Q39: With what attitude should we pray?
A: With love, perseverance, and gratefulness; in humble submission to God’s will, knowing that, for the sake of Christ, he always hears our prayers. (Crossway 2017)
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.” (ESV)
The Vertical Truth in Faith – What does this truth mean in my relationship with God?
This truth reminds us that prayer is personal and not a performance. Prayer is not about the specific words we use, the approval of others, or the pride we get from “impressing” those listening to us. Prayer, at its best, is personal. It’s about personally connecting, sharing, and speaking with a perfect Heavenly Father, who lovingly listens to everything we have to say.
This can be incredibly freeing in our relationship with God. Have you ever felt bad for not praying “as good” as someone else? Ever felt embarrassed to pray in public because you weren’t sure of the “right words” to use? Ever felt as though God would not listen or answer your prayers unless you said everything just right? This fear, insecurity, and guilt all comes from a performance mindset. The good news is, that this is not how we should pray. Knowing that prayer is not a performance lightens the load! It’s not about all that. It’s about our relationship with God, our perfect Heavenly Father!
Think about it this way: how would a child, knowing his or her father loves them and is listening to them, and is waiting to hear from them, approach them in conversation? Would they worry about the right words? Would they focus on impressing with their eloquence or intellect? Would they want to impress others who may be listening in? No. They are not performing, they are simply talking with their father. They would come to him with love, respect, sincerity, and openness. This, too, is how we should pray.
- John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (ESV)
- Matthew 6:5-8 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (ESV)
- Proverbs 15:29 “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (ESV)
- Psalm 66:19 “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” (ESV)
The Horizontal Truth in Love – What does this truth mean in my relationship with humanity?
While much of this truth is directly related to our personal relationship with God, it also has implications to how we relate with others in our lives. Namely, that since we have a God who listens to our prayers, we should pray not only for our own lives, but for the needs of others around us. If we truly believe that God listens to and answers our prayers, why would we just focus on ourselves and not on others as well? One of the greatest things we can do for others in our lives is to pray for them. As we get to know those around us and discover their needs, their concerns, and even their joys, we can go to our Heavenly Father on their behalf and pray.
- Ephesians 6:18 “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” (ESV)
- Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (ESV)
- James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (ESV)
- Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)
Practical Truth in Action – How can I put this truth into action?
When Jesus taught on prayer in Matthew 6, he began with an assumption. He says, “And when you pray” (vs. 5). Jesus assumed that prayer would be a part of our lives. It was not supposed to be a question of “if” you pray, but “when” you pray. Any discussion on prayer must begin here. How can we put this truth into action? Simply, we can pray – not just at meal time, when we have a test or big project due at work or when facing a challenging time. Yes, we should pray at these times, but not only then. We should pray. This is challenging and convicting.
What does your prayer life look like? Is prayer a regular part of your day? Prayer is not just a box to check or a to-do to mark off your list, but it is a discipline to make a priority. What would happen in your relationships if you only talked with them once a week? What kind of friendship would you have if you just called when you needed something? Prayer cultivates our relationship with God. It makes us closer. It is powerful. God listens to our prayers and he responds. How can you put this truth into action? We can pray.
What if prayer is not a regular part of our lives? What can we do?
Choose a time. Choose a place. Choose to make it personal and not a performance and pray. Talk to God. Declare His character and nature. Let Him know what He means to you. Worship Him through your words. Confess your sins to Him embracing His forgiveness for them. Thank Him for what He is doing in your life, and share with Him the needs in your life and the lives of others. Commit to spending time in prayer everyday this next week and see how He grows your faith and relationship with Him. Make it personal and trust that He is listening and will respond for His glory and our good.
- I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)