The Christian and Prayer

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective – God said it.  It is true.  BUT life being what it is, there are questions that can creep into your soul.  These questions can cripple a persons prayer life with doubt.  Let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of prayer:

Who can pray?  I would like to say, “Anyone!”  That simply isn’t true.  When the Mormon missionaries darken my door with godless theology and then offer to pray for me, I stop them.  God doesn’t hear your prayer.  **Stop the presses**  That is shocking and unkind.  Well it might sound that way, but if you were doing something that was blatantly false, is it more loving for me to point out the error or just watch in amusement?  I would want someone to tell me.  Seeing Muslims or Buddhists is a great example.  God says in Hebrews 11 that without faith you can’t pray.  Prayer is a benefit of being a Christian.  By faith in Jesus his perfection is ours.  He took my sin and paid for it all when he died on the cross.  The only reason God hears any prayer is for Jesus’ sake.  Jesus is the reason for our perfection by faith.  Jesus is why God does (or does not – see Isaiah’s comment on false gods or Elijah’s advice to false prophets) hear our prayers.

What can we pray about?  It would be great to say anything, and technically that’s true, but as a Christian – you will change your prayer list.  Prayer isn’t how I bend God’s will to my will.  It’s the other way around.  As I read the Bible and learn more about God and grow closer to him, my prayer life will change.  When Jesus showed his disciples and everyone who has ever read those words how to pray in the Lord’s prayer, he gave us a model prayer.  There is nothing wrong with praying the Lord’s prayer, of course, but as you continue to talk to God, your prayer life will reflect that model prayer.  Of the seven petitions in the Lord’s prayer only one has to do with stuff – items.  Those are the necessities.  God knows that we need them.  We pray for them so that we might receive them with thanksgiving.  The other six petitions are about spiritual matters: temptations, forgiveness, how our behavior reflects on our God, how we can witness to God’s grace and goodness.

How will God answer?  Here it is helpful to remember that prayer is one-way communication.  God can talk to us anyway he wants to.  Dreams, visions, his voice in our ear, promptings – you just feel that way, so you do it, all sound great, but God hasn’t promised to communicate to us in those ways.  In fact I have never in 41 years had a dream, vision, heard a voice, or felt a prompting to do anything.  I have heard God speak loudly and clearly on the pages of the Bible.  I know exactly what my God is like and how he answers my prayers from reading his word.  The sad thing is that I don’t go to him enough!  God hears everyone of my prayers and I know that God answers everyone of my prayers.  Prayers don’t pile up in God’s inbox.  He’s big enough to handle the big problems in my life and the very little ones too.  A Christian friend of mine was having a hard time threading a needle – her sight is going and it has been difficult.  She said a prayer, walked across the room to a window (it didn’t help because she couldn’t see it any better in the sunlight), and the thread just went through the eye of the needle.  She thanked God for his goodness and got to work sewing.  God can answer yes to your prayer, just like my sewing friend.  God might answer no too.  In his wisdom he knows that there is something better in store for you.  Sometimes God is saying yes, but at that moment in time it’s wait.  Our problem is that wait sounds an awful lot like no.  This is where persistence and humility come in.

Want to hear more about how God answers your prayer?  Watch this week’s sermon taken from Matthew 6.