– Does it change anything?
– Why bother if He already knows what I need?
– Should I pray for this, it seems so small?
– Should I pray for that, I feel so unworthy?
– Can I pray now, I’ve really blown it?
– How on earth do I actually talk to God?
Prayer. It must be the hardest thing in the world.
As a preacher I know it’s the quickest way to get my listeners shuffling in their pews. Mention the “P” word and watch ’em squirm. Though I’d have to be an even bigger hypocrite than I already am to take any pleasure in that. I find prayer seriously difficult. But seriously awesome too. When I manage it!
Let me just outline what prayer actually is. And maybe that’ll help with the million and one questions we’ve got.
Picture the scene – Jesus is praying to His Father (Luke 11:1). We’re not told where He is, but a mountaintop is a good bet (e.g. Matt 14:23). His disciples see it and they want in on it, they ask: “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father…” (Luke 11:2).
That’s prayer. Originally it’s Jesus’ own communion with the Father. That’s the ultimate prayer meeting: Jesus calling in dependence on His “Abba, Father” by the power of the Spirit (Mark 14:36). This is a very ancient prayer meeting. It’s been going on from before the world began. And when the disciples see it, they want a piece of the action.
If you and I know what’s good for us, we too want a piece of the action. We exist to share in this prayer meeting. We were made to rest in our Father’s arms and express our utter reliance on Him.
Wonderfully, we’re invited in. Jesus teaches us to pray what He prays: “Father.” We get to call God Most High what the eternal Son gets to call Him: “Daddy!” (Romans 8:15).
We’re always late to prayers. We’re always coming in on something that’s much bigger and much older than us. On the basis of Jesus’ perfect prayer, we chime in with our own paltry efforts. But the Spirit helps us. He dusts them down, pretties them up, and offers them to the Father in the name of Jesus. (Galatians 4:6) And the Father receives our prayers in Christ’s name – hearing them as He hears His own dear Son.
As you pray, you’re not knocking on heaven’s door. You’re seated in Christ at God’s right hand (Ephesians 2:6). You’re not shouting up to the throne room. You’re whispering in His ear.
This is the essence of prayer. We come to Jesus and the Spirit helps us to pray to God as our Father. Once we’re assured that He’s our Father, well then…
– Of course prayer changes things. Our Father moves heaven and earth for His children…
– Of course I tell Him things He already knows, He loves to hear it from me…
– Of course I pray for the little things, He’s intimately concerned for me…
– Of course I pray for the big things, I depend on His Fatherliness not my worthiness…
– Of course I can pray now, especially because I’ve blown it, my Father’s heart beats to comfort and reassure me…
– How do I ‘talk to God’? Start with “Abba, Father” and see what happens…
One verse revolutionizes my prayer times every time I remember it:
Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
I usually approach prayer like a battle-weary soldier addressing his sergeant-major… Or a dutiful servant addressing his slave-master… Or a miserable urchin-boy addressing his feudal lord… But Jesus invites me into something else entirely. He invites me to be a little child calling on his Father. Little children have nothing of their own. They claim nothing for themselves. Those with a good father simply rest, with immense confidence, in the presence and love of their dad. Jesus says – You can do that!
Why not switch off the computer for 2 minutes and call on your Abba, Father. He thrills to hear the voice of His children.