Since beginning this series here on the website, I’ve introduced the concept to our children’s ministry at Christ Fellowship of Tampa. The series we were in was about making Jesus our treasure and how to begin following Him. As the series wrapped up, the videos discussed how the life of Christian does not merely end with conversion, but it’s a journey for the rest of our lives. It only seemed fitting then to talk about what that means. The kids were very receptive to the analogy I use with physical growth and spiritual growth. They were even able to guess what the spiritual equivalent of speaking is. Do you know what it is? As I mentioned in the previous posts, a human being has to learn to do certain things in order to grow and if these things are not done, growth is stunted and something is wrong. We would question why a baby isn’t growing and we should question why a Christian isn’t growing if that is the case. Just as a child must be fed and eventually learn to eat on their own, so must we all learn how to speak if we are going to communicate with others. Spiritually, we have to learn to speak to God if we are going to have a relationship with Him.
The subject of prayer can become a topic of debate at times. It seems that each Christian denomination has a slightly different view of “how” to pray. While some have a more formal approach, utilizing a lot of memorized prayers, some disregard tradition altogether and opt for a view of prayer as just talking to God like you would any other person. Biblically, prayer is a mixture of both of those views. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus urges us not to pray with “empty phrases” or in some translations “vain repetitions” or “babbling,” however we shouldn’t take from this that Jesus was against any sort of formal prayer. He did, after all, teach His disciples to pray using what some would call a formulaic prayer (in the same chapter of Matthew!). What Jesus was cautioning against was the tendency to pray repetitious words with no meaning behind them. It’s easy to get to a point where we’ve said a prayer or creed so many times that our heart is not expressing anything while we speak. This is not prayer. Prayer, whether it’s recited words or personal conversation with God, is to be done in the Spirit, which means we can’t just be throwing out words with no meaning.
If your friend or significant-other only spoke to you in a robotic, repetitive phrasing every time you were together, would your relationship progress? NO! Can you imagine trying to have a conversation with someone that doesn’t speak from their own heart but just repeats the same thing over and over again? It’s not appealing at all, yet many Christians do this when speaking to God. The reasoning is often a religious upbringing that taught that God only hears prayer that is recited precisely and that if any words are out of place or incorrect, God will be displeased. This is just not the case with our loving, Heavenly Father. He wants to hear from us! He wants His children to speak to Him! He wants us to express our frustrations, to bring Him our petitions, and to have a desire to converse with Him. Any good earthly father would also want this from his children.
There are five elements of prayer that can guide us in how to approach God.
God’s Word says to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). What’s the difference between thanksgiving and praise? Glad you asked. Giving thanks is about being grateful for what God has done and what He has given. Praise, on the other hand, is focused more on who God is than on what you’ve received from Him. Confession is important to prayer because it sets our attitude right. Coming to God with an arrogant attitude is a sure way to be disappointed. Nothing humbles us before Him like confessing all that we’ve done to wrong Him. Supplication is just making our requests. A lot of us spend more time on this than any other aspect of prayer. Truth be told, a lot of us spend all of our time in prayer asking for things. How would it make you feel if your children only spoke to you when they wanted something? It’s just rude! You would tell them to have some gratitude for what you’ve already given them. While God doesn’t turn us away for asking Him when we haven’t given thanks, if we want healthy fellowship with Him we should be thankful before asking for more. Lastly, intercession is the act of praying for others. This part of prayer not only helps others who we’ve prayed for, it can even grow our relationships with them.
We can pray at any and at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), no matter where we are. A church building is not required in order to approach the throne of God in prayer. Isn’t that great news! There’s no religious requirement, sacrifice to be made, or saint to summon before going to the Father in prayer. Look at the world’s religions and you won’t find any other gods that are this approachable. Now there’s the subject of just how friendly is too friendly when it comes to praying to Almighty God. While God does want to hear our hearts and wants us to approach Him as Father, we do need to remember that He’s still God. He’s not our homeboy. He’s not a genie. He’s not obligated to bow to our every request. When we approach God, we’re not within our right to scream at Him in anger because He didn’t give us what we wanted, like we’re some spoiled rotten brat. That being said, however, I don’t think it’s always inapproriate to let our Father know we’re angry. With reverence, most anything is on the table. Key word beig reverence. Our heart attitude matters greatly when we talk to God.
Entire books have been written on prayer, so I’m not suggesting we’ve covered everything, but it’s a start. Do you have any questions? Comments or concerns? Leave a comment below and speak your mind.