“Pray then like this…” (Matthew 6:9)
Have you asked yourself why you don’t pray as often as you should, why your mind wanders when you do, and why you don’t pray expecting that God will answer? If you have, you’re probably not alone. Last year, I led a class through a study of twenty basic beliefs Christian beliefs. The study was based on the book Christian Beliefs by author and seminary professor, Dr. Wayne Grudem. The material to prepare for these classes included a video of Dr. Grudem teaching each lesson. One of the lessons was on prayer. Prayer is at the heart of a true relationship with God. Our Christian lives should begin with prayer, end with prayer and be filled with prayer everywhere in between. And it’s true that the degree to which we pray is an indicator of our trust in God. But like every other aspect of our Christian lives, prayer is subject to human imperfection and in need of God’s gracious work.
“Pray then like this…” In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer. It is a model for us as well. Known as the Lord’s Prayer, the intent of Jesus’ teaching is that God’s preeminence and glory is to be central as we make our requests known to Him. Though often recited, neither this nor any other prayer should be a mindless repetition of phrases, but instead heartfelt communication with our heavenly Father.
The Bible teaches a lot about prayer and we learned much in this class: the purpose of prayer, the effectiveness of prayer, what it means to pray in Jesus’ name and things that hinder our prayers. All of it was tremendously fruitful. But as I watched the video in preparing for the class, I was mostly struck by Dr. Grudem’s personal reflection about prayer in his own life. He shared that on the front of his prayer journal was a note he had written to himself. It reads, “Wayne, this is not wasted time, this is your work. This is where the work of the Kingdom is established and advanced”. Just before reading the note, in a very self reflective way he affirmed his belief in what he had written about prayer, but also his desire to believe it even more. The note was to be a constant reminder that prayer was not only necessary in preparation for his work in ministry, but was in fact the work itself. I was so encouraged by what Dr. Grudem shared. I hope you are. Like every other aspect of the Christian life, a life of prayer is one in which we will always be growing. It’s easy to become discouraged in areas where we fall short of what we desire and God deserves. But it’s also important to realize that this Christian life we live is a process of continual growth. We are never completely there on this earth. God knows that. So be encouraged when recognizing your prayer life is not all it should be and your desire that it be more. That is the Holy Spirit’s work in you. Now just follow His lead and take the steps to be more faithful. Seek the Lord daily in His Word, keep a prayer journal to help you be more deliberate in prayer, and naturally of course, pray.
Father, thank you for the encouragement we get from others. It’s really from you. Thank you for your grace as we grow more into who you created us to be, and help us to strive more to that end. Let our striving always be out of a thankful heart. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who helps us in our prayers. As your children, let prayer be the context in which we live each day. It is never wasted time. Amen!