Note: This is a talk I gave during the Overnight Prayers on 31st December, 2014 at St. Stephen’s Church, Nansana, Kampala-Uganda.
The assignment I have been given is ‘The Power of Prayer.’ But since I am not able to give you a ‘guide on how to have a powerful prayer’ (that is God’s dominion), I will instead help us position for a better prayer life.
What is Prayer?
“Prayer is a man’s heart lifted up to God.” I don’t remember who said that but it’s the best definition of prayer I have come across.
We have reduced prayer to just requests to God and trashed its real essence—togetherness with God.
Prayer is a relationship with God. A father-son relationship Paul talks about when he says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received a spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) [Emphasis mine].
Ingredients of Prayer
Faith: A study done some years back in USA showed that over 60% of the population prayed. A portion of these were Christian, others agnostics, atheists, Jews, Muslims among others. They all prayed, but what is the difference?
Faith. Yes, faith not in the prayer but the mediator who intercedes for us and continues to do so.
All the above pray but a prayer is that prayed in faith through Christ Jesus and not through Mary, Muhammad or our ability to poetically piece together compelling-to-the-ear-words we call prayer.
Because through prayer, we seek to get to God but the key to God is Christ. Read what Jesus Himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
To further stress this fact, I will draw you to the words of Martin Luther, “We cannot pray without faith in Christ, the Mediator. Turks, Jews, and papists may repeat the words of prayer, but they cannot pray.”
We have to believe that Christ is the son of God and our only way to God—our only mediator to the father. This means shifting our attention from how we pray (the length, sweetness-to-the-ear prayers) to Who we pray to—God—our only reason of existence.
Prayer as persistence not an emergency: In Ephesians 6:18, Paul writes, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Emphasis added).
There are two reasons why we need to persist in prayer. One, we never stop sinning, witch craft, mischief, hate, jealousy have no public holiday. We in the light of this should persist in prayer, praying at all times without ceasing. Second, prayer has no due date. We don’t know when our prayers will be answered. There is no such thing as a ‘prayer to end all prayers’, for even after our prayers have been answered, we persist in prayer in thanksgiving.
Luther puts it this way, “Upright Christians pray without ceasing; though they pray not always with their mouths, yet their hearts pray continually, sleeping and waking; for the sigh of a true Christian is a prayer.”
In Exodus 32 we read that Moses was in the presence of God for weeks and weeks which led the children of Israel to think that maybe he would not return.
So our prayer life should be reflective of persistence not emergency. Prayer is not for ‘Emergency Use Only’ that when we are in trouble we get a hold of the ‘prayer hose’ to put out that problem.
We are not called to be the ‘Need teaches prayer’ people.
Prayer as a relationship not request
A baby is manipulative, when it needs something, a bottle, toy, care, attention etc, they cry. A teenager will call via cell phone if they need something. The relationship with their parents is hinged on how responsive the parents are at meeting the teenager’s needs. This is at most a cell phone relationship.
A mature person on the other hand values relationship. An adult will sit with their aging mother for hours sometimes without saying a word. But needing to be with them. Just that.
When we mature as Christians, our prayer life should not deteriorate but rather improve. Like Tullian Tchividjian says, Christian growth means that the older we grow the more we realize how weak we are and how Christ is and continues to be strong for us.
To Skip Heitzig, “The interest of prayer is personal not functional.”
I will conclude like this: The power in prayer lies in seeking a relationship with God by faith and persistently yearning to take hold of his free gift of amazing and abundant grace.
Image: Collided With God/Flickr