Last week we talked about a few of the reasons why God answers prayer. Today we will look at three reasons why we pray.
1. Design – We are designed by God to pray. Prayer flows out of relationship.
2. Dependence – Prayer acknowledges a dependence or trust in God. Prayer is an expression of our faith.
3. Duty – We are commanded to pray.
We are designed to pray. People were created in the image of God, designed to be in relationship with their creator. Talking to God is definitely a part of that relationship. There is not a people group on this planet that does not have some type or form of prayer. Generally speaking, there is a desire for mankind to connect with a greater power we know as God. Author and pastor Timothy Keller describes it this way:
In the great monotheistic religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, prayer is at the very heart of what it means to believe. Muslims are called to pray five times a day , while Jews have traditionally prayed three times a day. Each branch of the Christian church is saturated with various traditions of common prayer, private prayer, and pastoral prayer. Prayer of course is not limited to monotheistic religions. Buddhists use prayer wheels…Hindus pray for help or peace in the world to any number of gods, …Prayer is one of the most common phenomena of human life. Even deliberately non religious people pray at times. One study shows that nearly thirty percent of all atheists admitted they prayed “sometimes”. Efforts to find cultures, even very remote and isolated ones, without some form of religion and prayer have failed.” -Timothy Keller, Prayer
We are designed to pray to be in His presence and to bring him glory.
Designed to be in His Presence
We are designed to be in relationship with God. When Adam and Eve first walked in the garden, unaffected by sin, they were fully in God’s presence. We are made in the image of God to be loved by Him, a perfect selfless love, and to glorify Him. Sin broke that relationship. Apart from Him, we spend our lives seeking to fill that void. It is only through the person and work of Jesus, believing in His love for us and the expression of that love on the cross, that we are made complete.
Prayer is the natural result of entering into a relationship with God. How much we pray is really a result of how much we understand the Gospel. The more we come to understand what He has done and the Spirit He has given us, the greater desire to be drawn into His presence. When Jesus talks about prayer, He emphasizes the relationship. He knows prayer will flow from their understanding of Him and His relationship with His Father and that understanding starts with a relationship. When the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray, He starts with “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9).
Designed to Bring Him Glory
When we pray, God moves, and He receives the glory. We pray according to His will, and He answers for His glory. Scripture gives us many examples of this truth:
- 1 John 5:14-15 – Jesus taught that if we pray according to His will, He hears and answers us
- Luke 22:40-46 – Jesus prayed, “not My will, but Yours be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane
- Matthew 6:5-15 – Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done…”
God responds perfectly to all our needs in ways that are always good for us and that bring Him glory. The more we seek Him and put our trust in Him, the more satisfaction we will experience, and the more God will be glorified. That is part of His overall design of creation and the way He designed our relationship, especially our relationship to Him through prayer.
How much we pray is a direct reflection on how much we believe we need God. We always pray in times of desperation because it is clear we need help, but often we feel like we can handle the day-to-day routines.
Last week we talked about Ahab, a King in the Northern Kingdom who married Jezebel. Jehoshaphat was King at the same time as Ahab, but he was king of Southern Kingdom. He was a better king in that he trusted in Yahweh God of Israel. When he was told his enemies were gathering large forces against him, he turned his attention to seek the Lord:
Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD… and he said, “Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s…. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you.” Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 15-18
Jehoshaphat knew he could not stand before his enemies. He bowed before his God YAHWEH in complete submission and dependence. He was overwhelmed at his circumstances, and so he called out on the character and the promises of God, for God’s glory, and God answered. Although he had not always made the best choices and alliances he recognized his need for God in this situation.
It is no different today. God is looking for opportunities to demonstrate his presence, power, and position to build the faith of his people. Most of the time we wait until there is something we know we can’t do and then we pray, but forget about prayer for the daily, smaller things that we believe we can handle. Typically we are not being proactive in advancing the kingdom through great acts of faith. Jehoshaphat was in a sense being defensive, holding on to kingdom ground. Do we wait until trouble is upon us to call out to God? Do we intentionally put ourselves in places where we are dependent on him, not for defensive measures but to advance His kingdom?
It is a misunderstanding on our part that leads us to this type of thinking. First, to believe we can handle anything apart from God is incorrect (John 15:5). Second, to believe that God does not want to be involved in the details of our lives is incorrect (Matthew 6:25-33). Third, prayer is an acknowledgment that He is Lord God and we are not; our will comes under submission to His will. This seems like a simple concept, but it is one we forget. The very act of prayer demonstrates dependence; it is an acknowledgment that there is someone greater who has power greater than ours. Through prayer, we are releasing control and giving it to God—that is why prayer brings us peace. We are acknowledging that God is in control, not us.
We read in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are told to pray about everything with thanksgiving, which is an act of trust or dependence in relationship with our King. This is how He designed us to work with Him in the advancement of the Kingdom.
We are commanded to pray. It is our duty. We do not like the word duty; it sounds forced and overbearing. Shouldn’t we respond out of love? But obedience is love.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me” (John 14:15), and to obey is to honor. Desires or feelings can come and go, so if we depend on them to keep us grounded in our walk with God, we will have an inconsistent walk with God. Knowing and doing the right thing is a part of duty.
Here are some of the things we are called to pray for and ways to pray for them:
Pray for our City
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
Pray for our enemies
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matthew 5:44
Pray for God’s Kingdom to come
Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…” Matthew 6:9-10
Pray for others to grow in Christ
For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. 2 Corinthians 13:9
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints… Ephesians 6:18
Pray at all times
…pray without ceasing… 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray for the sick
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises…Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:13, 16
Pray for sharing of the gospel
…and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel… Ephesians 6:19
Pray for love to abound
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment… Philippians 1:9
We are to pray because we are designed to pray, dependent on Him, and it is our duty. What will you pray for this week?
Community Group Discussion Questions
- In human relationships, it seems the closer we are to someone the easier it is to talk with them or even be quiet with them. How does this translate into our relationship with God?
- Why is relationship important in prayer?
- What are some observations that the group has made about prayer and we are designed to pray?
- Does God give us circumstances so that we must pray?
- Are there any circumstances in which we do not need to pray?
- What are a couple of reasons we do not pray about the smaller things?
- If yes, which ones? If no, why do we fail to pray? (root cause)
- It is difficult to pray out of duty. If we pray from pure duty (obedience) does that hinder our prayer?
- Will you commit to praying for… this week?