Oh good – another article that lectures me about my prayer life. Wait! Don’t click away just yet. I know you know you’re “supposed” to pray. I also know that regardless of how important prayer is, it is not necessarily popular. I don’t know any honest believer that wouldn’t like to improve their prayer lives. And for some – any improvement would be… an improvement.
How can we improve our prayer lives? Perhaps we should pray “more”? Or more “correctly”? Perhaps better models, methods, routines, times of the day… volume levels, background music? No. Any emphasis on performance or perfection will pollute our prayer life. Our goal is neither condemnation nor complication here.
To change how we behave, we must change what we believe. Therefore, let us endeavor to believe differently about prayer. Let us improve what we believe. Belief isn’t necessarily binary – not either/or and not pass or fail. Belief can be a matter of depth. The more deeply we believe something the more influence it has over our thoughts and affections and actions. Let us believe more deeply that we might pray more boldly.
Three things to believe about prayer
1.) Believe the Holy Spirit is Present as you pray (fully present, participating, literally partnering)
Paul describes and prescribes an awareness of the Holy Spirit in prayer. In Romans 8:26 he says that the Spirit literally prays with us and for us. In Ephesians 6:18 he urges believes to pray in the Spirit always. This may include spiritual language – but not exclusively. Wayne Grudem tells us that “in the Spirit” means “to pray with conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us.” And even when Paul prayed for people – he was confidently aware of and depending on the work of the Spirit (Eph. 1:17, 3:16)
How would pray if you believed that the Holy Spirit is fully present as you pray?
2.) Believe you are praying FROM, and not FOR.
Prayer is not my effort to secure a relationship with God. I am not attempting to do enough, say enough, or try hard enough in order to be heard. A great deal of negative things have resulted from people thinking that they need to work themselves up or do “enough” for God to pay attention. It breeds pride. It leads to discouragement. It sets a trap for condemnation if you feel you didn’t do enough or fell short.
Instead we must believe that we are praying FROM favor and not FOR it, from relationship and not for, from acceptance and not for, from nearness and not for.
Jesus taught, in Matthew 6:7-8 that your confidence is not in your efforts or volume or methods – that’s paganism. Your confidence is in Your Father. The Holy Spirit is crying out “Abba Father” within us (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).
Further, we pray with confidence in the finished work of Christ. The blood of Jesus has brought me near, called me close, and welcomed me to the Throne of God (Eph. 2:13, Hebrews 4:16).
Most specifically, Christ has enjoined us to pray in His name (John 16:24). To do something in someone’s name means to do so as if it were them doing it. When Jesus prayed, he was not struggling for acceptance; he prayed from the love and pleasure of His Father (Luke 3:21). To pray in His name fully implies that I am praying… as Christ. Imagine.
How would you pray if you believed, deeply, that you prayed “from” and not “for”?
3.) Believe that prayer matters.
Here’s probably the rub – do we really believe that prayer matters? That it can and will make a difference? I suppose we hope it does; especially in moments of our most urgent concerns. But I can’t help but think that too many have lost confidence in the currency of prayer. Too few pray from a joyful hope that it makes a difference. Jesus did. He prayed like it mattered (Luke 6:12). He talked and taught about prayer like it mattered (Luke 11:1-13). Paul certainly prayed like it mattered and urged his readers to feel the same (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer does matter. Prayer touches heaven, changes earth, and affects us in the process*. Few things matter, in fact, more than prayer.
How would you pray if you believed that prayer really matters?
To change how we behave, we must change what we believe. Therefore, let us believe more deeply that we pray in the presence and partnership of the Holy Spirit, that we pray from the favor of God and not for it, and that prayer really, really matters. Believing this deeply, we might pray more boldly, more enthusiastically, more joyfully, and yes – even more often.
*See “Why Prayer Matters”