Prayer - Communicating with the Almighty (Article 17-2)
In ways, it’s easier to define prayer by addressing what it is not. First, we should never see or consider prayer as magic. Prayer should not be used to conjure up a mystical power upon a beckon call. God is not a magician that we call upon when we want something. The idea of “conjuring Him up” suggests He is not all present. Second, prayer is not a means to make demands of God. To do so tells us that our prideful nature remains in control of our mind and as a result, do not know who we are about God. Third, we don’t pray for God’s benefit, but for our benefit and the benefit of others. In considering this point, however, it’s important to understand that it must be our intent to meet God’s desire of pleasure and glory in all things. Fourth, maintain faith in knowing whatever God gives us is perfect. We must trust and wait on Him to answer our prayers in the manner and time of His choosing. Finally, prayer is not a tool to demonstrate one's holiness and devotion to God especially when the intended purpose is to bring glory to one's self. Christ tells us “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men” (Matthew 6:5). So, with this discussion on what prayer isn’t, let’s discuss the purpose and meaning of prayer.
What Is Prayer?
In short, prayer is a “petition” to God. Petitioning God means that we are appealing to His supreme authority for a specific purpose, cause, and request. Our petitions are based on the firm belief, that He will fulfill all His promises. In so doing, we must humbly communicate, worship and sincerely seek God’s face, presence, power, understanding, and unconditional love. The intent of our prayers should also serve to seek the attributes of His Being. Remember, that we are made in His image and according to His likeness. As such, it should be a natural desire as a spiritual being (believer in Jesus Christ) to feel and experience Him in every way possible. This is what He desires and with it, our understanding of why He created us in this way – to be able to communicate and have a relationship with Him – a relationship of oneness.
The Importance of Prayer
Our relationship with God is more than just becoming intimate friends. Our sights should be on being “a lover” with Him and all that it entails by way of commitment, sacrifice, and communication. As lovers, our relationship with God is characterized by believing and knowing that He:
[endif]Desires intimacy. God desires an intimate connection, communion, communication and oneness within our mind, heart, and physical body. Scripture tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36). With this, comes a glorified body, the mind of Christ and a renewed spirit – a spirit that hungers and thirsts for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
Has an interpersonal nature – a nature of love (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16) and all that love means by scriptural definition. If this was not true, there is no need to communicate with Him through prayer. This means too that God always desires the best for us because He loves us and He does so unconditionally.
Is all-powerful (omnipotent), meaning that no prayer is beyond His ability to answer, "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). No prayer is too great or small for Him. If God were less than all-powerful, then we would have no assurance that He could answer or even hear our prayers.
Is all-knowing (omniscient). This is also significant to the concept of prayer. If God were limited in His power, then He would not know all that is happening in His creation thus, might overlook our prayers because they might be beyond His knowledge. Fortunately, God knows everything for Jesus tells us, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8).
Is all Present (omnipresence). In Jeremiah 23:24 God declares, "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" By omnipresence, God's essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe and beyond in all its parts.
Is all loving (omnibenevolent). God loves us unconditionally. What does this mean? He loves us for what we are, who we are and as we are. We need not have to meet certain expectations or other conditions to receive His total love.
Is holy. God is perfect and knows what is best for us, as well as what will lead us to holiness. We must also realize that God is sovereign and with this, has a supreme charge of everything that happens in the universe and us in it.
True and Faithful. Everything that God has promised will come to pass. His faithfulness guarantees this fact. He does not lie. What He reveals about Himself in Holy Scripture is true. In fact, our Lord and Savior tell us that God is the Truth and the Way and it is on God’s faithfulness toward us that our hope of eternal life rests.
Go to God as A Lover
We must go to God as a lover. Talk to Him with conviction, passion, and a truthful belief that this is what you mean to ask of Him and are willing to receive from Him. God made the world without opposition and nothing to hinder Him; however, when He created us, he met tremendous opposition from Satan. Satan opposes Him at every turn and wants to take from God what God loves all that He’s created – us. Satan’s tactics are no mystery nor is it complicated to understand. His tactic is to isolate us from God by leveraging and exploiting what condemns us to death: Our pride and with this, our selfish and fleshly nature. If Satan is successful, by way of his accusations and worldly temptations, cause us to stay focused on the "self" within us, then his tactic of separating us from God has succeeded. We are no longer a victor in Christ, but Satan's victim.
Satan Is Opposed to and Hates Prayer
Satan hates prayer and his control over us using our pride (selfish nature) lead us not naturally to love prayer. Instead, our fleshly desires entice us to be apart from God with no passion for or interest in Him. This struggle continues even when we finally realize our need for Him and desire to communicate with God through prayer. We find ourselves struggling with our knowledge of God’s supreme authority over our lives. This leads our minds and hearts to conclude that our prayers can only lead to personal sacrifice and more misery. This is another one of Satan’s deceptions to keep us separated from all-loving Father.
How to Pray
I’ve read much about prayer and have always struggled with what it means and how to do it. In my studies, I came across a sermon of an Irish pasture named Colin S. Smith who enlightened me on the process of prayer. He explains that the process of prayer can be easily recalled through the memorization of a phrase. The phrase goes like this: “POSITION yourself in PRIVATE to PRAY what God has PROMISED with PRECISION, PASSION, and PERSISTENCE.”
Pray in a Position of Humility - Scripture describes in 1 Kings 18:42 how Elijah in his prayers prayed for rain, and he did so by bowing down on the ground and placing his face between his knees. His body was like a tiny little ball in the sight of God. In other words, Elijah humbly presented himself to God before he prayed. We see the same type of humility when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ fell on His face and prayed (Matthew 26:39). The point is that although the Bible gives us great latitude in how we may pray, there are particular times the posture of the body shows the importance and sincerity of our prayers.
Pray In Private - When we pray, we should do so in private. In the same story of Elijah, he withdraws from everyone and goes a top of Mount Carmel to pray in solitude. In the New Testament, we see many examples of Christ withdrawing from the crowds and even from His disciples to pray. In Matthew 6:6, Christ tells us: " … when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly". Both examples show how one’s true love for God should give us the desire to be alone with Him as lovers. When we are truly alone with the one we love, our soul is calmed and we feel comforted and secure.
Pray With the Intent to Experience His Presence. When we pray, it should be our desire to seek God’s face, presence, power, understanding, and love. Our desire should be to feel Him permeate every aspect of our physical and spiritual being.
Pray Based on Believing God's Promises. When we pray, we should do so based on God’s promises. This means to pray with faith. No prayers are too big or small for God; however, we must avoid telling God how to employ His power. We are given the gift to ask God of things, but not the authority to tell Him what to do when to do it and how to do it.
Know What You're Praying For - When we pray, we must ensure we know precisely what we are petitioning for and why we are petitioning God. Elijah was very clear on what He asked of God. His petition was short and concise. He earnestly prayed for rain. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ was short and concise with His petition to God when said, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39-44).
Pray With Passion - We must pray with passion and earnestly. To pray with passion is a challenging concept to understand; however, it can be best understood by thinking through the reasons for your prayers. We must sense the life and energy of prayer avoid praying with spiritual “drowsiness” and in a repetitiously meaningless manner. Christ tells us “.. when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7). Don’t offer wood and stone to God. Offer Him your heart – a heart full of love, faith, and hope.
Be Persistent in Your Prayers. Elijah prayed seven (7) times before it rained. Christ prayed three (3) times in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ calls us to be persistent in our prayers by stating “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”(Luke 11:5-8).