When it comes to prayer, consider this: Why do you pray? Take some time to think about this. Not every reason to pray stems from pure motives. Is it simply because this is what churchgoers do? That is, is it simply one of the checkboxes on a religious list to check off? Is prayer simply a last resort when nothing else has worked and you’re at your wit’s end?
In the Scriptures, there are various reasons we are called to pray:
- Praise and worship God
- To give thanks
- To intercede for others
- To pray about needs
Still, these are to be founded upon a relationship. Jesus says,
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. ~ John 4:23
Yes, God desires worship, but not simply as a religious exercise; rather, from an experiential and relational understanding of who He is. Yes, God wants our thanksgiving, but as children responding to their loving Father’s goodness. Indeed, we should pray for others, but intercession should come as a result of genuinely sharing God’s heart. And yes, God wants us to bring our needs and anxieties to Him, but not as some cosmic genie who is to bow to the whims of people.
Do you know God as your God, Savior, Redeemer, and Father? Do you believe God really wants to hear from you and to reveal Himself to you? Perhaps this is one of the most difficult obstacles many of us face when it comes to prayer. For sure, there are also the obstacles of sin, faithlessness, and stubborn rebellion. However, in our impatience of wanting answers immediately and according to our wills, or desiring some sort of mystical, warm fuzzy experience, we sometimes feel as though God is distant. But how many of us simply come to talk to God relationally? Even more, to really pause with His Word (the Bible) and listen to Him speak? Too often we bring our religious honey-do lists to God, then we run off. Is this not true?
Yet, often persons don’t want to hear what God is saying and reveals. “Well, my God wouldn’t judge anybody,” I’ve heard people say. “I don’t see why God condemns that,” I’ve heard others say. “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m going to do this anyway!” some obstinately declare. To have such attitudes demands certain questions. For such persons who say such things, how can persons say He’s their God? The very concept of “God” (even in false religions) is that such a being is sovereign, a master, a superior. To say He is one’s Savior, then, raises another question: From what does He save a person from? The Bible says Jesus came to save us from our sins. So then, how can He save persons from what they refuse to surrender? Understand, there is the reality of sanctification and struggling against our sinful nature. But this is not the same as telling God, “You might call this sin, but I don’t. Come hell or high water, I’m living my way—my will be done!”
So, back to the original question: why do you pray? God invites each of us to come to Him through Jesus His Son, to know and love Him as we are known and loved. But prayer is not a honey-do list. It’s both talking and listening to God. It’s difficult for many of us to learn, but He has a much grander, and eternal plan that far surpasses our temporal dreams. Do we care? Do we desire His will be done? One of the first things Jesus teaches us to pray is for the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Is this what we pray? Is this what we truly desire?