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Have you prayed today? Why? Is it because you ought to or because you want to? Is it because you WANT something? What if it were true there are 3 reasons not to pray–legitimate ones? Remember that the Christian life is all about FREEDOM! The old covenant was all about rules and regulations, 613 to be exact. Following those rules was how people showed love and devotion to God. We should still follow some of those rules like the familiar ones in the 10 Commandments because they keep us safe and give blessings. Thankfully we don’t have to follow rules like milk and meat don’t touch. Many of us would be heartbroken to think that eating a cheeseburger could hamper our Christian walk! But what are these 3 reasons not to pray?
- God knows what we need before we ask. Matthew 6:8 Are you kidding me? Jesus made this statement in the section about the Lord’s Prayer. You might have missed that phrase in verse 8. Jesus was setting up the model of how we ought to pray. So why would He make a statement like the one in verse 8 and then show us how to pray?
- Prayer expresses our trust in Him. While we don’t need to pray, we get to pray. When we cry out to God, we are showing we trust Him with our lives and not merely saying it. We are showing we genuinely trust God, His wisdom, His plan, His sovereignty over our lives.
- Fellowship with God. Can you believe the God of the universe wants to be your friend? Prayer is the vehicle by which we can have this friendship with Him. But prayer needs to be more that just a quick sentence or two in the morning or before a meal, it should be an ongoing dialogue throughout the day. He’s always with us. Don’t shut Him out!
- He allows us to be involved in eternally significant activities. Wow! Have you ever stopped to think about that? I’m thinking about when we pray for someone struggling whether physically or spiritually. We are fighting for that person’s very soul! Doing battle in the heavenlies! Have you ever read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti? He does an excellent job at portraying what happens in the spiritual realm when Christians pray. It’s like our prayers empower the angels to fight for good! This is what our prayers do–push back the enemy!!
- Get out of Jail free. Is this the way you see prayer? A cry when nothing else works but then you turn away again when life settles down. In the book of Revelation, we are warned about being this type of follower of Christ. They are called lukewarm followers, not hot and not cold. In Revelation 3:16 it says Jesus will vomit those types of believers out. Ouch! Verse 17 shows these lukewarm followers are wealthy, in need of nothing physically. Sounds like most Americans doesn’t it? But Jesus’ response in verse 17 is to say, “hey, you think you have it all but in reality you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” Jesus is looking at us spiritually. At the end of days, all will be burned. Only that which withstands the fire will be proven worthy and will last. Revelation 3:18-21 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
- Study and not prayer is the highest form of worship. When we pray we speak to God. When we study God speaks to us. This is one of my favorite quotes from the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler. In my own prayer life, I’ve stopped by endless cries. The Holy Spirit has convicted my heart that when I constantly pray about a particular unpleasant situation in my life, it is like being in a conversation with someone who has diarrhea of the mouth! Point 1 says God knows what I need before I utter the prayer. Every once in awhile I gently offer it up in prayer but I don’t harp on it like I used to.
- The Bible is God speaking to us. Isn’t that what we really want to know? What does Jesus say about a particular situation. So many times the answer we seek is for God to take the hurt and difficulty away.
- Read this excerpt from Hebrews 12…4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it
Focus on this promise of righteousness and peace that come from being trained by hardship. Jesus, Himself, endured hardship and allowed Himself to be trained by it. If our Lord and Savior did it then so can we. As we push through the pain, lean into the Word, let it become a part of you.
So, if I’ve convinced you there are 3 reasons not to pray, what now? Should we all stop praying? No. But I do believe we need to change how we pray.
I’ve been studying different aspect of Judaism for years now. In the past year, I discovered a book of prayer, one that Jews have used for centuries. It’s called a Siddur, the Jewish book of prayer. In it are all of the prayers Jewish people recite for all types of festivals, blessings, and prayers for all of Jewish life. As I’ve studied the book there are a few things I’ve noticed.
Jewish prayer is about praise and not supplication. In my opinion, 99% of the prayers they utter are in praise and remembrance to God. Only 1% is requests. Now I may be exaggerating a little but the difference is staggering. Jews have been praying in this manner for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. Jesus would have prayed like this. They knew the principle in point 1 that God knows what we need before we ask it. They know that prayer allows us to enter into fellowship with God and shows we trust Him and His plans for us. Prayer i.e. praise–Jehovah Nissi the Lord is my banner. Moses named the altar this after the Amalekites were defeated in Exodus 17. When we praise God, His presence goes before us to fight our battles.
As I read through the Siddur, I’m struck with how much praise they give for every minute detail of their lives. Here’s little tidbit you probably didn’t know. We all know we should say a short prayer of gratitude before we eat a meal. Well, Jews pray before and after a meal! They have a complete and utter desire to praise God in all aspects of their lives, so much so, it is their goal to praise God at least 100 times a day!! If we all spent that much time getting in our praises, there wouldn’t be any time left to send up those whiny prayers for deliverance. God knows what we need before we ask, Matthew 6:8.
Forgive me for calling yours and my typical prayers whinny. It’s harsh, I know, but true unfortunately. When you get to the heart of our typical prayers, we pray because we WORRY. My prayers for deliverance, to make the hurt stop, for salvation for loved ones, for provision, are all wrapped up in worry.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.