Would that our prayers were more concerned with issues of moral and spiritual health and not just material and psychological prosperity. To have daily bread, to have our sins forgiven, to be delivered from sin and the power of the evil one—God’s provision, God’s purification, God’s protection—these three categories capture all our personal needs, as taught here by Jesus. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Take the Gospel Seriously!
If I had to sum up this whole matter of prayer, I’d say quite simply, to pray is to take your relationship with God seriously. Perhaps more specifically, to pray is to take the gospel seriously. For the gospel is the glorious good news that in and through Jesus Christ we who were alienated from God and subject to His eternal wrath have been rescued, reconciled, and restored—such that we are now sons and daughters of God. Prayer is simply the way we live out and experience this new relationship. Prayer is how we engage with God personally—and in a mysterious way we join with Him in His rule over creation.
I like how one writer has put it—prayer is simply the means God uses to give us what He wants.7 As the psalmist says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). That’s what happens when we pray.
Prayer is hard. The battle to pray is the battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. It’s the battle to make our will God’s will; it’s the battle to turn from our rule of our world to God’s rule in His kingdom. It’s a battle that we must win. So don’t give up—begin again. That’s what I do. Confess your sin of prayerlessness and begin again.
Reflecting on this battle, I was reminded of a dear brother who was caught in the grip of alcohol. It had become a cruel idol to him. And I urged him to engage in that battle daily, diligently saying no to that idol and yes to what Jesus Christ wanted for him. I realize that I need to do the same thing. I have idols, too. Idols that need to be rooted out. Every day I need to say no to the world, the flesh, and the devil and yes to God in prayer.
The good news is that we aren’t in this battle alone. If you have put your trust in Christ, if you are a Christian united to Christ, you are a child of God—a son or daughter—and, as Paul tells us, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal. 4:6). That Spirit within you is crying to God your Father. You have a deep longing to know Him and to love Him. The Lord is calling you to Himself. He desires your fellowship; you are His beloved son or daughter. He offers you an inexpressible and glorious joy. Don’t ignore Him. Don’t push Him away.
As John Wesley said– “O Begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise … Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days.”8
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