As we begin this series on prayer, I recognize that there are a lot of thoughts and ideas that come up around the issue of prayer. Many of these, we will not have a chance to get to in the course of the series, so I wanted to use this venue to explore some of them a little further.
Although Christians enjoy a rich tradition of prayer, someone new to the faith might ask the question: Why pray? What does it do? Why is it important?
As I’ve thought about this question, I come up with the following list of reasons that we pray as Christians.
God calls us to pray. Jesus modeled for us a life of prayer and suggests that we should pray. Therefore, if we are going to be followers of Jesus, we should model our life after his example.
Prayer develops our relationship with the divine. Prayer is as simple (and as complicated) as communication and connection with the divine. It assumes that we can connect to something larger than us, namely the Creator of the universe. Therefore, we enter into prayer to know God and be known by God.
Prayer battles pride and narcissism (develops thankfulness). Prayer acknowledges that we are not dependent on something (and someone) outside of ourselves. We are not completely self-sufficient creatures. Therefore, prayer orients us to gratitude for the things which we have received.
Prayer helps in times of temptation. We have access to powers beyond ourselves. Prayer connects us to those powers, especially in times of temptation. It grounds us in the things that are good, true, and beautiful, especially when we are drawn away by unhealthy and destructive pulls of the world.
Prayer provides solace and comfort to the afflicted. Too often, people suffer alone and in silence. When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death, he promised to send the Holy Spirit, whom he Calle the Comforter. One of the things that the Spirit does in our lives is comfort us in troubles. Prayer connects us to that healing and comforting power.
Prayer develops a life oriented to God. Throughout Christian history, followers of Jesus have often practiced prayer at set times throughout the day. Known as liturgical or “fixed hour” prayers, these serve to orient one’s day around the presence of God and a devotion to God. Regular prayer has a way of shaping us in profound ways.
Prayer can provide guidance and direction. As a pastor, one of the questions I get asked most often revolves around knowing the will of God. There are a number of suggestions that I frequently give (going to scripture, seeking wise counsel, evaluating giftedness, etc.), but the best advice is to pray. The scriptures say that if we lack wisdom, we should ask for it. Prayer gives us the ability to do just that.
Prayer actually changes things. Throughout scripture, we see evidence that prayer has the power to effect change in the world. There is ample evidence that God’s actions are affected by the specific prayers of people in a dynamic way. (I’ll discuss this more in a later post.)
Prayer is a spiritual weapon. Ultimately, our fight is not against an earthly enemy. We fight against principalities and powers in the world. We fight a spiritual battle. Therefore, we must use a different set of weapons from those used in the world. Prayer is one of our greatest tools in the battle against evil. It can unleash the power of heaven to fight for God’s people.
Prayer unleashes the power of the Spirit in our world. We can do very little on our own. In the book of Acts, we see an example of the church growing by leaps and bounds. We see healings taking place and lives being transformed. In fact, we see the world being turned upside-down for the sake of Christ. If we read carefully, we see that this is all the result of a prayer meeting that took place in the upper room as God’s people gathered together. In fact, every great revival in history has started with God’s people in prayer.
Prayer unites believers in one mind and heart. When you pray with another person, it unites your mind and heart in way that is unparalleled. It connects you with others in a supernatural way. It brings an intimacy with others that we just don’t experience in many of the other interactions in life. It bonds us and unites us as a family.
These are just a few of the ideas that came to my mind when answering the question: Why do we pray? I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Why do you pray? Feel to add them in the comment section below.