This article is an unapologetic attempt to motivate... ME! Yes, me. Because if anybody needs help in getting motivated to pray, it’s yours truly. I mean, I know prayer is important. There’s sure enough of it in the Bible, and you can find tons of books on prayer. Not only that, all the godly people I’ve ever met testify to the crucial nature of prayer in their lives. So I understand I should pray, but...
Well, let me be honest. Sometimes (often?) prayer is hard and even confusing for me. As Tim Downs asks, “Is it hard to pray to an unseen, infinite, omniscient being? You bet!” And, living in this world so bathed in materialism, about the only reason even Christians give me for praying is “to get answers.” So when I don’t get the answers I want (and sometimes not even any answers), I don’t know why I should keep praying. So...
“What’s that,” you say? “You feel that way, too?” You think everybody feels that way? You just gave up praying three weeks ago because you didn’t have any more motivation either? “Can you look over my shoulder at what I’m writing and maybe get motivated, too?” Absolutely!
Any of the rest of you out there trying not to look interested can follow along, too. The more, the merrier.
Well, as I said, sometimes you get the impression that prayer is a grocery list: “Our Father, who art in heaven... Gimme, gimme, gimme! And, by the way, my name is Jimmy!” This is sort of a, “shop ‘til you drop” way of praying. But somehow I cannot see that as the prime and certainly not the most satisfying reason.
So I began to study how and why Jesus prayed. After all, He got more answers than anyone else and He always prayed for the right reasons. I was amazed! First, because He prayed all the time. The Bible says that “He would often withdraw to the wilderness and pray.” Often is right. He prayed just about every chance He got. He was perfect; so it wasn’t like He was praying for forgiveness of sin or anything like that. Why?
Well, that’s the second reason I was amazed. The more I study, the more good motivating reasons I find to pray. I find they’re basically the ones Jesus Himself had. And since, as I said earlier, I’m often flummoxed about prayer and get discouraged, these reasons almost always give me a lift -- and sometimes even a jolt.
I am first called to prayer because it is a key vehicle to building my love relationship with Jesus Christ. Hear me now this is important. Christianity is not primarily rules. It is a relationship.
Aren’t you sick (I think everybody is) of “rules” Christianity? Every day somebody’s got another rule for us to follow to be “good” Christians. Don’t get me wrong. Certainly there are commands in God’s Word and promises. Certainly Christ has standards, but we don’t become Christians because we “receive standards.” We become Christians because we receive Christ, who loves us, died for us, lives in us daily.
What I need, then, is to build my love-grace relationship with Him. And I, like most of us, know so little about love-grace relationships. I have to learn to allow Him to embrace me, to care for me, to point out my needs to me (and how He fills them). I need to listen to Him, and I desperately need to talk to Him.
Where and how is all this done? In prayer. In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul prays, “that you may be able to comprehend... what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge...”
“Know” in this passage is the same word used for the intimate closeness of a husband and wife in sexual embrace. “Whoa -too early for that, Dan.” Well, the Bible doesn’t think so. Paul is praying that you and I will experience that kind of love with Christ -not sexual, but intimate, deep, close, unfettered. It is so deep that Paul later says it “surpasses knowledge.” Imagine – he wants us to know what is too deep ever to be known!
Where do we experience this? One place we can learn to do so is in prayer. Even Paul’s desire for us to experience this life is voiced in a prayer (Eph. 3:14). When we “get down and get honest” before God, we are on His turf in a unique way. Seldom do we get closer to Him than in prayer.
One girl from a Jewish background wrote the following: “I now know Christ is here all around me, just waiting for me to reach out, to let Him love me...” When we pray, we can pray to experience this love, to be bathed in it, to learn how to give it back, to learn how to let it seep into the dry cracks and crevices of our lives.
In fact, the longer I love, the more I think that the chief reason for the gift of prayer is that we learn to receive, experience, and return His love in genuine relationship. Prayer is one place when God can get at us (and we think prayer is for getting at Him!) and speak to and minister to us. It is for this reason first that we can learn to rush to prayer.
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