Prayer is possibly the most misunderstood practice of the Christian faith. This is evident by certain statements made and sentiments held, relative to prayer.
One of the more prominent statements is “I believe in prayer.” The comment seems alright, but I would like to qualify that technically speaking, I do not believe in prayer. I believe in God and His power to respond to prayer. Prayer is not a magic wand that is waved or a mantra that is spoken. Prayer has no power in and of itself.
Another common proclamation is, “Well, all we can do now is pray.” There is legitimacy to the statement if it means we’ve decided to commit both circumstances and outcome to God. But if it indicates that prayer is considered to be a last recourse, rather than the first course of action, then I am concerned.
Sometimes I have been told, “Pastor, you pray; you’re better at it than me.” The inference is that clergy have learned how to pray better and have an inside track with God. Neither of these assumptions are necessarily correct. I practice both private and public prayer and will pray with, or for anyone, anytime, anywhere. Jesus however, dismissed the thought that public prayer is more significant than other prayers. Quite the contrary! He taught in His Sermon on the Mount that those who pray to be seen by men, rather than heard by God, will indeed receive a reward…but it is as short-lived as it is immediate (Mathew 6:6).
Then there is the cavalier attitude exhibited, by comments like “Just pray about it!” God, like some sort of celestial Santa Claus will fulfil our wish list and give us whatever we want. This approach is immature and unbalanced. God is not raising spoiled brats, but seasoned soldiers for the cross of Christ. This is in keeping with Jesus’ last prayer before His crucifixion. He did not pray “Gimmee, Gimmee” but, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Mathew 26:31).
Prayer…real prayer, is the vehicle for communion and communication with God. In the great privilege of prayer we don’t encounter the reluctance of God, but experience His willingness to fellowship with us. By human standards there are many unanswered prayers, but I will guarantee, there are no unheard ones! No wonder Jesus’ said in Luke 18:1 that we “…should always pray and not lose heart.”
Seven days without prayer makes one weak!
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church