Prayer, put simply, is communication with God. This is the definition that we are taught when we are little children. We talk to God through prayer and He talks to us through His word. Prayer is to be a foundation of the Christian life, yet it is often something that is lacking. Prayer could be lacking in many different ways in the Christian’s life. Many are simply not praying, others are not praying in a biblical way, and many others may be consistent in their practice of prayer and have biblical content, but simply have no power behind their prayers. Prayer is a necessity of the Christian life, yet it is often something that many know little about or struggle with greatly.
Through my life I have struggled with prayer, but God has imparted great lessons that have taught me how to more rightly pray. I grew up, for the most part, going to church. Of course, at church I learned how to “fold my hands and bow my head” in prayer. At home, I learned the consistency of prayer when my dad started working second shift and every night my mom would tuck me into bed and we would pray that my dad would no longer have to work second shift. These were two great lessons to me. The first from the church was to learn the etiquette of corporate prayer and the second was to obtain a consistent discipline of prayer. To have a discipline of consistency is one of the most valuable lessons one can learn; but, it is not enough to have good communication with God.
As I grew and entered my teen years, I had a great desire to follow the Lord and serve Him. I recognized God’s call in my life for full-time vocational ministry when I was 13 years old and it was only about six months later I heard a missionary preach one of the most impactful messages in my life from Psalm 119:97-100. The missionary, a brilliant and wise man in the faith, started his message with these words, “If you could, would you want to know more than your teachers?” I was a young teen at the time and pride was not foreign to me in slightest, so in my mind I was screaming, “yes!” The missionary had caught my attention with a treble hook! He expertly explained a principle in the Bible about knowledge; it is all about meditating on the word of God. Psalm 119:97-100 “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts. (NKJV)” This sermon had a great impact on my spiritual life. I started reading the Bible with great voracity, at first out of a wrong motive (to know more than my teachers) but after a couple of years God convicted me of my selfish motive and I started reading the Bible to know Him more. Unfortunately, it was also at this time that I adopted a very dangerous and sinful view of prayer.
This marks a time in my life when prayer was not of great importance. I realized that to communicate with God we prayed to Him and read the Bible. The thought that grabbed me was, “If I am to communicate with God, wouldn’t it be best if He did most of the talking?” This line of thinking drove me to read my Bible more and pray minimally. I still prayed, but it was only when I woke up, at meal times, and before I went to bed. Little did I know, God still wanted me to grow in my prayer life. At this point I was denying the necessity of prayer.
The necessity of prayer
Mark 1:35 “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (NKJV)
Prayer is not simply a Christian discipline, prayer is a necessity for the Christian. To grow the Christian must pray, to communicate with God the Christian must pray, to rightly receive the blessings God has for us the Christian must pray. To truly accomplish what God has for us and to rightly serve Him, we must be a person of prayer. I didn’t understand this in my teen years, but there was one truth that absolutely tormented me with my lack of prayer. This principle is seen in Mark 1:35 “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. (NKJV)” Jesus, who is God come in the flesh, took time to pray! Why would Jesus need to pray? This thought would bother me from time to time, but I would brush it off and double down on reading the Bible more and more. What I didn’t realize is that prayer is a necessity in the Christian life, my spirit longed and desperately craved to spend time with God in prayer, but I refused to pray. Jesus was showing us an example of our need for prayer and of course, being that He is God, was always in perfect communion with the Father. If we as Christians desire to have communion with God we must take the example of Jesus and spend time in prayer. God in His infinite wisdom made prayer the vehicle of communication from us to Him. I do not fully understand why God did this, but I can trust that because He did this it is right.
Prayer not only is right, it is the best and only way to truly be in communion with Him. Like a man who comes in from an exhausting run desires and needs water, so we in our Christian life should long for and need prayer. Often times prayer, of course, is refreshing, sometimes it is even uplifting, but even in the times when it is exhausting and painful, we must pray.
We cannot truly please God unless we pray and more than that, are a people of prayer. The greatest and most natural need for mankind is to have a right relationship with God. The Bible starts with an introduction to God, “In the beginning God…” This is not by mistake, for as simple as it is, this verse shows us our one true need and that is, to know God. This is at the heart of the gospel, for it is our natural enmity with God that gives us such a great problem. Romans 8:7-8: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (NKJV).
We are naturally the enemy of God and therefore we cannot please Him because of our sin. For this reason we have the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ, in 1Corinthains 15:3-4 it says, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (NKJV)”
At the heart of the gospel is God’s desire for us to be reconciled to Him. Jesus died for one reason, and one reason only, that is our sin! After we accept Jesus as our Savior we are reconciled, but as anyone who has experienced reconciliation before will understand, it is not the point of reconciliation that brings the best relationship, rather it is through many hours of communication that brings the best and closest relationships. For the Christian to know God best and to be closest to Him, he must recognize the necessity of prayer.