Prayer

Posted: October 28, 2008 in Uncategorized

Dr. Grudem writes in his massive Systematic Theology that “prayer is personal communication with God.”  But why engage in such communcation? I mean, God never changes and God knows what we need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8).  Grudem argues for the following:

(1) Prayer acknolwedges our dependence upon God as a loving and wise father (Matt. 6:9);

(2) Prayer brings us into fellowship with God just as the Trinity has a perfect relationship with each other (even though they know everything already!), prayer is our opportunity to speak with God as our father.  It establishes and maintains a relationship between us; and

(3) “…in prayer God allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important.”

Moreover, prayer is effective.  It actually changes things (at least from our limited perspective) (See Exodus 32:9-12 for a powerful example.  It is made effective because we have a perfect mediator in Jesus (John 14:6, 13-14 and 1 Tim. 2:5). This is why Christians pray “in Jesus’ name.” “To come in the name of someone means that another person has authorized us to come on his authority, not on our own.” It also means to pray in accordance with Jesus’ will (1 John 5:14-15). These two ideas are equally important because we must not err in believing that we can use the name of Jesus like some kind of magical formula to get what we want.

Who should we pray to? The Trinity? The Father? The Son? The Spirit? Most of the prayers are directed to God the Father but not all (For examples of prayers to Jesus see Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 12:8, etc.)  There are no examples of prayers to the Holy Spirit alone but, as Dr. Grudem notes, if He is fully God (and He is!) then it would seem appropriate.

After all, the Spirit helps us with our prayers as Paul makes clear in Romans 8:26-27.

Dr. Grudem also notes some important considerations in regard to prayer:

(1) Pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15), which means knowing it which means at least knowing Scripture;

(2) Pray with trust in God (Mark 11:24; James 1:6, etc.);

(3) Strive for obedience for sin hinders our prayers (Ps. 66:18; Prov. 15:8, 29; 1 Peter 3:7, 12);

(4) Confess our sins in prayer (Matt. 6:12; 1 John 1:9) and, just as a footnote, don’t be wishy washy in naming your sins.  God is not a frail old man with tender ears.  He sees all and nothing you say will shock Him!

(5) Forgive others before praying for God will forgive as we forgive (Matt. 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). That ought to keep you up at night!

(6) Pray with humility (James 4:6, 10).  As Dr. Grudem notes, “God is rightly jealous for his own honor.  Therefore he is not pleased to answer the prayers of the proud.”

(7) Continue in prayer over time.  This is one of the points of the parable found in Luke 18:1-8.  It is also important to look at Jesus who prayed “all night” (Luke 6:12) and repeated “the same words” in prayer (Mark 14:39);

(8) Prayer with emotion! Jesus did this (Heb. 5:7).  Prayer should never be rote for a mature believer.  These are matters of eternal consequence…treat them as such!

(9) Pray with patience.  The Lord’s timetable is not ours.  Trust that it will be answered. 

(10) Pray in private.  Note that Jesus liked to go to solitary places to pray (Luke 5:16).  Another interesting side note, J.I. Packer stated that he could not find a single instance of silent prayer among Christians before the 19th century! I have found that being alone and praying aloud helps me to focus;

(11) But also be willing to pray with others as many in the early church did (Acts 4:24).  There is something liberating about praying aloud with others;

(12) Try fasting when you pray.  It is interesting to note that Jesus did not command his disciples to pray…he assumed they would! (Matt. 6:16).  Fasting is a wonderful way to strip your day down and remind you to pray to God constantly.  I like to tell people that hunger pains during fasting are just calls to prayer!

(13) Worship God and thank Him. I think it is imperative to always thank God for all that He has given you in your life (amazing what we take for granted) and praise Him for all that He is.  I really believe this is a must for a healthy prayer life lest we turn God into a Holy Santa Clause.

Finally, (14) but what about unanswered prayers? Again, trust God.  He made all and He knows all! Jesus himself had a request shot down (Luke 22:42).  So did the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Remember that God “causes all things to work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). 

So…what are you waiting for? PRAY!

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