When Jesus was on earth, His disciples came to Him saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) They had an understanding that proper prayer was an important part of their spiritual growth and life.
Elsewhere, the Scriptures tell us to “pray without ceasing,” and to be constant and patient in our prayers, not giving up on them. (1 Thessalonians 5:17; cf. Luke 18:1ff) Again and again prayer is stressed as a vital part of a godly man’s journey. As we survey the righteous men portrayed in the Bible, we frequently see them in prayer. Certainly, prayer was a part of the life of Christ. (cf. Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18, 11:1, etc.)
But some may wonder why prayer is so important. Why is time spent in prayer time well spent? What are the reasons for prayer in a spiritual life?
We should probably note, there are those who would answer the above questions badly. More than a few false teachers offering materialistic reasons for what is a spiritual exercise. They will claim that prayer allows God to work more actively in your life, giving you the material blessings that He already wants to give you. Prayer, they teach, is like some sort of divine wish list. You ask, and God gives. But, interestingly enough, while the Bible does teach that prayer is an opportunity to present needs to God (cf. Matthew 6:11), the majority of prayers recorded in the Bible have absolutely nothing to do with asking for any such things. And the Bible warns us pretty strongly against a mentality that asks God for anything out of selfish motivations (cf. James 4:3)
Prayer is not a vehicle by which God is empowered. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly capable of acting effectually apart from the words and petitions of men. In fact, Jesus says concerning prayer, that God knows our needs before we even ask them (Matthew 6:8), and we are even told in the Scriptures that the Spirit of God Himself intercedes concerning the things we don’t even know to ask about. (cf. Romans 8:26-27).
If prayer is not for the benefit of God, then it is for the benefit of man. Prayer aids us spiritually. So, let us give three good reasons to prayer, apart from selfish desires for material gain.
First, prayer draws our hearts towards God in a divinely ordained manner. Prayer is an opportunity for us to communicate with our hearts to God. Every relationship is made stronger through communication, and our relationship to God is no exception. God created us to be speaking creatures, and it seems only natural that the avenue God has ordained for our communication with Him is through the use of words. God speaks to us through His words, recorded for us in the Bible. We, in turn, speak to Him in prayer. Our hearts and minds put words to our desires, feelings and needs, and in expressing these to God, we are sharing ourselves, strengthening our connection to Him.
Prayer is also a reminder to us, as we pray, concerning what we believe about God. Naturally, the man who does not believe in God is not going to pray often. The man who doubts God’s power is not going to pray expecting an answer. But the saint who knows that God is, that God is good, and that God is able to act, is going to pray in confidence that God is going to answer prayer. This is perhaps why so many of the prayers recorded in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible are so filled with descriptions of God’s goodness, mercy and strength. Because it is important for the one praying to understand Who he is praying to.
Finally, prayer is a reminder to us to live as God wants us to live. Prayer reminds us about who God is, but, done correctly, prayer will also remind us of what God expects from us. Or perhaps, it might be better to say that prayer reminds us of what God deserves from us. Prayer can strengthen our resolve to be more faithful to God, more diligent in our service to God, and more active in carrying out the will of God in our lives. As we pray, “Your will be done,” (cf. Matthew 6:10) it is natural to consider what that will is, and of what accomplishing that will in our lives will entail.
Thus did Jesus command His disciples to pray for more workers, even as He was sending them out to do the work themselves. (cf. Luke 10:1-2)
In short, prayer is a reminder to us, of God’s place in our lives. In prayer, we are speaking to God, acknowledging His presence, acknowledging His power, and acknowledging our own humble place before Him. If we are praying as we should, continually, daily, and sincerely, we cannot help but be brought closer to God through prayer.
The church of Christ invites you to study God’s word with us, and worship with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions, including subjects you might like to see addressed, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.