Why do you pray? Why don’t you pray more often?
I realize that by asking these questions, I’m making assumptions about your prayer life. But my pastoral experience tells me I am probably right. More than likely, the following is true for you:
- You feel guilty about your prayerlessness.
- It takes a titanic struggle to spend even five minutes a day talking with God.
- When you begin to pray, you find it really difficult to quiet your cluttered mind and concentrate.
- Deep down, you wonder if beyond the momentary relief you feel, prayer really makes a difference.
Talking to an invisible God, who rarely seems to answer immediately or audibly, is hard work. You might be encouraged to know that the apostle Paul struggled with prayer. In fact, Paul pleaded with the Christians in Rome to “strive together with me in your prayers” (Romans 15:30).
The word translated “strive” is agonizomai … from which we derive our word “agonize.” This word originally described the struggle of a wrestler in an athletic contest. Any way you look at it, prayer is hard work.
SO HERE’S THE CENTRAL QUESTION: IF PRAYER IS SUCH HARD WORK, WHY PRAY?
I want to share with you these practical benefits for developing a praying heart:
Prayer Develops Our Intimacy With God.
One of the most important truths about your marital relationship also applies to your relationship with the Lord — intimacy can’t be mandated; it must be cultivated. If you want to develop a relationship with God, you must spend time with Him. Prayer — communicating with God — is vital to keeping our relationship with Him alive and vibrant. Without times of intimate and honest sharing with God, your relationship will deteriorate and eventually expire.
Prayer Unleashes the Power of God
Let’s be realistic about prayer. The primary reason we pray is the hope that our intercession will move God to act on our behalf. If God didn’t intend to answer our prayers, would we keep asking?
Developing intimacy with God is a valuable benefit to prayer, but it’s not always the motivation for prayer. We ask, expecting God to answer. We ask, and then trust that God will answer in a way that mysteriously fuses together our best interests and His eternal plan. John Piper describes prayer as “the splicing of our limp wire to the lightning bolt of heaven.”
Scripture promises, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Any promise in the Bible that God will answer our prayers means His answer will fall within the protective boundaries of His will.
Prayer Protects Us With the Peace of God
Prayer is the source of your peace of mind. “Be anxious for nothing,” Paul admonishes in Philippians 4, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul didn’t write these words from the comfort of a pastor’s study, but from the confines of Roman imprisonment. He faced an uncertain future as he awaited the verdict in his trial — a verdict that would determine if he lived or died. It was prayer — an honest pouring forth of his feelings and desires to God — that resulted in an inexplicable peace of mind and heart.
How about you? What are you facing today? Prolonged uncertainty … waiting medical results … wrestling financially … paralyzed by thoughts of “What if …” in those moments of doubt and fear? Paul’s testimony is priceless. Go to God in prayer. When you pray about your concerns rather than stew over them, the peace of God will engulf you and wash your concerns away.
What God wants from you and for you, above all else, is for you to resemble Jesus Christ in your attitudes, actions, and affections.