If you and I were having coffee together, and I asked you, “Hey, how’s your prayer life?”, how would you respond?
I know for most followers of Jesus, myself included, prayer is one of those things that we know we should do, but struggle making it a regular practice throughout our daily life.
Like any relationship, communication with Jesus is vital if we actually want to grow closer to Him. So we commit to pray. We sit down in the morning with our coffee and Bible, and start praying. It feels awkward, and we start to stumble through different things to pray for. We look at the clock after we’ve prayed for everything we can think of, and three minutes have passed. We get discouraged, pull out our phone, and give in to the noise of social media rather than the calming presence of our Creator.
I don’t know if you can relate to this scenario, but it strikes close to home for me. We want to pray. But it feels awkward, boring, and we quickly run out of things to say. And then we wonder, does my praying even make a difference?
Theologian Dallas Willard wrote, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” If God is good, all knowing, and all powerful, why do we need to pray anyway? Since God is ultimately in control, everything is going to happen the way it’s going to happen…right?
While this is a common assumption for a lot of us, it is far from what Scripture says about prayer. One story in Exodus completely blows this assumption to smithereens. Let’s take a look at it.
The story is in Exodus 32, when God was talking with Moses. Verses 7-14 details their conversation. It says, “The Lord told Moses, ‘Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’’â€¨â€¨Then the Lord said, ‘I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.’â€¨â€¨But Moses tried to pacify the Lord his God. ‘O Lord!’ he said. ‘Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand? Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people! Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’’ So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.”
Don’t miss what just happened…God was going to do one thing, Moses pleaded with Him to do something else, so God changed His mind. Do you realize that your prayers have the same power today that Moses’ prayer had?
Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
God wants an active relationship with you, which means back and fourth conversation. We are to be active participants in this relationship, rather than mere bystanders just waiting to see what God will do. That means that we must pray, expecting God to listen and respond to our prayer.
Let me clarify, I’m not advocating for a health-and-wealth Gospel. Some teachers declare that if you just have enough faith and name what you want, it will be yours. This is not what I’m saying. Health-and-wealth teaching is dangerous and far from biblical truth.
What I am saying is, let’s raise our view of prayer. God wants to engage in conversation with us, and will act on our prayers. He is a Good Father who listens to His children.
1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”