by Robert J. Young

Why do you pray? What is the goal of prayer? No question is more central to our understanding life in Christ.
There are many problems in prayer, but answers come when the purpose of prayer is clarified.
What is the goal of prayer? Lule 11:1, why would his disciples want to learn to pray? Why from him? Had they seen the power, the connections, the strength, the divine nature?
It is not natural to pray, or perhaps better stated, it is not part of the natural man to pray. I doubt one who fails to pray suffers more than one who prays, but I am certain the life of the Son within us suffers when we fail to pray. Spiritual life is nourished by prayer. One born again has new life, and that new life can either be fed or starved. Prayer nourishes spiritual life.
Our ordinary views of prayer are not biblical. Prayer is not a way of getting something; prayer is the way we get to know God.
Ask and you shall receive, whatever you ask in faith.... These are troublesome verses to us at times. Ask, and God acts. Give Jesus Christ a chance, some elbow room, but we seldom do this well until we are at our wit's end. We are satisfied with no connection to eternal realities until the present is insufficient and overly burdensome or overly challenging, even overwhelming. Prayer is the opposite of self-sufficiency, and as long as we pray for more for self, to regain self-sufficiency, we will fail. Remember the admonition of James 4.
Prayer is intimacy. Living by faith soon contradicts common sense, and vice versa. Common sense is not faith. This is the natural vs. the spiritual person. This is trusting when it makes no sense to trust. Such faith is not easy for the natural person, but is natural for the spiritual person, for faith tested brings confidence in Jesus. This is the nature of the relationship developed by faith.

I. Prayer: choices, conflicts, commitments.
Mat. 6:6. Pray. Prayer is an effort of the will. Prayer is not casual conversation, prayer is not some dreamy state. Prayer is not without conflict. After we enter our closet, the hardest things to do is pray, for our minds are worked up about everything else under the sun. We face the battle of wandering thoughts. The conflict in private prayer is emptying the mind bins of distractions and a 1000 miscellaneous thoughts that rush in. We must discipline our minds and concentrate.
This secret silent retreat means we deliberately shut the door on emotions in favor of God. God sees, and we are sure of God. Have you learned to deal with God about everything? Swing the door wide, pray in private, and every public action will be stamped with God's presence.

II. Prayer: the Father's house, honor, and hearing.
Oswald Chambers suggests this three-fold understanding of Jesus' prayer life.

Ultimately, it is not that prayer changes things, but that prayer changes me so that I can by God's power and will change the things that need to be changed. Redemptive prayer always alters the way one looks at things.
Ultimately, prayer is about the cross. We are given to thinking about the cross as something one must endure, must get through. But the cross is also something we get into. We take up the cross, we bear the cross. The Cross stands for our complete, entire, absolute identification with our Lord, and this identification is nowhere realized more than in prayer.
Why ask in prayer? God always knows. The idea of prayer cannot biblically be to get answers from God. Prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God, communication, sharing soul. If we pray to get answers, we will be disappointed with God and consider him faithless. The answers always come, but not as we wished, and we talk about God answering "no" only because of our failure to identify with our Lord in prayer. I prefer to talk about God's "no" as unanswered prayer. We are not here to prove God answers prayer; we are here as living monuments to God's continued graciousness toward his creation.
"I say not that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you." Do you know this intimacy? Is this the explanation of our prayer life? John 16:26, At that day, we shall ask in his name. At that day, we are so identified with Jesus that there is no distinction.

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Last updated October 1, 2002.