Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Pray?

For the last few weeks, I've taken Sunday evenings at the church I pastor to discuss the idea of defending the Christian faith. The Bible obligates us to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have within us, so it's pretty important that we can do that. We've covered topics such as the reliability of scripture, the existence of God, the divinity of Christ and, most recently, we discussed the problem of the Canaanites, i.e., how could God condone what appears to be cold blooded murder of men, women and children in Joshua 6? We've had some great studies together and the series has been well-received.

A few weeks ago I asked people to submit any questions they had on this topic. Could be questions they've been asked and didn't know how to answer, or it could simply be questions they've wrestled with themselves. One of those questions is the title of this post: Why Pray? It's a great question. If one believes that God is sovereign, that He is going work all things according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11), then why do we pray? Why ask for specific things if He already knows what we need? Why ask Him to do specific things if He already knows what He's going to do? So I listed some reasons why we should pray.

1, We're commanded to. Pray is an obligation. 1 Thess. 5:1 tells us to pray without ceasing. So before anything else, we have to see that prayer is something that we are supposed to do. God expects it of us. But that just sort of moves the discussion back doesn't it? Why does God command us to pray?

2, God works through prayer. Over and over in scripture we see that God works when people pray. Several specific things we can mention, ways that God works when we pray: Matt. 26:41, prayer helps us overcome temptation; Luke 10:2, the kingdom is advanced when we pray; Eph. 6:18, people are blessed when we pray; 2 Thess. 3:1, the gospel goes out and triumphs when we pray.

3, Prayer affirms our relationship with God. Ps. 46:10, God tells us to be still and know/acknowledge that He is God. When we spend time in prayer we are reminded about who God is--and who we are in Christ.

4, Prayer is Fellowship with God. John Piper wrote a book entitled God is the Gospel. His premise is that God is the gospel. So the title was very well chosen. His point is that the purpose of the gospel isn't to obtain things from God; it's to obtain God Himself. The highest treasure, the greatest goal of Christianity is to know God, to be able to experience His presence, to be swept away by His grandeur, His majesty and splendor. When we pray, we are fellowshipping with this great and awesome King.

5, Prayer blesses God. In the OT incense was burned in the temple. It had a sweet aroma that pleased God. In Rev. 5:8 we read that the 24 elders who surround the throne hold golden bowls full of incense in their hands; and that incense is the prayers of the saints. Our prayers are pleasing to God, they bless Him. What an amazing thought! That something I do can bless God!

6, Prayer teaches us God's will. In 2 Cor. 12, we read of Paul's thorn in his flesh. And while we often focus on Paul's declaration that God's grace is sufficient, how did Paul come to this revelation? As he prayed that God would remove it, vs9 says, "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Who said that? God did. That means that through prayer, Paul was able to discern God's will regarding this hardship. Prayer teaches us God's word.

7, God answers prayer. We should pray because God answers our prayers. Of course there are times when the answer is no. But there are also times when the answer is yes. Jesus' parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18) reminds us that God, who is loving and faithful to us, will certainly answer the prayers that we offer.

8, We get to. Finally, we should pray because we get to. It's easy to take prayer for granted. It's easy to forget that our sins had separated us from God. It's easy to forget that nothing we could do could bring us back to Him. Eph. 2:13 reminds us that through the blood of Jesus, we who were separated have been brought near. We can go into the presence of God through our Great High Priest, King Jesus.

Father, thank You for the gift of prayer. Help us not to take it for granted, nor forget the exceedingly high cost that was paid in order to secure this great privilege. Make us men and women of prayer, for the glory of Your name. Amen.

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