A relationship in which people do not speak to each other will not last long. Silence is as deadly to a relationship as verbal combat. Such basic wisdom is often not applied to our relationship with God. He addresses us constantly in Scripture, and we must respond in prayer. As we continue our spiritual check-up we ask: 4. Do you give yourself to prayer?
1. The ‘WHY’ of prayer
Christians generally find prayer hard work. We need solid reasons for making the effort and giving ourselves to prayer:
(i) God’s nature. The power of prayer lies not in us but in the One to whom we pray. Note:
– God is sovereign. ‘He does whatever pleases him’ (Psalm 135:6). He is able to do all that he wills. This is a powerful motivator – nothing we ask is too big.
– God is gracious. We focus on Christ, in whom ‘we have everything we need for life and godliness’ (2 Peter 1:3). Hence the promise of Philippians 4:19 ‘meet all your needs’.
(ii) Our need. The greatest obstacle to a healthy prayer life is the lack of a sense of need of the Lord’s provision. Paul asks, ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). Both material and spiritual help come under the ‘daily bread’ of Matthew 6:11. Prayer is not a substitute for work (where possible), but it acknowledges our need and mortifies pride.
2. The ‘WHAT’ of prayer
Verses such as 1 John 3:22 are not a blank cheque to obtain anything we desire. Note John 14:14 ‘ask me for anything in my name’ – requesting what accords with his nature and plan. His name is not a magic charm to get whatever we want. Also we must pray ‘according to his will’ (1 John 5:14). We may not know his will in the details of life, but Scripture directs us on the big issues. It is not wrong to pray ‘if it is your will’. Note ‘things agreeable to his will’ (S. Catechism Q98). We have a vast field for prayer and that encourages big petitions.
3. The ‘HOW’ of prayer
(i) Confession. Our disobedience blocks answers to prayer (e.g. James 4:3). We must be as sure as we can of the purity of our motives. Confession of sin is part of a healthy prayer life.
(ii) Faith. Prayer expresses trust in Christ and his promises. We rest in promises such as Philippians 4:19. Praying by the Word strengthens faith and removes uncertainty.
(iii) Dependence. We depend especially on the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). We are to pray empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, or prayer will soon flag.
(iv) Thanksgiving. It is right and necessary to give thanks for blessings received. It also encourages future praying – Philippians 4:6 ‘by prayer and petition with thanksgiving’. If the Lord is the centre of our attention, thanksgiving will flow naturally.