God allowed Alexander Graham Bell to take credit for one of His greatest communication devices: the telephone. However, He reserved the ultimate, perfected method of communication for Himself: prayer. The telephone is dependent upon the mechanics of technology. Prayer is dependent upon the will of God, our relationship to Him in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the conditions of our hearts. The realities of technology are limited. The realities of prayer are endless.
Question: "What is prayer?"
Answer: "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies."1
Question: "What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?"
Answer: "The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's Prayer."2
Christ has given us a pattern to use when praying. It is not a prayer that Christ ever prayed. The Lord's Prayer is a model to guide our sinful hearts as we approach Him. Our prayers are to be centered first on the glory of our Father, His kingdom, and His will before our concerns are addressed. We are not instructed to repeat the words of the Lord's Prayer every time we pray, neither are we to recite the Lord's Prayer in meaningless repetition like the activity of the heathen who do pray, but "heap up phrases (multiplying words, repeating the same ones over and over)” (Mt. 6:6, 7 AMP).
Do our prayers change God? No, they do not! Prayer does not change God's mind or persuade Him to do or not do anything. Our morning prayers do not shape His policy for the day. His way is perfect, and our way has been perfectly ordained. He ordained everything before the foundation of the world, in one sweeping thought for all eternity (Eph. 3:11). This was done in His unerring perfection, and nothing needs to be redone or undone. In that He ordained the end from the beginning, He does not need to alter the path or make corrections along the way. We take comfort in the fact that He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). No one can stay His hand or question His actions (Dan. 4:35). He is God.
Charles Spurgeon said our prayers bring our wills to God for His will never changes. If God were changeable, able to be persuaded against His holy, righteous will, we would be miserable, unstable creatures never able to firmly trust in anything constant or dependable. Our faith rests in an immutable God who does not change and did not change from Old to New Testament times (Mal. 3:6). He is steadfast, without variableness or shadow of turning (Jas. 1:17).
In prayer we do not inform God of anything He does not already know (Mt. 6:8). In fact, He says He knows our words even before they are on our tongues (Ps. 139:4). Some people say they feel better praying in the morning, having God on their side for the day. This is unscriptural. We do not get God on our side by praying. Prayer brings us to God's will, not He to ours.
Why should we pray? First of all because it honors God. Second, prayer is our life. It is required of us to worship and bow before the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe. In prayer we lay hold of the will of God so that whatever we ask in His name He will give it to us (Jn. 14:13). We pray our health will be improved, our children will be protected, our marriages will be happy, which are things we should pray about; however, it is God's kingdom that should dominate our primary concern. Then, He says, all these other things will be given to us (Mt. 6:33). Prayer must be about Him first before it can be about us.
John Calvin said prayer is the spade with which we dig up all the promises in God's garden. While some may question why anyone should pray to a God who knows everything and has appointed beforehand whatever comes to pass (Eph. 1:4, 11), the hearts of God's children are compelled to cry out to Him about everything (Phil. 4:6). He is our strength, our very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). He who made the heavens and the earth is surely qualified and able to do all His holy will. Nothing is too hard for Him (Gen. 18:14). Ask any soul who daily trusts in His unerring grace and that person will quickly tell you that faith exercised through prayer moves mountains, and that the joys of praying are renewed with each answer. Our prayers do not change God, but it is we who are changed through prayer.
1. G. I. Williamson, The Shorter Catechism, Question 98, p. 111.
2. Ibid., Question 99, p.116.
- Ina Manly Painter
Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].