There is no shortage of articles, podcasts, and books on how to pray, what to pray, when to pray, the benefits of prayer, model prayers, tips on organizing your prayers, and where to find nice notecards and journals to keep prayers. These aren’t unimportant questions. But there is a greater one: Do you realize Who you are praying to?
When I stop and think about what prayer is, I am totally and completely floored. We are sinful, finite creatures speaking to an eternal, holy God. How is it that He cares? Psalm 8:3-4 asks this precise question:
“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You care for him?”
Prayer and The Cross
Prayer is only possible because God has made it so. Even uttering the simplest prayer is not something we could ever do on our own.
For starters, there is the problem of sin that makes man unfit to enter God’s presence. As rebels, we should have no right to lay our troubles, anxieties, fears, and requests at His feet. There is no reason God should hear and have mercy.
Yet He does.
God provided the means of reconciliation with man by sending His Son to die on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. The gospel means that the seeming impossibility of the perfect Creator communing with us is now a stunning reality.The gospel means that the seeming impossibility of the perfect Creator communing with us is now a stunning reality. Click To Tweet
When we are made children of God, being heard is one of the promises we are given (1 John 5:14).
Christ broke down the barrier. He tore the temple veil that reminded man that his unrighteousness prevented him from entering God’s presence. Now, we don’t need to seek God’s presence in the temple. We don’t need to offer sacrifices. We have direct access to the Father through Jesus, our great High Priest (Hebrews 10:19–20).
And we don’t have to fear. Christ is at the Father’s side, always interceding on our behalf. The Spirit is in us, helping when we “do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). We can pray boldly knowing we are heard.
C.S. Lewis summarizes the act of prayer like this in Mere Christianity:
“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get in touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying–the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on–the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.” (emphasis added)
The Who Impacts the What
When you pray, you are speaking to the infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth.
The One Who saw your hopeless cause and had mercy.
The One Who knew you and predestined you to salvation before the foundation of the world.
The One Who knit you together in your mother’s womb, numbered your days before you were born, and counts the hairs on your head.
The One Who sets up kings and kingdoms, rules over governments, and sets the boundaries of nations.
The One Who knows the end from the beginning.
The One Who is seated on heaven’s throne surrounded by seraphim singing, “holy, holy, holy!”
He is the One you pray to.
A.W. Tozer writes this in Knowledge of the Holy:
“Prayer is not itself meritorious. It lays God under no obligation nor puts Him in debt to any. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason…But sin has made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us, a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may come, trusting only in the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be held against him.”
Knowing Who God is will make us come humbly. It will help answer the other how, what, when, and why questions of prayer.
In her lecture “Prayer: His Will Is Love,” Elisabeth Elliot explains that trusting God’s will for us is always love, enables us to have peace in praying “Thy will be done.” Even when we do not get what we want, God is still working it out for our good (Romans 8:28).
“My prayers are not to force God to cooperate with me, but to teach me to cooperate with God,” she says. “Prayer is cooperation with God.”
The goal of prayer is not to get what we selfishly want. The goal is to grow closer to the Lord and know Him more. We hope in the God Who hears our prayers, not in the prayer itself.The goal of prayer is not to get what we selfishly want. The goal is to grow closer to the Lord and know Him more. We hope in the God Who hears our prayers, not in the prayer itself. Click To Tweet
Believers are privileged to rest in Christ and accept the invitation to lay our burdens on Him, to be anxious for nothing but by prayer make our requests known to God (Philippians 4:6). Prayer is a precious gift. It is an honor to pray for friends, enemies, family, strangers, political leaders, the church—for anybody. It is a great comfort and blessing to know when we speak, He hears.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)