Matthew 6:9-14 (New International Version)
9″This, then, is how you should pray:
” ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…”
If God is omniscient – and He is – then not one datum of knowledge escapes Him. If God is omnipotent – and He is – then there is no limit to His power; He possesses the ability to do whatever He thinks best. If God is sovereign – and He is – then He requires permission from no one to carry out His plans. And if God is perfect – and He is – then everything He does is right and good. If God possesses all these attributes, unlimited power and knowledge, complete authority, and perfection, then every decision He makes is the best one. As a frail, flawed, dependent creature, the requests I make of Him in prayer are often way off the mark. In fact, His ways are so much more advanced, holier, purer, and more complete than mine, that I often only know what I want to ask of Him, but often not what I really need to ask of Him. The Holy Spirit interprets and translates my prayers and Jesus Himself lives to intercede for me, so that my prayers fall more in line with God’s will than they would if left up to me alone.
If I don’t know what to pray for, and God is going to carry out His will anyway, why should I bother to bring my requests to God? Why not just adopt the attitude of the fatalist and embrace apathy, claiming that “God will do what he wants anyway, my prayers don’t matter?” I have said those words before, to myself, to others, and to God. Usually they poured out of a doubt-filled heart, over a situation that tested my personal limits and my faith in God’s goodness.
As I helped my husband prepare for a short commuter flight recently, my thoughts turned to another man, who one day over 20 years ago, took a short commuter flight, but who never returned home. My oldest brother was a business executive who had a winning personality, an amazing work ethic, and a bright future, which was only surpassed by his even brighter smile. My sister-in-law drove him to the airport one day for a routine business flight up the coast, and unknowingly delivered him to his death. The passenger plane he boarded crashed about forty minutes after take off, twenty minutes from its destination, killing everyone on board. My brother, who was only 35 at the time, left behind a wife, two small children, and a host of family and friends.
I was a sophomore in college at the time. I got the news by phone first, then on the local television news later that night. I was shocked and devastated initially. I had never lost anyone close to me – not too mention so suddenly and violently. It was almost too much to comprehend. My friends and dorm-mates extended their support. Those who believed in Christ interceded for me. I drew away often in the year that followed to talk to God, to yell at Him, to sob, to listen to Him. There were times where I was tempted to pull away from God because I figured that if God was going to carry out His perfect (and I might add – incomprehensible (to me at least) ) will anyway, surely my prayers would not make a difference to Him.
Except they did and they do. I miss the mark. I am not as advanced as God. I can’t understand all He has to share. But He cares about my heart’s desire to know Him for myself, something I can only do by spending time talking to Him.
Over and over in His word, God invites us to pray – to talk to Him, cast our cares upon Him, to seek Him out for protection, counsel, acceptance, reassurance, reinforcements. Mostly God wants us to talk to him because he wants us to know Him. If we look at prayer as a one-sided delivery of wants and needs, then we miss the point. Everything about God’s creation of Adam in the garden indicates that God created humanity for relationship with Himself and with each other. I have relationships with people who only talk to me when they need something from me. I accept those relationships and those people for what they are. But I would never call the relationship a close one, nor the person a friend. On the other hand, I have friends who call me just because they want to be close. They want to share what’s going on in their lives and long to know about what is happening in mine. It’s nothing for one of us to call and admit “I didn’t have anything new to share. I just wanted to hear your voice.” That sentence has been the start of some of the best conversations I have ever had. No requests, no agenda – just two people seeking to know and be known – exchanging intimate feelings and thoughts – communing.
That is what prayer should be first and foremost. That is what I touched upon as a teenager the year that my oldest brother died. God was more than Someone to whom I delivered my laundry list of prayers to morning after morning. In that season, He was Jehovah Shalom, the Lord God (my) Peace. I experienced the Person of the Holy Spirit as He comforted me, protected me, and grew me through my first great tragedy. As I began to heal, I turned to Him less and less for comfort and more for companionship. I read and studied God’s true word, the Bible. I began to listen more than I talked. I had not yet committed to giving every area of my life over to God – but the seeds had sprouted and taken root in a fertile heart, preparing me for a lifelong relationship with my Father, one that could be cultivated through prayer.
At the time of this writing, I have a three-year-old daughter, who loves to talk. In fact, the only time I can be sure that she will be quiet is when she is sleeping. It seems billions of thoughts pass through her mind in a day, and she wants to share them all with me. Sometimes our conversations are serious ones that flow smoothly. I understand what she wants me to know. She understands what I want to convey. Other times I have no idea what she is saying or even trying to say, as she lapses into that mystical three-year-old language comprehensible only to other three-year-olds and puppies. But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care that I don’t understand everything she says. I am just glad that she wants to talk to Mommy. When time and circumstances permit, I devote my focused attention to her babblings, musings, or clear insights. I don’t care which. I just want to talk to her and have her talk to me. I want her to develop the habit of seeking me out to tell me things – all things – good, bad, whatever. If it is important to Kit, it is important to Mommy. I want to hear about it from her – even if I already know it, because I love her. You listen to and take time with the people you love.
Why bother to pray? Yes, God has a plan for your life and every life, and He will carry it out. By all means, ask Him for what you need and desire, knowing that He only gives His best. But pray because you want to know Him and enjoy Him. Pray because the God of the universe, the One who hung the stars and shaped the planets, the Inventor physics who determined the laws that govern the function of the universe, the One who thought a daisy into being, the One who hand-picked your features and wove together your DNA in your mother’s womb, the One who orchestrates history, and who died on the cross in your place, the One who is pure beneficence, and the Source of life itself, makes Himself available to you – to share intimate thoughts and details, to commune with you, just to hear your voice.
To come into God’s presence is to encounter the Sublime. It was with this purpose in mind that He created you and me in the first place. To fail to take advantage of such an opportunity regularly, daily, moment by moment, is to miss the entire point of living.
When you think of it this way, prayer isn’t a bother at all, but a privilege.
Be blessed Family!