The Purpose of Prayer

Leave a comment

“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 3

This is the third article in this short series on “Prayer”.  We first considered the Power of Prayer.  Most believers today will say that prayer is powerful when offered in faith. (See James 5:16)  And yet many Christians in the West often seem surprised when God does answer a prayer in a dramatic way, or perhaps I should say, they aren’t too surprised if their prayers are not answered.

This led us to consider the next important lesson regarding the Passion for Prayer.  If prayer is viewed as just a daily routine that one does just before each meal (i.e. saying “grace” at dinner time) or is to be practiced mainly when a terrible crisis confronts us, then no wonder some people do not see the great privilege we have to go to God in prayer and be more active and passionate in our prayer life with God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This brings us then to the next important topic on prayer, which is to consider what is the purpose of prayer.  Now I would venture to say that if we did a large random poll of the general population, we might find that one of the most consistent answers we would get when asked what the purpose of prayer is, would be that people would say it is to ask God for something or for Him to do something.

In a way, this is a valid answer, for they are recognizing that God is the source of power to be able to grant these requests in the times when we are in need of something or there is a crisis in our life and we need help.  But if this is the only answer a person gives, it is so woefully inadequate as a response for it is basically a self-centered response which goes beyond asking for what we “need” to us asking for the things we “want”.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As I did in the last two articles, I will summarize some of the key ideas and points that were presented to us in the Sunday School lesson time that I attended last month at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  And here is the Overview that was included for us at the top of the lesson:

This lesson is to help us see that prayer is not intended to help us get what we want, but rather, it is the means by which we know God’s will.  Even as we pray for God to provide the resources to reach more children, more youth, more adults and more families for Christ, we do so seeking His will.  The real purpose of prayer is actually for God to get what He wants!

The context for this Overview above, as well as the whole series on “Prayer” is that Crossroads is about to launch a building campaign to construct a huge Children’s and Youth’s Activity Center.  It could so easily be interpreted that the church leaders just want another big building which they hope will impact the lives of young people.

But from all I hear, it would appear that God has opened up so many doors into the lives of people in their community, that the only way to focus the potential of these open doors is through the use of a large central building.  Put in this context, it is God’s direction and providence, not the desires or ambitions of men, that is the key impetus behind this building campaign.  This distinction will help us to understand the following key points that our teacher touched on in our lesson.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Key Point #1:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Build a Relationship With God.

In Psalm 42, the writer reveals with a heartfelt honesty how discouraged and downcast he is feeling.  We don’t know all the circumstances of what was happening, but he appears to be far from the Temple in Jerusalem where he was free to worship and pray to God.  And he longs desperately to return there to continue doing that, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (v. 1) The greatest joy of a human ought to be like the Psalmist, to desire to be in the presence of God.

Key Point #2:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Acknowledge Our Dependence Upon God.

We think that we are in control of our lives.  That is so untrue.  Circumstances of life and even just the forces of nature show us that is not true.  And so we are a people characterized by great anxiety.  Scripture tells us though in Philippians 4:6-7 to not be anxious for anything, and God will grant us supernatural peace.  And Matthew 7 tells us that God is like a great loving Father who will not be cruel or stingy to His children, but will be generous to us when we put our trust in Him.

Key Point #3:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Get Our Needs Met.

This point must not be taken out of context, such as quoting Jesus in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  We still must pray within His sovereign will.  And even more important, we must distinguish the difference between our true needs and our wants as I mentioned above.  So taken within context, Matthew 6 makes it clear that when we seek God and His righteousness (doing all God says is right to do) then God will provide us with our basic needs, such as our food and shelter and clothing.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is so much more than could and needs to be said about the purpose of prayer.  But I do hope that this has been helpful to all who read this article.  Let me just say in closing that as you look at the three points above, you will notice that we start with God, put ourselves under His authority and Lordship, and then end with humble requests concerning our real needs which ultimately come from Him.

Advertisements

God Wants The Best For Us

3 Comments

What Is Faith – Part 5

In our study of “Faith” so far, we have looked at some important foundational truths such as that faith comes from hearing, specifically hearing the Word of God, that faith is a matter of the heart not of the head, and that all Christians possess faith. The issue with many Christians I think, is whether they exercise their faith and what they believe they can do by faith.

Let me say this in another way. On the one hand, there are some Christians who after they have accepted Christ by faith, live their lives by the strength of their own hands and the power of their own intellect rather than calling upon God in faith to deal with the issues of this life. On the other hand, there are some Christians who “use” their faith to deal with everything in life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is my opinion that the former group of Christians have not really understood the words of Romans 1:17 which state, “The righteous will live by faith”. That is, we are to exercise our faith on a regular basis involving the daily activities of our lives. But the latter group of Christians I believe, will many times inappropriately apply the promise given by Jesus when he says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Surely there must be a middle ground between these two positions. And after listening to the next sermon about faith delivered by Leon Fontaine, I have found some very helpful points that I would like to pass on to all my readers. My hope is that we could all share the belief that is expressed in the title of this article, namely that “God wants the very best for us.” What amazes me and even distresses me is that there are still many people who believe God is a vindictive God or an uncaring God. But I will have to wait to address this in a future article.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So let’s begin with this premise that God is a loving God and in fact does want the very best for us. Does Scripture support this idea? Two verses that immediately come to mind are Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” and John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” We must be careful though, in how we interpret these two verses.

The promise given in Psalms is not to be taken as a blank check to allow us to wish for and get anything that our heart desires. We must put the stress on the first half of this verse and realize that our primary activity is to “take delight in the Lord”. When we do this, we will find that our heart aligns itself with the heart of God and the mind of God. And so we will find that the things that we will desire will be the same things that God desires. So the emphasis in this verse should not be on our physical or material well-being, but must be spiritually oriented in its application.

The caution on the other side though, is that we may over spiritualize the promises of Scripture. And so some people will interpret John 10:10 as only referring to our spiritual life, and think that this verse is just talking about the wonderful life that we will share with God in heaven throughout all eternity. The truth is that in this verse Jesus is most certainly talking about the quality of life that we will experience here on earth.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What I especially liked in Leon’s third sermon about faith that I listened to was the idea that “every Christian gets a measure of faith to start with from God.” We then have a choice to either exercise this faith, which will cause it to be strengthened and to grow, or not to use this faith and allow it to lay dormant and possibly even to wither away. It would be like the parable of the Talents, where those who used well the resources given to them by their master would receive more, and the one who buried his Talent lost even the one that he had.

Let us tie this in to another important topic in Scripture. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the gifts that God has given to every believer. And then in Ephesians 2:10 he writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It would seem to me that whatever God has called us to do, and gifted us to do, God will have also granted us sufficient faith to be able to fulfill all that he has asked us to do. The example that Leon gives is that of young David. God had planted faith within him, and David had nurtured it and grown it to believe that his God could do great things through him. And when he encountered the giant Goliath, that faith within David rose up to meet the challenge, and as we know he was victorious.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so, what about you? Do you believe that God would want you to experience a better quantitative and qualitative life right here and now?  What helps me to believe that this is possible is to picture God’s nature and his resources for us are like a flowing river, always fresh and never depleted. This goes against the picture that some have that God’s nature and resources are like a pie which is cut up into small slices and carefully distributed to some individuals until it is gone.

I challenge you then  to read the New Testament and see whether or not my picture of God is contained there. And if God is truly a loving and generous God as I suggest, then align your thoughts with Him, rise up in faith, exercise your “faith muscles” and see what great and mighty things that he will do in you, for you, and through you.