Like many churches, the church I attend is currently in a season of prayer and fasting. It is a time where we, as a corporate Body, are seeking the heart of God as He directs us, as individuals. These can be very meaningful times – times of heightened sensitivity and insight into what “the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Given this season, I thought it appropriate to offer some insights into prayer – using the Lord’s Prayer as a model…
Most Christians are quite familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. In many traditions (including the one in which I grew up, as a child) the Lord’s Prayer was regularly recited in our times of corporate worship. Even when I was young, I wondered why we would do such a thing. Not that it wasn’t meaningful (everyone seemed to be quite reverent when reciting those words) – it just seemed strange (especially for a church that believed in, and practiced, extemporaneous prayer).
As I grew older, my inquisitive nature wanted to know more. Did Jesus really want us to recite such prayers, by rote, in our church get-togethers? What did the words really mean? What did they entail? Why were they so important that we felt we had to say them out loud in our church services?
Everything came back to the essential nature of prayer. Praying in ways that centered our hearts on the Heart of God, and what He was seeking from us. Praying prayers that mattered. That were powerful. That God was actually listening to hear.
Think about that. Could it be that many of our prayers are just words that never really capture the attention of heaven?
Jesus thought so. That’s why He instructed His disciples to pray in a certain way (as opposed to “babbling like pagans, (who) think they will be heard because of their many words.” [see Matthew 6:7]).
And just how important is prayer? It is so important that the disciples clearly recognized it as one of the secrets to Jesus’ effective ministry. In exploring the gospels, it is the only thing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them (see Luke 11). Not exorcising demons. Not walking on water. Not curing leprosy. Not making the blind to see. Not raising the dead… Just prayer.
In fact, everything we need to know about the importance of prayer is discovered in the fact that Jesus prayed… often! The eternal Son of God made it a point to regularly seek His Father in times of prayer (often all night). IF Jesus felt that prayer was that essential… so should we.
But it seems to me that if we are going to pray, we should pray effective prayers. Ineffective prayers are not worth our time and effort. We may get some benefit from that manner of prayers, but they are not accomplishing heaven’s purposes. And the goal of prayer is to see heaven act in some way, here on earth, that can only be explained by the power of God intervening in the affairs of our lives.
So, in the next few days, let’s see (and apply) what Jesus taught us about prayer…