Posted: 3/8/19 at 8:20am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Recently I have been exploring the theme of prayer. It is a vast subject with many ways to approach it.
There are many questions that can arise about prayer, and perhaps you have some of these same questions:
What is prayer? Who should pray? To whom should one pray? What are some ways to pray?
A Christian’s general answers to these questions are: Prayer is a conversation between a human and God. But in order to be a conversation, it requires two-way communication, with both parties taking part in a dialogue.
Who should pray? I believe that God desires for all of us to take time to converse with him. However, as Christians we pray to God, who through our faith in Jesus has become our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:5-13). This is a very special privilege for us to have.
When we come to God through Jesus, we are born again (John 3:3, 5) and become children of God; and then as children, we have access to God through Jesus. We can enter right into God’s presence and present our requests to him, addressing God as Father, or our Father.
In Matthew 5:5 we are told not to pray in a way that makes it a big entertainment event. We are to pray to be heard by God, not by men. It is God who has to the power to answer our requests.
Jesus suggested that when we Christians pray, we should go into a quiet internal part of our home, close the door, and pray to our Father, who sees what we do and say in secret. Prayer is an intimate encounter with God. With God as our Father, we can talk to God anytime and anywhere, but the very intimate things are to be dialogued with God in person and in private.
Further, Jesus tells us not to pray like those who don’t know God, and who therefore use way too many words to try to get God to pay attention and grant their requests. Jesus tells us that God sees us praying quietly to him, and that we don’t have to badger him, since God already knows what we need before we ask.
Jesus said this in Matthew 6:7–8 (NLT): “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
Wow! Do we realize what Jesus is saying here? Do we realize what a wondrous gift God has given to us by giving us access to God through prayer?
I don’t think we do. Some years ago, I was speaking with a leader of a religious group who was struggling with the pressures of leading a congregation. So as our time drew to a close, I asked if I could pray for this person. The person said, “Sure, thank you.”
So I began my prayer with something like: “Oh Father, I bring my friend before you today, asking you to bless her life, ministry, and congregation.” It was a brief, heart to heart request made to God. Then the person declined to express their own prayer. I closed the prayer, and the person had tears running down her cheek. She said, “I have never heard anyone pray like that, talking so personally with God. We don’t pray like that; we read Psalms out loud as our prayers.”
This is why I say that I do not think we realize what a giant leap forward Jesus brought to us when he encouraged us to get one-on-one with God and address him as Father, or our Father, or my Father, and to pray in our own words.
In Jesus’ day, Judaism didn’t pronounce God’s name, lest they take God’s name in vain. But Jesus said, “Call God ‘Father.’” Talk to him as his beloved child. There is no need to hem-haw around; God already knows everything. So ask confidently!
Why pray, if God already knows what I am going to ask? Good question, right?
Yes, it is. We need to ask God in prayer, so that we will realize that the answer came from him. Had God done it without us asking, we would not so clearly realize that it is a gift from God—an answer to prayer. God loves to have us come in and spend time with him, pour out our hearts to him, and bring our needs and requests to him.
What are you waiting for?