Praying in Christ Alone

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.

It doesn’t.

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.

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7 thoughts on “Praying in Christ Alone

  1. Hey Ken,
    Hope you are doing good and life is not to hectic. I like your posts, they always make sense and are pratical. Jackie and the Kids are fine and life keeps us busy–sure you can relate to that.

    Well just wanted to say hello!

    your friend,
    Tom Knox

  2. Excellent post! I never thought about how wrong thinking about prayer could be inhibiting my practice. Thank you for the “hmmm….” moment that will be with me for a while.

  3. I agree with you that people who have had bad experiences with an earthly father (like neglect, abandonment, or abuse) have trouble with seeing God, as father. The comforting qualities that are often attributed to mothers are qualities of God, the perfect parent. I think that some people find comfort in prayers said to the virgin Mary because they have difficulty recieving love and comfort from a male God. How do you think God recieves these indirect prayers?

    • Josie: I have not thought of prayers offered to Mary in the context of resulting from bitterness towards a father in a person’s past before. I do agree that a mother exemplifies many of the qualities of God as well, which is why men and women were both made in His image. The Scripture is clear that offering prayers/worship to anyone or anything other than the One True God is idolatry and unacceptable to God. In addition, God does not alter Himself for our comfort. He is unchanging, we are the ones who are changed by Him.

      In light of that, God is gracious and compassionate and I believe that He can and will bring healing into someone’s life who is suffering the pain of past abuse and reveal Himself to them as the perfect Father. God gives us the grace to walk out of those mentalities that hinder our fellowship with Him and does so without catering to them.

      I have personally known people who were Fatherless or who had abusive fathers who have an intimacy with God that I may not know this side of heaven because of the way He reveals Himself to them and heals them of the pain in their past.

  4. Thanks Joe. I’m hoping to see a dear friend grow in her faith to an understanding of God, the father. Intimacy with God surpasses all human relationships: parent/child, husband/wife, siblings, friendships.

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