Few will argue the need for prayer in the Christian life. Prayer stands as one of the pillars of the faith and many people will point to it as an indicator of a person’s faith. The emphasis on prayer is rarely missed. Yet we find ourselves frequently asking, “If the emphasis of prayer is so rarely missed, why is the activity of prayer so frequently missed?”
Despite the understanding of prayer’s importance, it is not a common posture that Christians find themselves in. For one of the most supreme examples of the truth of this statement I do not need to look further than the office door from which I write today. I find this failing continual in my life. Upon examining the role of prayer in my own life, I began to ponder the heart attitude of prayer.
Often people will say that prayer indicates a person’s level of faith with little consideration for the heart behind the prayer. Genuine prayer requires a genuine heart. If there is no heart, prayer becomes a mere duty of obligation to Christ rather than a demonstration of a love for Christ.
I am convinced that a person’s response of prayer is contingent upon that notion. Our motivation for prayer either comes out of a responsibility defined by either duty of obligation or demonstration of love. Where we fall in line upon this is reflected then in the constancy and content of prayer.
A Response to Our Contract
It is unfortunate that the reason for prayer has been built up on the concept of obligation. Prayer for many is simply a fulfillment of our contract to God . . . it is to say ‘he fulfills me when I address him in the form of prayer.’
Despite teaching to the contrary, it is difficult for us to shed the concept that prayer is more than something we do because we have to. While they would confess otherwise, prayer is simply a means to obtain favor with God. In other words it’s a works-based mindset that says, “If I do this God will love me more.”
The problem with this mindset is first, we can’t earn favor with God. That is established by the gospel message and our need for Christ. The second issue arises in our response to duty. We are more apt to do something we want to do rather than something we have to do. The same is true for prayer.
A Response to Our Christ
Instead of us being contractually obligated to pray, prayer should come from the love that we have for Christ. We are more apt to pray when it is something that we want to do.
What motivates the want to pray? First it is a love for our Savior and the desire to be in communion with him. Second, it is a recognition of our need for the Savior. The two work together for a humility that draws us closer to God.
Do you realize the significance of prayer? The profundity of prayer is elevated when we realize that it is communion with God. Prayer brings us into his presence. Furthermore, prayer is used by God to move in the life of a Christian. God unleashes himself to reveal who we are, who he is, and who we are in light of who he is. Thus it brings forth the deepest sense of conviction of need and draws forth the deepest sense of joy and gratefulness. The puritan reflects this concept when he prays:
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness. (1)
God uses prayer to cause us to reflect on all that he is, all that he has done, and all that he will do. We can be nothing less than joyful for knowing God through prayer (not just knowing about God, but knowing God).
Prayer is so much more than what we realize it to be. It’s more than just asking and receiving. Indeed prayer is a labor that requires instruction, commitment, and continuity.
May we be encouraged to remember what the puritan knew to be true. Prayer unleashes joy in our lives because it unleashes God in our lives.