Prayer is one of the key foundations of faith. Much of our faith, as Christians, hinges upon it, and without it, we are rendered completely unable to grow in relationship with Christ.
A Christian’s spiritual walk involves prayer from the beginning to the end. From praying to first accept Christ to praying our last words on our deathbed, prayer is deeply rooted within the life of every Christian.
A Christian with a healthy prayer life can expect to see his relationship with Christ grow, and in direct relation to this, the strength of his faith will grow also.
What is prayer?
John Piper defines prayer as, “Intentionally conveying a message to God.” Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
John Piper expounds on this verse and says, “I take that to mean not that Christ is out there groaning in Heaven, but he’s right here when I’m speechless, and don’t know what to say. And these groanings are rising from the Spirit, with meaning, and no words.”
Prayer is more than just words. In many ways, it is a spiritual groaning–lacking words but full of meaning. Furthermore, it is an intentional communication of love toward the Spirit in light of the growth in relationship presented therein.
We could then define prayer as “Intentionally conveying a message to God, through either words or meaningful groaning brought upon by suffering, in an intentional communication of love toward the Spirit.”
But why pray?
This is, of course, the natural question for a struggling Christian. Simply reading the end of the last verse presents us with an explanation for this question. If the Spirit already searches our hearts and knows what we desire the most, why ask at all? Couldn’t he just give us our heart’s desires without requiring a request?
Although it seems wrong to use an earthly analogy for a spiritual example, I would ask a simple question: even if your dad knew what you most greatly wanted for Christmas, wouldn’t you still ask him?
My dad knows me better than anyone else. He knows everything I would possibly want for Christmas, and yet I’ll still tell him. He’d ask, “Well, any ideas for a Christmas present?” And I’d respond with a few things I’d been thinking on, giving him a choice. Why? Even though he knows what I want (likely involving either sharp objects or a video game), he still loves to hear me ask.
There is relationship within prayer, as we already saw, and it comes out through giving Christ our heart’s desires. He knows exactly what you want, down to the minutest details. This does not, however, hinder us from asking; because he delights to hear his children talk to him.
Look at Matthew 26:39: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.””
Even Jesus prayed. Jesus, One with the Father, fully man and yet fully God, intimately in relationship with His Father and knowing everything that was about to happen…prayed.
The all-powerful Christ, capable of creating worlds from just his breath, prayed to his Father, even though he knew that there was no other way. Why? To express his heart, and to talk to his Dad. As I said—Christ loves it when we talk to him. In doing so, we show him that we love and trust him enough to give him our grief, our strife, and our anger, and he answers.
Does Christ answer? Does he even hear me?
The answer is a resounding “YES!” Christ always hears you, and he always answers.
As soon as I write this, I hear the skeptics and people wrestling with what they consider “unanswered prayer.”
I’ve prayed and nothing happened.
I asked God to heal so-and-so and they’re still sick.
That’s a difficult place to be. But let me encourage you that Christ always answers . . . but I never said he always says yes.
Christ doesn’t just like hearing us come to him. He also loves saying yes to our requests. At the same time, in his eternal wisdom, he sometimes chooses to say no. Regardless of whether the prayer is reasonable or not, he is the only being with true, pure, and infinite wisdom. Even in times of hardship, in which we beg Christ for an answer, he sometimes chooses to give us an answer: no.
Why is prayer so important?
As previously mentioned, prayer builds relationship with Christ, gives us the chance to talk to Him, provides a gateway for confession and supplication, and creates a channel for us to pour out our hearts. For several years now, I have prayed two prayers repeatedly: “God, please give me wisdom,”, and one other–a question.
As to the first, I believe he has answered it in some ways, but I am yet to hear an answer on the second. Have I stopped asking? No. Just because I can’t hear the answer doesn’t mean it’s not there.
A Christian without prayer is a soldier without his commander’s orders. We cannot understand Christ’s leading of us unless we make it a habit to pray without ceasing. In doing so, our relationship with Christ grows, thus impacting our faith and making us stronger Christians.
When should we pray?
Prayer should be your first resort, not your last. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray at all times for all reasons.Prayer should be your first resort, not your last. Click To Tweet
Is there a bully picking on you in 5th grade? Pray. Did your car just get towed? Pray. Ice cream falls off the cone? Buy another one, then pray for a job so you can pay off all these ice cream bills.
Prayer should be a daily habit. Pray from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. It doesn’t have to be a request. In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything except, “thank you, God, for this day.” I’m known for some more obscure prayers. “Thank you God for making coffee” is a personal favorite.
Don’t be afraid to just talk to God. Treat Him as if He’s your best friend. Since He is everywhere, he can always hear you. If He can hear your heart, He can also hear your mind. He adores it when you talk to Him.
Don’t be afraid to do so.