When it comes to prayer, much has been written on the issue, yet it seems it is a discipline that so many believers struggle in. There are countless books on the topic, even sermons, but still the struggle for consistent prayer life remains. Even though we find much to encourage us by way of a “better” prayer life, much of what is offered tends to focus on a man-centered view of prayer as to the actual core of what it is. In all reality, anytime there is a struggle in a biblical discipline it can be traced back to a misunderstanding of its biblical meaning. The theology of prayer is something that scares us. We feel that if we “theorize” too much on prayer, it will destroy all deep-hearted application. But let’s look at it from a different perspective.
That which is not properly understood will never be properly applied.
Let’s agree together that if we look at the theology of prayer –meaning what God’s word has to say about it– we can have a better grasp as to the application. That which is not properly understood will never be properly applied. Though this will not be a comprehensive look, I do hope that we can touch deep enough to possibly challenge your current thinking on prayer and encourage you to study if further unto a fruitful and vigorous prayer life.
understanding and vigor
To grow grow in understanding, there is no better place to start then Christ’s simple example in the “model” prayer. Here we find profound but simple truths, which will lead us to pray with understanding and vigor. Matthew 6:5-15, Luke 11:1-13 [ESV] ”Pray then like this…”
understanding and focus in prayer
Upon their request, Christ taught His disciple how to pray [Lk. 11:1]. The Lord’s Prayer is one that we have heard so many times that its familiarity has bred neglect. But a closer look at what this simple prayer is telling us, can give profound implications regarding understanding and focus in prayer. Christ begins with a challenge: “Pray like this” [Mt]. We often over-complicate or misinterpret the biblical understanding of prayer. We have sometimes been misguided to believe that “better words” or “stronger faith” is needed to come before the throne of grace. However, Christ wants us to pray in the knowledge that He prescribed. And from that knowledge, pray in understanding with child like faith [Lk. 18:16 & 17]. If we take a look at the context of Matthew’s gospel account of Christ’s prayer, we see He is speaking to those who have some semblance of understanding about prayer [Mtt.6:5]. The only problem is that their example of prayer came from the hypocritical Pharisees. Christ wanted to revolutionize their perspective on prayer. He desired them to pray with understanding from a knowledge that was God-centered as opposed to man centered. And so, Christ tells them to “pray then like this…”
“Our Father in Heaven…”
As believers, our prayer life must be motivated by and founded on a high view of God. After all, He is the one we are praying to. The higher your view of God, the stronger your prayer life will be. In fact, this can be said of all aspects of Christian life. We often pray without a deep understanding of who God is, which only comes from the “knowledge of the Holy One” [Prov. 9:10]. If we do not know and understand the God we pray to, then how can we pray with clarity? God –the Father– is the one our petitions are brought to through Christ who interceded on our behalf [Heb. 4:13-16]. When Christ tells us to pray “Our Father in Heaven”, He is giving us a confession and recognition of who it is that is the Sovereign –the One who is in control of all things. God –all in all– is the one we are looking to in prayer [Col.1]. So, recognize it. Confess it. He is in heaven ruling, and it is that God that we are praying to –the God of the nations; the God who created all things; the God who knows all thing before you ask [Mtt.6:8], the God who cares for us; the God who is working to bring about His will through your prayers.
Do you know the God to whom you pray?
So until next time, let us chew on these first two directions in prayer. As you pray this week, remember whom it is you are praying to. Ask yourself if you are growing in the “knowledge of the Holy One” [Prov. 9:10]. Do you know the God to whom you pray? Only through a growing knowledge of God will you be able to pray with understanding to Him.
Be not moved away,