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The Privilege & Responsibility of Prayer
DL Moody wrote;
“Man can as well live physically without breathing, as spiritually without praying”.
I believe that the reason we don’t place such an emphasis on prayer in our private devotions and corporately is because we don’t understand the privilege we have in prayer, and we don’t understand the incredible potential in the power of prayer. (James 5:16)
Have you ever been around someone who, when they pray, you want to know how to pray the way they do - not because of their words, but because of the obvious power and faith that is exhibited in their prayers?
There is a mystery to prayer that we will never fully understand this side of heaven, but it takes faith. Faith to trust and believe that the God of the universe hears our every word, and that prayer changes things.
Prayer takes faith. We don’t need to know how it works - how the God of the universe can hear our prayers, even the unspoken ones, and move on our behalf for his Glory. It is when we begin to pray that the spiritual war starts. Satan is unsettled when the saints pray,so he does everything in his power to distract and prevent you from praying. If only we knew the importance and effectiveness of our prayers!
In Matthew 6; Jesus turns his attention to prayer. He doesn’t say that the disciples should be praying, rather he says, “when you pray”. He takes it as a given that they will be praying, that prayer is part of their lives. But their model for prayer was wrong; Jesus needed to correct some things about the way they prayed. He points to the Pharisees and condemns their method of praying - they stood on street corners and in the synagogue, praying loud and eloquent prayers, repeating phrases that made them sound more holy than the man beside them. They were praying to man and not to God. Jesus said the Pharisees have already received their reward in full, they had received the desired effect of their prayers – being recognized by those around them and having their egos stroked.
Jesus goes on to teach the disciples what we know as the Lord’s prayer, but in reality it is the disciples prayer, and Jesus presented this prayer as a model for prayer for all his disciples. Jesus never intended for it to be a prayer that is simply memorized and repeated on a daily basis without thinking about the words. Rather, he intended to model for the disciples the basic principles of prayer, and a format that they (and we), can use in our prayers.
Look how the prayer starts; “Our Father in heaven….” What a statement! Our father – the omnipotent God, wants us to call him father, and we can walk directly into his presence. There is no middle man, no barrier, and we can present our prayers directly to the throne of the Almighty, who is also our heavenly Father!
In this format of prayer that Jesus gave, we have various aspects of prayer that we can emulate. We have worship, repentance, petition, and we also have in verse 10; your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Not our own selfish and shortsighted requests, but God’s plans and purposes.
What a privilege, we as believers, have. We get to speak directly to God. The creator of the universe. So many people have a wish list of who they would like to speak to; various presidents, both living and dead, great military leaders, sports stars, human rights leaders – who would you like to speak to? But we get to speak to the Lord of Lords, the Creator, the Great I am. We squander that privilege, and oftentimes we couldn’t be bothered. It is too hard to pray, we don’t have the time.
Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray alone. We must always pray in secret before we pray in public. It is not wrong to pray in public. In fact corporate prayer is the life blood and a sign of the health of a church. But, we must first develop our prayer life in private, wrestling with God over issues and burdens that he lays on our heart.
We as believers also have a responsibility to pray.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to come, for his will to be done. We complain about crime in our neighborhoods, but are we praying for God’s will to be done – for his kingdom to come? We complain about our leaders – but are we praying for them? It is our responsibility. The primary purpose of prayer is to glorify the name of God. To worship him and to praise him, and then we ask him to accomplish his will on the earth. Prayer always begins with God’s interests and not ours; God’s name, God’s Kingdom and God’s will – it is all about Him. Robert Law said; “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done in earth.”
As we focus and on what is on God’s heart, He aligns our hearts and minds with his purposes, and then we begin to pray correctly. If we put what is on God’s heart first, then we can bring our own needs before him and know with certainty through faith that we are praying according to God’s will, because we will know what is on God’s heart.
Looking at Matthew 6:8; you may ask if God knows what we need even before we ask, then why do we need to pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way in which he responds and moves. Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer – if we voice our needs and concerns to God, trusting him in faith for the provision, then we will be able to make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us. God aligns our hearts with his purposes.
So we see that prayer is our privilege and prayer is our responsibility, but prayer is primarily about a relationship; a growing relationship with God. As you spend time with God, he reveals glimpses of his personality and his character – and you begin to pray differently. As you know and trust God, you begin to pray from the depths of your heart, getting away from clichés and the recitation of prayers that we have memorized for years.
How is your prayer life? None of us can say that we have arrived – we have achieved some goal in our personal prayer life, we can all be growing and learning more about the character and nature of God through the discipline of a personal prayer time.