If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon and you could make one request of him, what would your request be? If you could ask him anything, would you ask for protection, a new job, more money, deeper relationships? What would you ask for?
The disciples came to Jesus one day with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray…” – Luke 11:1 I don’t know if you find that request especially interesting but I sure do. Think about it for a moment. The disciples had just watched Jesus preach the greatest sermons ever, they had been there while he performed miracles, but never once did they say, “Lord, teach us to preach” or “Lord, teach us to do miracles” or “Lord, teach us to raise the dead”. Instead they said, “Teach us how to pray.”
I think they asked that question because they saw the results of prayer in Jesus’ life. They saw him pray and they observed the impact and even experienced the results. From watching the example of Jesus, these men knew that prayer was the key to what they needed in their life.
We need to understand that as well. Prayer is crucial to the Christian’s walk and growth. I’ve heard it said before that just as air is vital to our physical existence, so prayer is vital to our spiritual existence. If you have never committed to a life of prayer allow me to share 4 reasons why we too need to make prayer a daily and growing habit of life.
1 We Recognize Our Dependence on God
When I pray, I am saying to God, “I need You.” For some reason, many of us have a problem admitting this. Perhaps it’s a part of the Canadian mindset – we value independence, hard work, and making it on our own. And while that can be a good thing, if you learn anything when you come to Jesus Christ, it is that you don’t have the ability to make it spiritually on your own.
Quite frankly I believe that one of the key reasons why a lot of people don’t pray is because it is humbling. “I admit I am inadequate – I am helpless – I need ‘Your’ help in this situation.” But when we pray we are declaring our dependence upon God as our Lord and Saviour, and we are calling upon his power and strength to equip us for the work he has called us to accomplish. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that do not have the ability to save the world, that do not have the strength to keep going, that do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does, and we are asking him to fill and sustain us through the struggle. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory.
When the tough things happen, God invites us to place our dependence upon him to see us through. It does not all depend on me; it depends on me allowing God to work through me. But as long as you think you’re self sufficient, prayer can have no meaning for you.
2 We Grow In Our Relationship With God
Communication is essential to a relationship. It is safe to say that for two persons to get to know each other, they must take time to communicate. In talking together, they share not only ideas but something of themselves as well. Christ so longs to communicate with us. He has wonderful news that he is just waiting to share with each of us about who we are and of the plans he has for us if we’d just listen.
Christ promised, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” – John 15:7. It sounds like there is a communication thing happening here.
The wonder of it all is that the God of the universe wants us to call on him. In fact, unlike the annoyance we earthly mothers or fathers sometimes feel, far from being bothered, our heavenly father loves to hear the voices of his children at any time. “The prayer of the upright is his delight” – Proverbs 15:8
I remember an incident in our home a number of years ago, when my daughter was vying for my attention. She had just turned three and of course everything to her was of vital importance. I was watching a very important hockey game, after all the boys couldn’t win without me watching you realize. She had some important information that she wanted to share with me and had made a couple of attempts to get my attention. Finally, she climbed up onto my lap, grasped both of my cheeks with her cute, chubby hands, looked me full in the eye and said, “Daddy listen to me with your eyes”. She knew that to truly communicate there had to be interaction with both parties.
God desires a fully engaged relationship with us. A big part of that is to turn our eyes to him for ALL our requests. As we grow in our relationship with him we learn that we never have to call him twice. He is, in a sense, already waiting for our call. We have his full attention at all times.
3 God Wants Us To Ask from Him
In Verse 3 of Luke 11 Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus was teaching the disciples that when you come to God we come, as it were with hat in hand, recognizing that everything we receive is from God alone. And not only that, but that truth must be recognized every single day, because let’s face it, we all have short memories and before we know it we get that pride thing going again and soon think that all we have and all that has been accomplished in life is because of ‘me’.
I’ve heard others say that as we grow in our relationship with God that we should never ask God for anything, or if we have to, it should be at a minimum. The thought is that the more mature a Christian becomes, the less they will request from God, and the more they will spend their time just praising his name.
My theological response to that idea is to use the Greek word, “Malarkey!” In fact, that’s about the biggest bunch of nonsense I’ve ever heard! God wants us to ask and receive from him in prayer. The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I ask from him, because I have learned to believe in his ability, as I recognize my disability, to a much greater extent than ever before.
4 We’re Participating In His Kingdom Work
This is the most exciting thing about prayer. God invites us to pray about his work being accomplished and in that way, we are working in an act of cooperation with God in the building of his kingdom on earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Mathew 6:10
Prayer is God’s program – Prayer is God’s modus operandi. Prayer is God saying, “I have chosen to limit myself to what I accomplish on earth simply by limiting myself to the faith of My children on the earth. What they believe Me for, I will do.” When we pray for other people, we are cooperating with God. We are teaming up with God to accomplish his work in the world.
M. Bounds was a Methodist Pastor around the time of the American Civil War. It is said that he prayed daily from 4 A.M. to 7 A.M. before he would begin his work. E.M. Bounds wrote in one of many of his writings: “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men [women]…What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men [women] whom the Holy Spirit can use – men [women] of prayer, men [women] mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men [women]. He does not come on machinery, but on men [women]. He does not anoint plans, but men [women] – men [women] of prayer.”
If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon, let it be that you have already been talking with each other and it would simply be a continuation of the worship you have been giving him – every day – already.