Praying. Talking to God. Waiting on God. Thinking deeply about spiritual things – that’s meditating. Asking God. Telling Him things He might not know – yeah right! Pleading with God. Practising to be a warrior and not a worrier.
Wayne Grudem defines prayer as “personal communication with God’, and that this communication includes ‘prayers of request for ourselves or for others (sometimes called prayers of petition or intercession), confession of sin, adoration, praise and thanksgiving, and also God communicating to us indications of his response”.
Enjoying the pleasure of His company – that’s what Dutch Sheets calls praying. Yes!
Desire, discipline, delight!
The 3 D’s. Desire requires discipline. Disciple leads to delight. Delight brings on more desire.
I have the Desire to spend time with God, to know Him better, to intercede for others, to have break through. But, desire alone is like wanting to get fit, desiring to run a marathon. You will never run that marathon, unless you actually start Disciplining yourself to practice.
Discipline sounds like a nasty word, like rules, control. Legalism. Yikes. If I want to know Him better, I have to spend time with Him. Right? Then, some discipline would do.
That means putting aside regular blocks of time to lavish on Jesus. Let’s be real here – discipline is sometimes difficult. But I want to please God, I want to honour Him. So, in loving obedience I try to bring pleasure to God in all I do, especially in the things He commanded us to do.
Colossians 4:2 says, ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful’. So, I try to make my relationship with God my number one priority.
Romans 12:12 urges us to ‘Be persistent in prayer’. Then I try to be persistent and consistent in my prayer life.
And in Jeremiah 29:12 God tells us that ‘When you call out to Me and come and pray to Me, I’ll hear you’. So, I have this confidence and promise that He hears my prayers.
Therefore, I pray. Sometimes I don’t feel like praying, but I do. Because I have learned that this discipline inevitably goes over into Delight.
I pray, because I delight in hanging out with God
Psalm 27:4, ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in His temple’.
Enjoying the pleasure of His company. The idea is almost unthinkable: hanging out with the Creator of the world, my Soul-maker. Asking Him to show me great and unsearchable things I do not know yet (Jeremiah 33:3). Worshipping Him honestly, in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). All for an audience of One. Telling Him things He already knows, while realising that He is patiently listening.
Oh, the delight to look at the stars, and tell Him what an awesome Creator He is! To know that He answers my prayers. To confess sins and feels His forgiveness.
And then, to hear His voice in my heart, in my thoughts.
I pray, because I can stand in the gap
Ezekiel 22:30 says, ‘I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land, so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one’.
I do not need to be a theologian to understand that this passage means that God did not really want to destroy the land, but wanted someone to “stand in the gap”, to intercede, to pray, so that He would, basically, change His mind.
Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gemorah (Genesis 18:16-33), and God acted accordingly. Moses interceded for the Israelites (Exodus 32) and their future changed. Psalm 106:23 confirms this: ‘So He said He would destroy them – had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to keep His wrath from destroying them’.
God is waiting for me – and you – to pray. Jesus taught us how to pray. The Holy Spirit prompts us to pray. Then God listens to our prayers and answers the prayers He asked us to pray. Huh? Isn’t He going to do His will anyway, regardless of our prayers? Why would He ask us to spend time praying then?
Standing in the gap. Praying in the gap.
In Spartan warfare, soldiers with shields and spears were organized into tight lines, called a ‘phalanx’ formation. The soldiers would lock their shields together. They would be like a human wall, pressing forward against the enemy. As soon as a soldier fell, another one from the back would fill the gap. The soldiers knew that if their ‘wall’ was breached, the rest of the army would be vulnerable.
Back to Ezekiel – can you see now that God wants His army to be strong and unified? If there is a gap, the enemy can attack. We are His ‘gap-fillers’. He is the Commander-in-chief, we are His soldiers, and He will not fight without us. I always wondered why God wanted many people to pray. Why does His word tells us that when two or three pray, there He is also? (Matthew 18:20). Why not use the faithful prayers of an old lady somewhere? He does that too! But people praying together brings unity in His body!
What a privilege to ask God for help on behalf of a friend. For healing. For wisdom and direction. Interceding, pleading, fighting for someone else.
Praying for lost people – those who cannot pray, because they don’t know the Son of God. Paul understood this gap-praying: ‘To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me’. (Acts 26:18)
Jesus told us to pray to Him, the Lord of the Harvest, to send out workers (Matthew 9:38). He wants all to come to a knowledge of Him, but He wants to do it through us – through people praying for workers to be activated, and through those faithful workers who go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) that don’t know Him yet.
How aweful to think that in Ezekiel’s time God could not find people to stand in the gap. That gets me praying!
I pray, because He changes me
And then God does it again – I am praying, standing in the gap for others, giving God a sacrifice of praise and prayer. Then He changes me! That’s my God! Soren Kierkegaard, a Christian philosopher who lived in the early 1900s, said that “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Oh, I need lots of refining. I will pray more ...
Praying at all times with all kinds of requests
Pray continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
How can one pray continually? It sounds a bit idealistic. Brother Lawrence could do it, but that’s nor a fair example –he didn’t have to write emails when the Internet keeps hanging up, or navigate week-end traffic in a city with 1.7 million people. Or, …
Try this: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for us. (1 Thess 5:18).
While going to the market, thanking God silently for His abundance and provision, that I have eyes to see all the things He has made. And asking Him to keep my eyes from worthless things.
Asking for wisdom under my breath when I speak to the lady who worships the elephant idol. Thankfulness reminds me to often pray – where I am. Driving in chaotic traffic, thanking Him that I have a car. Asking Him to protect me, to give me patience. Still working on this one, though.
Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
I need His breath. In my life. I want to enjoy the pleasure of His company!
Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (NIV)
Brogden D (2016) Abiding mission.
Grudem W (1994) Systematic Theology. An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Zondervan.