Thoughts On Prayer
Written by Pastor Justin Perdue
Recently, a few things I was reading and studying caused me to reflect a little bit on prayer. What follows is from an email I sent to my congregation. I hope it is of some encouragement to you.
- Don’t agonize over the content of your prayers. We can all buy into spiritual and pious sounding notions that certain kinds of prayer are better than others. In Scripture, we see there are a number of ways we can approach God in prayer. We can give him praise. We can offer thanksgiving. We can confess our sins to him—and ask him to forgive and cleanse us, which he is always faithful to do. We can bring our petitions (requests) to him. We can cast our anxieties upon him. God is pleased in all of these. He is honored in the demonstration of our need of him just as he is in our praise of him.
- The Lord hears brief prayers. A lot of times prayer can seem daunting because we think longer prayers are necessarily better. In trying to pray long prayers, our minds become distracted, and we become discouraged. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, talks about prayer. He discourages his followers from making a show of their prayers (Matthew 6:5). He goes on and tells them not to “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Jesus then says, “Pray then like this,” and goes on to give the model prayer (Lord’s Prayer). It’s funny that in our human brains we often think the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God render prayer unnecessary. We almost expect Jesus to say, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So don’t bother praying.” But, of course, he doesn’t say that. He says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this…” The sovereignty and foreknowledge of God should never hinder our prayers (in fact, those things should motivate prayer!); they should, however, inform our prayers.
My encouragement, which I think is in line with Jesus’ words, is to lean into the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God—and pray simple, honest prayers. We don’t need to wig out about the length or the eloquence of our prayers. (I know I need these reminders all the time!) Martin Luther said it is good for prayer to be brief and frequent. I think he’s right.
- With respect to prayer, it’s good to remember that, in Christ, we have been adopted by our heavenly Father. We are safe in his arms. He knows us. And he loves us. It’s good for us to pray accordingly. We can bare our hearts. We can communicate—simply—what we are wrestling with. We can talk to God about our fears. About our desires. About our needs.
- Sometimes we don’t know what to pray. Take heart that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). And, tell God you don’t know what to pray. Ask him for his grace and for his help. That’s an honest, simple prayer. And he is faithful to answer it!
Grace and peace to you.