Get free email updates as I write new articles:

When You Don’t Know How to Pray

Holy SpiritWhen my wife and I were going through a seven-year period of secondary infertility, we often found ourselves completely unable to understand what God was doing in our lives. Our prayers were seemingly going unanswered and we often wondered what God was trying to teach us. I sometimes found myself wondering if we were praying for the right answer.

You may have found yourself in a similar place in your prayer life. When a loved one has what looks like a terminal disease, do we pray for physical healing or eternal release? When a child is making destructive choices, do we pray for chastisement and correction or for protection? There are points of pain, places of suffering, and realms of wondering in which we just don’t have the words.

But God does.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

– Romans 8:26 (NLT)

In our weaknesses… I’ve been there. Weak. Unable to run, walk, or even stand spiritually and emotionally. And when we’re at our weakest, God is still strong. The Holy Spirit is still an all-powerful God who has taken up residence inside us. And He hurts for us, waits with us, groans in us, and speaks on our behalf, communicating with the Father about things to deep for us to understand.

When you don’t know how to pray, God knows all about it, and the Spirit is talking to the Father while the Son intercedes as our High Priest. So don’t feel that you have it all together in prayer. Just pray, and as you do, trust that God has your back no matter what.

photo credit: Scott Johns

Prayer: The Great Joint Venture

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” One of my mentors, Grady Higgs, often says that “nothing heavenly happens on earth without prayer.” In other words, there are things God is willing to do – wants to do – but He has chosen to do them only in response to prayer.

Prayer, then, is like a great joint venture between the Creator and His creatures. In prayer, we join forces with the God of the universe to accomplish His will around us. Jesus even gave us a model for prayer that included praying “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” So in prayer, God’s will is accomplished around us in much the same way that His will is accomplished in the heavenly realm, where angels attend to His desires at all times.

[Read more…]

God’s Kingdom On Earth – Wouldn’t That Be Great?

Richard Baxter once prayed, “Lord, what thou wilt, when thou wilt, where thou wilt.” And he meant it. But where on earth can we go to find a place where God’s will is done perfectly? Nowhere – only in God’s “kingdom” is His will carried out with perfection.

[Read more…]

The Great Adventure of Prayer

We’re beginning a new Wednesday night Bible study series on prayer and it’s based on the book by David Jeremiah, Prayer, the Great Adventure. We’ve been talking a lot about the theme of “Search & Rescue” as the missional focus of our church in a lost culture, and prayer is the power-giving foundation of being missional, so we’re going to use our midweek adult Bible studies to strengthen this area of our church family’s life.

[Read more…]

What Is Prayer?

Prayer is something that most people believe in. If you believe in some kind of higher power(s), you believe in some kind of prayer. If you believe that the triune God of Scripture is exclusively God, as I do, then you believe that biblical prayer is the only true kind of prayer. But that doesn’t seem to settle the issue. What does the Bible say about prayer? It depends on whom you ask.

Within evangelical Christianity in the last couple of centuries, there seem to have developed two different schools of thought. On the one hand are those who assert that prayer is merely asking and making requests. In this view, the answer to prayer is receiving. Then there are those who see prayer as a time of communion and fellowship, so the answer to prayer is experiencing. If taken to extremes, one view becomes legalism and the other existentialism. Somewhere in the middle is found a wonderful truth about prayer.

One well-known Christian (saying the name may taint your understanding and cause unnecessary bias) has been asked what she says to God during prayer. Her answer was “Nothing, I just listen.” To the follow-up question, “What does God say to you?” she answered “Nothing, He just listens.” She spoke of a kind of close communion that is possible only when prayer is understood as access to the Father. I like this interpretation of prayer, at least as a starting point.

Paul also spoke of praying “without ceasing.” To read his epistles is to be reminded of how often he prayed for people. The Bible is certainly replete with examples of intercessors who brought specific requests before God on behalf of others. Abraham is another prime example. He prayed for Pharaoh, he prayed for Abimelech, and he prayed for the inhabitants of the cities of the plain. Some would assert that intercession is the primary meaning of prayer. I like this interpretation too.

Giants of the faith, like Andrew Murray and John R. Rice, understood prayer as making specific requests made known to God. Praise is a separate matter and intercession merely falls under the heading of asking. When there is no receiving, there has been no answer. I have been heavily influenced by this understanding of prayer also, but it has certainly led to frustration in my prayer life in two different ways. First, I begin to doubt when my prayers are not answered as I expected, rather than being flexible in my understanding of God’s will. Second, when there is no receiving, I am tempted to think my praying has been in vain.

To boil it all down, I think we have to go back to one of the fundamental truths of Scripture. God wants you! He doesn’t want what you do, or your talents, or your possessions. He wants you. In prayer, He wants you at His feet, across the dining room table from him. Make your requests, intercede for the nations to come to know Christ, make your supplications known to God in the confidence that he will answer, but remember that the prize is God Himself. In prayer, you reach Him and enjoy Him as He enjoys you.

Christianity may be labeled a world religion, but the Christianity of the Bible is not a set of prescribed rituals, it is a walk, a fellowship, a life spent with Jesus. It is moment-by-moment communion with the Father. It is conversing continually with the chief Mediator for all men – Jesus Christ the Righteous.

When you have your prayer time today, don’t count the minutes, don’t tally the requests, don’t keep track of whether you’ve prayed “right” or not. Rather, enjoy God! Let Him help you on a personal, conversational level to understand for what and for whom you ought to be praying. And let Him teach you from His revealed word how to pray. Learn from Jesus and His apostles. Listen to Paul’s prayers and praises and employ them as your own. And rejoice in the final victory of Christ’s soon coming.

Prayer will someday be a face-to-face conversation between God’s children and the Lord whom they have loved without seeing. But for today, we speak as through the veil of eternal worlds which we cannot know and experience until this corruptible has put on incorruptibility. Enjoy God today. Sit in His presence as His dearly loved child and ask… “Father, what are You like?”