Praying to the great God of heaven is one of the greatest and most amazing privileges we have as believers. It is one of the things that separate Christianity from most other religions in the world. I know that most world religions pray in one way or another but there aren’t many where their praying is really communicating with God. Many of these religions have prayers that they memorize and they simply recite them at various times, often commanded, during the day. They really aren’t communicating with their god. It’s more like they are appeasing him so that he doesn’t smite them. This certainly isn’t the way that prayer is described in Scripture.
“I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2 (NKJV) The Psalmist says that he loves the Lord because the Lord has heard his prayer and since the Lord has heard his prayer he will call out to God as long as he lives. That is the opposite of prayer motivated by guilt.
I would probably say that these two verses give us a perfect picture of how prayer is supposed to be. Since we love God we want to spend time praying to Him. It should be fairly natural for us to spend time praying to God. There shouldn’t be anything awkward or uncomfortable about it because we love God and we know that He hears our prayers.
I honestly don’t know of anything that deepens or strengthens my relationship with God more than prayer. When I am consistently spending time with God in prayer I am feel closer to God, more in tune with His Spirit’s guidance and much more aware of God’s presence in the ordinary activities of the day. When I am not praying consistently is when I feel very far from God. This is also the time when my doubts seem the greatest and when temptations are the most effective. I would almost guarantee that this was your experience as well.
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 (NKJV)
There are two things I really like about this passage. One is that it starts out with Jesus praying. If you’ve read through the Gospel’s before you know that prayer was a regular part of Jesus’ life. Jesus consistently prayed to His Father. One of the things that is neat about Jesus’ prayer life is the inconsistency in the time of his prayers. At times Jesus rose up a great while before day and prayed (Mark 1:35), while at other times he stay up late praying all night (Luke 6:12). Then there are times, like in this passage, where we aren’t sure about the time of day. He may well have been praying in the middle of the day here.
I mention this because anytime I talk about prayer one of the questions that people want to know is when is the best time to pray. The most common answer given to this is early in the morning. Yet when we look at Scripture we find that there is no time set as the “best” time and further we see that Jesus prayed at all times during the day. There really isn’t any way to be dogmatic about when the best time to pray is.
My opinion is that we should pray at the time of the day when we can be most focused on God. It should be a time when we have few distractions, are most alert and can be most focused on God.
The disciples see Jesus praying and, in my mind at least, they recognize that He has something in His prayer life that is missing in theirs. They want to be able to pray like Jesus and have the kind of strong and deep relationship with God the Father that Jesus has. So they ask Him to teach them to pray. From Jesus’ teaching here we learn what we could call basic elements of prayer or basic attitudes of prayer. That’s what I’m going to talk about this week on my blog.
One last thing for today. I am often bothered by books and messages with titles like, The Secret to Answered Prayer, or The Keys to a Powerful Prayer Life. Let me let you in on a little secret right now about prayer. There are no secrets to prayer. There are no keys that will help you unlock God’s power in your life. My goal in this series of blogs isn’t to teach you some new thing that will unleash the power of God in your life, I wish I knew something like that to teach you but I don’t. Instead I’m just going to point out familiar things about prayer that I hope will encourage us in our prayer lives so that we can grow closer to God. Our greatest desire for prayer isn’t to find ways to get God to do what we want or give us what we want. It is to spend time in prayer so that we can continually grow closer to God. We always want to desire the giver more than the gifts.