Prayer works (James 5:16). John saw the prayers of the saints ascending to heaven as sweet smelling smoke wafting upward to the throne of God. The response earthward was loud and felt in earthquakes and thunderings and lightning (Revelation 8:4-5). Prayer works that way, mild and ethereal going up but reverberating powerfully and tangibly in this material world (Acts 4:31, 12:5-11). We all believe it to be true but too often Christians neglect to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In his 702 page On Being a Christian, Hans Kung failed to dedicate a chapter, or even an index entry to prayer. Perhaps it is because we don’t see Him to whom we are directing our petitions nor immediately perceive His response that we fail in this privilege. God is always accessible and eager to hear from all of those in Christ.
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples (Luke 11:1).'”
Praying to God requires that we are in right standing with Him (Psalm 24:3-4), that is having entered into and sustaining that covenant relationship through His Son (Matthew 26:28, John 3:3-5, Romans 6:3-6). We must also recognize His holiness when we approach Him (Leviticus 10:3, Luke 11:2). Our wills are aligned to God’s as we surrender our own to His (Matthew 26:42). We must raise our supplications to Him without doubting (James 1:6-8) and with proper motives (James 4:3).
God is not moved by our eloquence but in our childlike reliance and trust in Him as we speak from the heart. In fact, He doesn’t hear rote, repetitive, and rehearsed petitions (Matthew 6:7). Although our message must move from earth to the highest heaven it is relayed faster than the speed of light (Isaiah 65:24). However, if our relationships with other men and women are not in good standing our prayers fall back to earth as arrows futilely launched toward the sun (Matthew 5:23-24, 1 Peter 3:7).
The Bible shows God’s people praying standing (Genesis 24:12-14), sitting (Judges 20:26), kneeling (Mark 1:40), bowing (Exodus 34:8), with one’s face between their knees (1 Kings 18:42), with hands lifted (1 Timothy 2:8), looking upwards (John 17:1). The physical posture of the one praying is not nearly as meaningful as that of one’s heart (Luke 18:13-14).
Prayer is not intended to be a last-ditch ploy initiated in desperation but a continual open channel of expression of one’s heart to God. Christian, we don’t have to wait in line or hope for a rare audience with the Governor of the entire universe, we have an open line reaching across the cosmos, a standing invitation to meet with our Father who looks forward to hearing from us at any time.
For the next few weeks we will examine the great teaching from the Bible on the subject of prayer that is not only needful for each of us, but a blessing that makes this life much richer and strengthens our relationship to our Creator, Sustainer and Father.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”