We measure the passing of life using various instruments such as clocks and calendars that are based on the rotations of our planet earth while on its’ travels around the sun. When we approach the end of the calendar year cycle on December 31st, humanity celebrates the closing of the past and the beginning of a new future. We look to the new year as a time for refreshing, renewal, and even rebirth. Resolutions are made to place goals in front of us, intent on keeping us motivated to accomplish bigger and better things in the year to come. For many Bible-believers, the three best resolutions (in my humble opinion) are to pray more, read the Bible more, and trust God more. I’d like to believe that these three should normally be an everyday passion and desire in our lives and that we shouldn’t need to have specific time and date marks to set these as goals. But for me, that can sometimes be a struggle.
I have written and spoke in the past about the importance of reading, studying, knowing, and living the Bible in our daily walk through this fallen world, and as such, I will not repeat here what I feel is an obvious and purposeful act every person calling themselves a Christian should be doing wholeheartedly. Likewise, as God has pressed on my heart and soul immensely these last handful of years about learning to trust Him more and more, this too should be our daily duty…to be keenly focused on Him as we face the daily challenges that can create turmoil in the heart of a believer. After all, since God is, so should we trust and obey! But what about praying more?
Recently, I’ve been introduced to a catch-phrase that got me reflecting on a weak area of my life, one that I believe God has been telling me I need to pay heed too because of the importance of it in our lives; Praying! And the phrase that has been popping up simply says “pray more, worry less.” Pray more, worry less! Such a great reminder to us all! And something that I need to be preaching to myself about daily!
You see, I am habitually out of the habit of praying regularly. Sure there’s the routine of praying before dinner or saying a little night time prayer before bed, but is there regular prayer in my every day walk? Sadly, no.
Prayer is more than just a conversation with God. Prayer is more than reciting some rote words of petition. Prayer is our spiritual link between the Sovereign God and ourselves! Just as devices need to be plugged in to an outlet for power to operate, so are we needing to be plugged into God through prayer for power to operate. So the questions arise…why do we not pray as we should? Is prayer so difficult a task?
A prayer can be as simple as a quick plea to God for help or strength to face a battle, or it can be as long and intense as a deep and emotional cry for salvation. Prayer can be a little “thank you” to God for His providence, or can be a long conversation to discuss the worldly matters all around us. Prayer is not restricted within a box. There are no set parameters that must be met in order for God to hear our prayers. We see throughout the Bible a myriad of prayers uttered under a wide variety of circumstances. From kings to commoners, anyone who knows the God of the Bible can, and should, call on the name of the Lord!
Before getting into the Scriptures regarding prayer, there is one other facet of the phrase above I want to point out: worry less. The implication of the phrase is that if we pray more, we worry less. And I think that we could easily accept that at face value. The more we trust and rest in the arms of God, the less the world’s weight rests on us! Simple! Of course there is more to it, but it’s important at the beginning to understand that the two parts do have a cause-and-effect relationship. As we look at the importance of prayer, we can keep in mind what the effects of prayer has on our lives.
I first think of the Apostle Peter in Matthew 14 who exited a boat at the behest of Jesus and started walking on the water to Him. He was doing what is normally considered impossible, all because he kept his eyes on Jesus. But when Peter took his eyes off of Christ and started looking at the waves around him, he began to sink. Why? He lost his focus and connection with God who has the power over all things. He unplugged from the Creator and started dealing with the created on his own. We, too, have these very same issues today. We know that God is with us, but we need to cling to Him, always staying connected to Him, and hold on to His hand through all of life’s ups and downs.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
We know from Scripture that God is with us! When sheep follow the shepherd, they keep their eyes on him at all times. When sheep lose sight of their leader, they tend to stray. We can walk through the fields of this world with little worries by keeping our eyes firmly fixed on our Savior, who alone is our proper guide and guardian. By staying in constant touch with Him we always have His direction, comfort, and assurance that we are in His fold as we should be. It’s when we stop talking with Him, stop listening to Him, that we find our souls in distress during life’s storms because our eyes are not where they should be…on our good shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for His own!
As mentioned before, the Bible is replete with prayers from every walk of life…all directed to the one true God. We also have the most perfect of prayer that is illustrated by the Son of God Himself, Jesus, revealed in both Matthew and Luke. The key elements we must note in the the Lord’s Prayer is that the first petitions are addressed and acknowledging God. This is important because so many people will start talking to God by asking (or demanding) that God do something for them. Obviously by doing this their focus is on themselves first and foremost. And we know from the Bible that selfishness goes against the very relationship between God and man. When we address God, we need to be mindful that our position is one of subjection to a Righteous God. He is the creator, we are the created. “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:9) Even Jesus was compliant with God’s plans when he stated while praying in the garden “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, prayed often to His Father. Why would Jesus, who is fully God, yet fully man, have to pray to God? Because of the importance to purposefully talk with, and listen to, God. Jesus was not only having important conversations with His Father, but He was also showing us how it should be done. If you note Jesus’ most intimate times in prayer with the Father, you will see that He went off to be alone. Christ walked away from the distractions of life to spend quality time with God. This is an important aspect we need to emulate when we have time with our Heavenly Father. In Matthew 6, right before our Savior taught the Lord’s Prayer, he gave instructions about our time with God. He said “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:5-8)
Spending our time focused in prayer with God is time worth spending to 1) acknowledge the God of the universe and how important He is in our life; 2) worship and praise Him for the merciful grace and blessings He has given us; 3) stand before Him in confession of our sins and to seek His forgiveness and cleansing; and 4) ask Him for the things we need, by His grace. Even though He knows what we need before we ask, we can be sure that God does hear us. He loves and cares for us and wants us to prosper and grow. He will not only supply the things we need, but will also give us the comfort and peace we need as well. Jesus said “are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)
We face many trials and tribulations, tests and turmoils in this journey through life here and we need God’s Spirit and His Word to bring us through. Even in times of prosperity and joy, we want to take time to thank and praise Him who gives abundantly all things as well! We can talk to Him any time, anywhere, under any condition, but it is very important to spend quality alone time before our Lord often! Always remember that the most important way we have been given to communicate our worship, as well as our worries, is in prayer. Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We shouldalso remember what the very last verse of the Psalm 150 says to us; to let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6).
Let us rejoice that we can come before His throne of grace to worship and praise Him. That we can always cast our worries and woes before Him. That we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus is ever making intercession for us, even when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray about. That God hears us always and wants us to come to Him in all things at all times. That we just need to pray more and worry less!