For many of us, prayer is like scheduling a dental appointment. We know we should, and we feel better when we’ve taken care of it. But we don’t really look forward to it, and find excuses to put it off as long as possible.
Is the only time you contribute in prayer is when you say “Amen” to someone else’s prayer at church? What if you aren’t good at it? How do you know if you’re doing it the “right” way? How do you learn to have a closer, more intimate relationship with your God? Because this is what prayer is all about — a meaningful, personal relationship with your Father in heaven. Prayer is simply talking to and with God.
Some people make prayer sound like a duty. We may have been taught that we ought to pray three times a day, or all night long, or get up before dawn, or spend at least one hour every day.
We are not told to pray for specific lengths of time, but all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). We are not told to kneel or stand or lie on the floor when we pray. Rather, we are told to pray while doing everything (Philippians 4:6).
We know that there is only one God and that when we pray, he has promised to hear us. We have been told that we should be bold to approach God’s throne of grace.
“But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:19-20 NIV).
God understands us better than we understand ourselves and responds to us when we seek him.
The book of Hebrews tells us: Since Jesus has risen into heaven as our great high priest, then we can have confidence to enter God’s presence, and because of that, we should enter his presence (Hebrews 10:19-22.)
In other words, since Jesus has risen from the dead, we should pray, and we should do it with confidence. Jesus makes a difference in our lives through prayer. Because he is now in heaven, we are guaranteed that our prayers will be heard. We pray “in Jesus’ name” – he intercedes for us – he prays for us! God listens to us just as well as he listens to Jesus himself.
We need to pray. We will be happier, less stressed, more fulfilled, if we keep in mind that we live in the presence of God, that in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). That such contact is possible between humans and the great God is a mystery. We who are spiritually flawed have access to the great God and can come into his holy presence!
Jesus Christ taught his disciples to have this personal and intimate relationship with God. He showed us how we can have it, too. Jesus taught us to pray in a way that would build a lasting personal relationship with God. Jesus showed us that prayer is not difficult, complicated or something that only good (or very bad) people need to do.
But prayer is a request. Whenever we ask God for anything, we are praying. Paul told the Philippians to ask for whatever they wanted (Philippians 4:6). We are to ask God for the things we need. Of ourselves, we can do nothing. If we want to accomplish anything worthwhile, we must seek God’s help. We must depend on him. Prayer is a cry for help – and since our needs never end, our prayers should never cease.
In prayer, we acknowledge a relationship between God and us, a relationship in which God has promised to provide our needs and to bless us in ways he knows are best. Prayer is an act of worship, for it acknowledges that God has power and that he is dependable.
In this relationship with God, you’ll soon be confident that he really is only a prayer away.
Kathy Houston of White Hall is pastor of Christian Fellowship Center of Grace Communion International.
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