We must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, and cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer. (Martin Luther)
Ask a Christian about his or her prayer life and the typical response you receive is usually far from joyful. The believer hangs his head in shame and shakes it slowly back and forth.
“It’s not as good as it should be.” He says, his voice laden with conviction. “I know I should pray more, and I want to pray more it’s just…” At this point his voice trails off and you are left to fill in the blank.
And we do fill in the blank with all the same excuses that we use to justify our own lack of prayer. You’re thinking of some of them now and so am I, because they are so well rehearsed.
When we hear a great sermon on prayer we get all fired-up. We become determined to do something about the weakness of our prayer life and we do pretty well for the first day or so until we fall right back into the same rut we were in before we got all fired-up.
Discipline–while important–doesn’t get the job done all by itself and feeling guilty about our lack of prayer is not enough to make a difference. So what does?
The key is to have a right theology of prayer before you can have a right practice. In the next three posts I want to tackle the right theology of prayer and then we’ll take a look at right practice.
Prayer founded on faith
Like everything else in the life of the Christian prayer begins, ends, and is filled up with the Gospel.
Often, one of the reasons we feel we should pray more is because we have gotten it into our heads that prayer somehow merits favor with God.
Nothing we do can merit favor with God, nothing. All of us are messed up sinners and the only reason we even have a relationship with a holy and righteous God to begin with is because it pleased Him to save us. So let’s start putting the whole, prayer-gets-me-on-God’s-nice-list, thing out of our heads because it just isn’t so.
Relationship not rules
Rules should not motivate our prayer lives, relationship should. Because of Christ, we are now in relationship with the God of the universe. Let that sink in for just a moment. In fact, let me rewrite it for emphasis:
Because of Jesus Christ, you and I now have a relationship with the God of the universe!
What kind of relationship do we have with this Great and Glorious God? Let’s go to a couple of Scriptures for the answer;
- Matthew 6:9 – “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”
- 2 Corinthians 6:18 – “And I shall be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord almighty.”
- Galatians 4:6 – “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!'”
Thanks to Jesus Christ, our relationship with the God of the universe is one of father and child. I realize for some, the image of a father does not conjure up pleasant images and memories, but remember God is the father none of us had and that none of us could ever be. He is perfect and perfectly loving and we can come to Him, our perfect father, as His child.
As historical theologians Robert Kolb and Charles Arand write;
Prayer is the conversation of the dependent and trusting child, who is eager to voice both thanks and requests with the loving Father, who in turn is eager to hear from His children.
Meditate on this relationship this week and watch how you will find yourself drawn to God in prayer.
Next week…Prayer by Faith Alone.