by Scott Stake
As we’ve walked through the beginning of 2 Corinthians, one of the key things I’ve been struck with and convicted by is the importance of prayer. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth in chapter 1 verse 12, “You must help us by prayer” and that “blessing is granted us through the prayers of many.” In considering these words, have you and I recognized the privilege and power in prayer? We get to not only relate to God as our Father, but we also can beseech the Sovereign Ruler to move, work, and bless His people.
However, I have to admit that I often struggle with prayer. Prayer is mysterious, and I find it hard to understand how my prayer affects God’s plan. In addition, sometimes I’m spiritually dry and feel guilty coming to God. Other times I read the words “You must help us by prayer” and feel obligated. And still other times I just am tired and fall asleep.
Can you relate? If you can, let me share with you 2 quotes that have helped me recently in understanding both the purpose and posture of prayer. One focuses on the nature of God and why we should pray, and the other on the nature of man and how we should pray.
The Purpose: Why Pray?
DA Carson, in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, says the following about the nature of God: “God is personal, so we can pray to Him, argue with Him, present reasons to Him, intercede with Him. But He is also sovereign, the kind of God who works in us—not least in our prayers—“both to will and to work for His good purpose”…Properly handled, both God’s sovereignty and His personhood become reasons for more prayer, not reasons for abandoning prayer. It is worth praying to a sovereign God because He is free and can take action as He wills; it is worth praying to a personal God because He hears, responds, and acts on behalf of His people, not according to the blind rigidities of inexorable fate.”
So, why pray? Because God is both personal and sovereign and answers our prayer! He expects to be pleaded with. He wants godly believers to intercede with Him. He invites us to help others through our prayers. Our intercession is God’s own appointed means for bringing about His purposes. In other words, God uses our prayers to rescue sinners, provide jobs, heal sickness, change relationships, and send out gospel laborers. We pray because God is a gracious God who loves to use our prayers to accomplish His purposes. So, why not pray!
The Posture: How Should We Pray?
Paul Miller, in his book A Praying Life, addresses how we should come to God: “We know that to become a Christian we shouldn’t try to fix ourselves up, but when it comes to praying we completely forget that. We’ll sing the old gospel hymn, 'Just as I Am,' but when it comes to praying, we don’t come just as we are. We try, like adults, to fix ourselves up…Jesus does not say, 'Come to me all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.' No, Jesus opens his arms to His needy children and says, 'Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28 NIV). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”
I love that. We don’t come to God when we are all fixed up. We come messy, we come broken, we come needy, and our all-powerful, gracious, merciful, and faithful God meets us there. Our posture in prayer is neediness, but it’s not timidity. Through Jesus Christ, we also can come boldly to the throne of grace where we find grace and mercy in our time of need. Because of Jesus, we have access to the God of the universe and can ask Him for help for not only small things, but big things as well!
As pastors and elders, we want to be devoted to prayer, and we want to lead a church that is committed to prayer as well. So, this fall, may we listen to the invitation of the Apostle Paul to pray, “so that many will give thanks for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
Grace to you,