refused to see and commune with God in his life and church. It was not that he did not believe God. He just thought why should I when God already knows. Thus, he left God out of his life.
Yes, God is all-knowing; He knows what will come from your heart and mouth eons before you say it, but He still wants to hear it! We can never say we do not need to pray because God already knows. Prayer is not about what God knows; it is about our learning and leaning on Him! Our heartfelt prayers reflect our dependence on, and our trust and love of Him. Prayer is obedience and communion! This is the reason we are on earth-to know Him, to learn about Him, and to share Him with others. This cannot happen if we are not communing with Him (Rom. 8:27; 15:18 Eph. 1:4, 5, 11; Heb. 13:21; 1 John 5:14)!
Being molded for Prayer
What is prayer? Prayer is an intimate communication between God and man. It is the wonderful privilege of talking directly to God at any time about anything. We have this opportunity because of what Christ did. The Christian life is about the ongoing, personal relationship you have with God through Jesus Christ and what He has done that is for now and all of eternity. As we are in Christ and He is in us, we are in a sacred, transcending union. It is as a Bride bestowed to her husband, given each to the other. Prayer is the communication between Christ and His Bride-between Him and us! We must see the sacredness of prayer so we can better receive its impact!
God is a jealous God and wants us with Him without distractions; it is almost like a marriage. We are bestowed to one husband as the Bride of Christ. Thus, when we neglect or abuse prayer, we are literally cheating on God just as one might cheat on a spouse! This form of carelessness, not only neglects God, but also betrays Him! Yes, fortunately, we have grace, but why would we even desire to cheat on our loving Lord? When we jump to other solutions-even good ones-and we leave prayer out, we are cheating on God. However, this does not mean we should only pray and do nothing else, as prayer requires the motion of our will, hands, and feet in response.
Prayer is the spiritual communication between human beings and God. Just as in a good effective marriage, communication must be present; it must be clear and ongoing. If not, the marriage decays and even divorces. God will not divorce us, but we can decay our relationship with Him when we neglect prayer or fail to see its relevance. We must have a prayer life that is real and growing in order to have a viable relationship with God. We talk, He listens; He talks, and we listen. It is a two-way street!
But, in this communication, we are not an equal partner, as we are before the Holy God of the universe. It is like a child before his or her loving Father. The Father listens, instructs, challenges, disciplines, and loves. We, as children, may ask, but it is not always in our best interest to get what we want. God, who loves and nurtures us, will say, "No" to what we may think we need and want and we have to see that as OK. He has more knowledge and understanding, and sees beyond what we can see (Psalm 91:15; Isa. 65:24; Matt. 7:7). We can have confidence that God does indeed hear and respond to our prayers!
Payer is about what God is doing in and through us
Prayer is receiving the amazing, redemptive work of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, so His power and purpose can flow into us and then on to others. Prayer is spending time and talking with God, expressing our hearts to Him and our interceding on behalf of others. It is meant to be exciting, powerful, and fulfilling. Just as in a phone conversation, prayer is not a one-way communication. God will speak to us-not necessarily as a burning bush, but often in quiet ways, so we must also listen. However, always compare to Scripture, what you think He said, as He will never contradict Himself. That way, you will be able to differentiate your desires from His precepts. There is no need we can ever face that prayer cannot meet; there is never a problem we go through that prayer cannot answer (Psalm 46:10; Matt. 6:7-15, Luke 11:1-13)!
Prayer is the expression of our intimate relationship and union with Him. Our union with Christ is the basis of how and why we are able to commune with Him. This is also described as "Communion" as the Lord's Supper is also a means of communication, and goes beyond ceremony into real, practical intimacy (Isa. 52:15; 53:12; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Cor. 11:17-25)! It is not to be just a ritual in our church or a quick thing we do before bed, but an enduring, passionate attitude of building our relationship with Christ. It is about who we are in Christ, so we can see His Holiness and His availability to communicate with us and us with Him. This involves a gift; as we present ourselves to God, our will is laid aside and our desires are put on hold, so His plan and eminence can be seen we can respond to Him (John 3:30).
Prayer is our availability not ability
We are to make ourselves available and bestowed to Christ. We give ourselves to Him just like in a wedding ceremony where the pastor asks who is giving this bride to be married and the parents respond, I do, or we do. We are in union with Him through His gift of grace, the Spirit, and faith to us and communicate with Him. All this is rooted in what He has done for us on the Cross. He has personally done this for you; you did not deserve it! Thus, we need to see that prayer is not just casual conversation, or something laid aside until we need Him; rather, it is a deep, metaphysical union between the Holy, Awesome God of the universe and us. He is beyond any human means of communication, yet, He allows us this communication! Prayer needs our attentiveness and utmost respect, so we are molded to Him. Prayer is indeed most sacred. Let us never take it for granted. We must see prayer as a privilege and go before Him with the utmost respect, reverence, and adoration! (2 Cor 5:11; Eph. 5:25)!
Something must happen in us for this attitude of prayer to come about. That is, we must see Him-really see God. We will not see Him literally. Since God is eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient, He cannot be seen with human eyes. We must recognize His presence, His reality, His purpose, His love, His care, and His plan as He enfolds us. This comes about from developing our relationship with Him. Through a steady diet of our spiritual formation, we become more aware of Christ and His work. Then, we can resound with faith and maturity. Thus, as we grow, our communication with Him grows. Our faith becomes honed; it becomes more prevalent and powerful.
Prayer is not just an exercise we do. Rather, it is active communication with God. It is the most important action for us in any manner or endeavor. Prayer is not about our will; it is rather a means to seek His (Matt. 6:33).
Many people, including pastors, make the mistake of thinking that prayer is the preparation for whatever we do. This is true to a point, but prayer is not merely preparation! Oswald Chambers said, "Prayer does not just prepare us for ministry and service, prayer is our ministry and service." Prayer is not just a means to prepare us for the encounters and battles of life, prayer is the battle we do in life! Prayer is more about being the greatest work we can do than the results we receive from it!
Remember, our obedience is what is important, not how others respond to us. We are even called to bless those unreasonable people, and we do that by remaining true to His Lordship. You cannot be responsible for how others respond and treat you when you are acting in godly character (Rom. 12:14-21; James 5:13-18).
The Battle over Prayer
Do the things above seem ominous, too hard to do-perhaps impossible? We need to ask ourselves, why is it so hard for me to pray? If you do pray, what keeps you from praying more? Why is it hard to pray when most Christians have experienced its benefits? After all, prayer is so satisfying it soothes us. Even secularists, who do not acknowledge God either personally or redemptively, see its power and relevance in such areas as medicine, personal improvement, and one's attitude about life. Is it a paradox or a battle? The battle over prayer is the battle over the will-ours versus the world's, God's direction versus our desires. Do we follow God's way or our way? The battle will march on; both the casualty and the chief armament is prayer!
The first casualty is that we forget! We forget what prayer is all about even after we experience it firsthand. The devil desires this; what is it that you desire? Prayer clears and occupies the field for the planting and harvest, and prepares us for action and service. Yes, we struggle in prayer against the ways of Satan and his antagonism to Christ and His rule (Matt. 4:1-11; John 8:44, 14:30; Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 2:1-2; 6:10-20 1 John 5:19), but this is not always where the prime battles take place. The fact is, the power and authority Satan has over the Christian was broken on the cross and his doom was sealed (Matt. 25: 41; John 12:31; 16: 9-l0; Col. 2: 15; 1 John 3:8). Christ has given us power in His name over all the power of the Enemy. Yes, he still can persuade and manipulate, but we can resist his influences (John 4:7; 1 Pet. 5: 8-9). More significantly, our prayer life protects us from his assaults (Matt. 6: 13; Eph. 6:14-20).
From my personal experiences and studies, it seems that Christians are engaged in an escalating personal, moral, and spiritual battle. We quickly think this is all about spiritual warfare, and a lot of it is; but, that is not all of it. We are in a fight with our very selves over prayer and the growth of our soul. Those things with which we fill our lives and that take over our mind and time are the munitions of this battle! We wage war between our idea of what is important, what we desire, versus what God says is important, and what we should desire. Thus, prayer is pushed aside, even when we know we need it. We are literally struggling in prayer against ourselves (Rom. 7:14-25, Gal. 5:16-24, Eph. 2:3)! Prayer is at the forefront of most, if not all conflict we will face. Prayer is the conflict because, although we need it, we either forget it or do not desire it!
This is something left over from our sinful nature, even though we are in Christ. We also struggle in prayer against the ways of the world. We struggle with our will that is in conflict with God's as well as the worlds. Which side of the fight will we take? Are we seeking the objectives and approval of the world or the love and approval of God? Will we fight against God or against our sinful selves (John 16:33; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:4-6; Phil. 1:27-30)?
The decisive battles from the conflict with our desires, the ways of Satan, and the world are usually hidden from our mindset. We see what we want to see, but God wants us made aware of our inner conflicts, so we can fight, and so we can seek Him. He has given us the tools of prayer and spiritual growth, so we can win the war within us. This is nothing new; read any biography of great Christian leaders and saints who are real prayer warriors. They, too, have struggled on the inner battlefield, fighting out these issues of righteousness and redemption. The key to winning is to know that God is our ally (Luke 10: 17-20; Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1: l3; Heb. 2: 14-I5; Rev. 12: 11)!
Prayer is a Relationship
Perhaps, one way to see our prayer life is as a relationship. A relationship is a living, growing entity that needs the fuel of attention and heart. We need to allow prayer to build slowly-like a relationship. Growing our prayer life is like growing a relationship. We start off as acquaintances; then, as we get to know each other, we become more confident and thus spend more time together. The time spent helps us get to know each other, and that helps build our trust, intimacy, submission, and so forth.
To make it work, as with any friend, we must desire to know and pursue him or her. In prayer, it comes down to Lord, I want to know You! Then, we must engage in the pursuit of knowing Him, regardless of how we feel or think. Therefore, we need discipline to make the time for growth, both in prayer time and impact. If it is important for you to do this with friends, work, or school, then your relationship with God should be even more important! God wants us to be intimate with Him, as in personal, active, and intimate! It is not about duty or obligation; rather, it comes out of the gratitude for what He has done for us. We have a love relationship that takes our hearts to be involved. Christianity is never to be passive; it is always to be active! Our participation must include our minds, hearts, and hands (Psalm 5:1-3; Ps 55:17; 88:13; 143:8; Isa 32:2; Prov. 23:7; Dan. 6:10; Matt. 6:6-7; Heb. 4:16)!
The building up of our spiritual intimacy does not develop automatically
We have to hunger and thirst for it. Our faith formation, through prayer, goes beyond knowledge and understanding, beyond practices or formulas; it is where faith is core and the Spirit is the lead. Thus, when we become a Christian, we start to pray; and that prayer life builds as we learn more about our Lord-both His precepts and Him personally. We desire to accept what He has given, and to seek more of Him in our lives. As our minds gather the knowledge of whom and what our God is, our heart needs to respond to it! However, it is not just the knowledge; it is what we do with it. We cannot advance our time and intimacy with God unless we make the effort to do so. Most importantly, we must allow the work of the Spirit to flow through us in all endeavors. (Psalm 32:5-6; 69:13; 84:2; 95:7-8; Heb. 10:7; 11:6).
When we are new in Christ, He knows us deeply beyond what we can fathom. However, we do not know Him beyond what the Spirit has laid on us, and that is limited to what we have received, learned, and taken to heart. We can be with a friend, not really knowing him or her, just as we can be a Christian and not really know God. Our closeness with Christ as Lord is at its beginning; this can apply to a brand new Christian or one who has gone to church for decades, but has done nothing with his or her faith, who received His love and redemption but that was all.
We need to know a person, so we can know more about that person and grow closer to that person. It is the same with our connection to God. As we begin our wondrous journey of our spiritual formation and prayer (1 Chron. 16:11; 22:19; Psalm 105:4; Isa. 26:8-9; Hos. 10:12; Joel 2:12-13; Amos 5:4-6, 8, 14; Zeph. 2:3; Matt. 6:33; James 4:8; Rev. 22:17), we start to take what He has given and pursue Him further. Spend time with Him, be available to Him, become acquainted slowly, and build your friendship consistently. Open your heart to His touch of love! Don't hurry; just enjoy Him so He becomes more than just an acquaintance. Seek Him deeply! Seeking God is not about salvation, for we cannot do that; rather it is our pursuit of growing in Him after we have been saved (Matt. 12:33; 18:3; Mark 10:15; John 3:3, 5; 14:9; Rom. 3:11; Titus 3:1-8).
As you grow in Him, you build your relationship with Him so the time you spend, the impact you receive, and your impact upon others grows, too. We become His friends more and more (John 14-15). Again, as with any relationship, we need to put in the desire, effort, and time to seek intimacy and seal that bond. He already has us, and, in His view, we are bound to Him for eternity. The growth and bonding needs work from our side! We must build a real, impacting friendship so we can spend more time together, know and grow more, and desire Him to use us more. This is beyond emotions; it is our growing response to His favor and grace, so we are partaking in Him (Rom. 8:16-17; Titus 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; 2:2; 1 John 5:1). This trust leads to more obedience. We rally from our disappointments and learn to grow in experiences as well as failures and sufferings to the point that we jump at any chance to know and grow in Him, regardless of what is around us (Psalm 125:11; Peter 4-5).
We pursue God because He first loved and pursued us. He is active in the world and desires to be active in us. It is up to us to take what He has given and build on it. Then, we can have the assurance of who He is, and we can build up our faith and prayer lives, which leads to stronger character, maturity, and spiritual formation. We become what he has called and formed us to be (John 10:3-5; 1 John 4:19). We have His love and His voice; it is up to us to hear and respond!
Prayer is a Recognition of God's Person, Purpose, Provision, and Presence
When we grow more in our prayer life, we will see more of God in our lives, more realization of Him and His power. Thus, everything we do will be affected in a positive way as a response of His work in us and our personal adjustments in becoming less of ourselves and more of Him (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil 3:1-14). James 5 calls this the power of faith; it refers to trusting in God and then being faithful towards our intercessory duty to others. It does not mean a special power, as some have proclaimed; rather, it is a call to action to show our Christian community our faith displayed as we care for one another.
Yes, God does heal today, but healing is not guaranteed or even normative. How we respond and learn concerns God over all else-even an actual healing. A healed body is of no good without a mind and heart centered on Him. It is merely a temporary restoration; it is of no eternal use. The power of God is never to be a show; His work in us is a more powerful and desirable venture!
The result of our prayer life will enable us to praise our Lord with unity and willing loving hearts along with other Christians. The James 5 passage calls this, Sing songs. This is one aspect that is never for show-it is real worship and not just music. It is a response of praise from our love. In worship, we are the performers and Christ is the audience. It is the same with prayer. What Christ has done in us should bring real, authentic prayer and worship. It is not about form, function, or type; it is about our hearts showing our love to Him. Prayer and worship share the same heart and attitude (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:12-17; James 5:13).
A real prayer life will bring an attitude of confession and cleansing of sin because of the commitment of our all to God. God's purpose, His plan, is to make us His children (1 John). He is the good parent who guides His children and protects them. At the same time, He does not over-protect them, so they lose opportunities to please Him.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be our Advocate before the Father and to make all experiences work to the glory and purpose of God, regardless of what we face in pain, suffering, and hardships. In the big picture, we are not meant for this world, but for eternity. We are here temporarily, but with hope for what is to come. Christ will see us through if we trust and obey in His way. When we understand this deeply, we are able to trust our Lord in all things. We can grow through our perseverance, and becoming stronger and more mature in the faith! Just think how transformed your life would be just by changing your perceptions of what you now see in front of you to seeing Christ in front of you!
Prayer is our walk with Christ
Colossians 1:9-14 gives us some very valuable insights on prayer. Paul gives us the motivations and reasons why we pray. Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. He tells us not to stop or cease to pray! This means that in the proper and honorable sense, we are always to pursue God and to seek Christ and His wisdom and knowledge through prayer and the Word (Ex. 28:30; 1 Sam. 12:23; Prov. 1:2-7; Col 1:9-14). We are to walk worthy of the Lord, which means to pursue God, His righteousness, and His precepts, so He becomes more, and we become less. This is our walk with God, meaning our living out the daily Christian life. It is never a walk in our own will and strength; this would bring pride and disobedience to our loving Lord (Lev. 26:3; Ezek. 36:27; John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; 5:16; Col. 1:9-14; Phil. 3:10-14).
How we do this? Colossians continues to tell us by saying that God qualified us. Paul boldly states that Christ alone accepts us. No entity in the universe has better qualifications than our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Rom. 3:23; Gal. 2:21; Eph. 1:1-11; 2:8; Col. 2:16, 18, 20-23)! The church at Colosse taught, which Paul corrected, that those other supernatural beings brought them wisdom, and they needed to get wisdom through channeling in order to grow in faith. Also, they taught that these beings could also hinder a person from seeking truth- a blatant contradiction. Thus, believing and seeking pagan gods or our own inclinations shows our lack of faith in the One True God. We need to see the goal, our inheritance! This meant, for the Jews the Promise Land, but more appropriate it is having God as our God, for us the Christian it is having Him live in us, and our possession of the world to come. We become "joint heirs" (Acts 3:25; Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; Titus 3:7; Heb. 6:17; 11:9; 1 Pet. 3:7) of His promises. He is the Light to shine on our life and path, the world is the darkens, we avoid the evil while bearing the Light by our deeds (Psalm 27:1; Isa. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 58:8-10; 60:1).
We pray out of gratitude
One more reason why we pray, as stated in Colossians, is He delivered us. This denotes rescuing a slave from captivity, as we are slaves to sin and darkness, but we obtain freedom in Christ (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:1-3; 6:11). He rescues us from the power of darkness, which refers to sin and the ways of the world that are meaningless and hopeless without Christ who is the Perfection. Only He has the power and authority to be the Light and shatter the darkness on our behalf (2 Cor. 3:15; 4:4-6; 6:14; Eph. 5:8-14; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:5). He has redeemed us. In the Greek, this means to free a slave by paying the price for him. We are the slaves that have been freed! We receive this forgiveness because Christ redeemed us; He paid for our sins (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 4:8-13; Col. 1:21-22; 2:13, 17, 20; 3:9-10).
Why is prayer important? Prayer is like a divine telephone of communication! It lines us up with Christ, and helps us be sensitive to His Spirit and to the needs of others. God, in His time, gives us a complete understanding of His will for our lives. The key is asking Him for this wisdom and insight. The focus is our spiritual formation; then, from our growth in Him, the opportunities and abilities to know and meet His call will come. When we focus on Christ, all the other things and stuff in life start to line up better; then we honor Him as Lord better!
Goodness and kindness come from a transformed heart poured out to Him. It does not flow from just the will to do it; we have to be the person, in Christ, to do the work to which He has called us. He gives us the strength and power to be in Him and to allow His love and fruit to flow from us. In Him, we can do all things; apart from Him, we can do nothing. With His power and purpose in us, we have the endurance, hope, and patience to overcome all that life throws at us-even stress and suffering!
Our identity and joy are in Christ alone! Let us be real, authentic Christians who are thankful for who He is, what He has done for us-His rescue, His Kingdom, His freedom, His forgiveness of our sins, and His purchase of our being. Christ is our inheritance, hope, and our very lives, both here on earth and for eternity to come. Therefore, let us live the Light; let us live out our lives as worthy (Col 1:9-14).
Do we fully understand that we have been rescued from sin and darkness, from hopelessness and despair? Has that hit home? To venture beyond our saving faith, we have to take heed and be encouraged because God is our Rescuer! Therefore, we are to respond in gratitude for His gifts (Col. 2:7; 3:17; 4:2)! Thus, to grow in our prayer lives, we must desire to experience a meaningful relationship with Him from the depths of our innermost being, all stemming from whom He is and what He has done!
Next: "How to Pray!"
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (M. Div.) And studies in London, England (Ph.D., Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.
© 2005, 2017 Richard J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries, www.intothyword.org