Prayer is powerful so what keeps us from praying? How can we develop lives of prayer?
One of my kids is always “hungry.”
So much so that it’s a running joke between me and one of my best mom friends. If she sees me talking to that particular child, she walks up to me and says, “But, Mom, I’m hungry.”
Because she knows, as well as I do, that if this kid is making requests, “hunger” is at the heart of them.
Of course, we also know that said child is seldom every truly “hungry.”
At times when true hunger is the issue and meltdowns threaten, I look at my child and ask, “Have Daddy or I ever let you starve?”
Because….no, we haven’t. Our kids not only have food they need; they often eat food they enjoy.
I couldn’t help thinking of all this as I read the words of Mary in Luke 1:53. She proclaimed, “He has filled the hungry with good things.”
Because he does that, doesn’t he?
We Should Pray Because God is Good
Jesus promised us he would in Matthew 7:9-10, when he said, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake?”
And, again in Luke 11:11-12, which says: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”
That’s just not what daddies do.
They give good gifts.
In Matthew 7:11, Jesus went on to say, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
We read those words, but I wonder if we really believe them sometimes. Do we really believe that God is good?
I think Christmas is the perfect time to stop and consider that question because, at it’s very heart, Christmas is all about the fact that God is a giver of good gifts.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son,” after all. (John 3:16)
That fact should have us singing like Mary did, proclaiming his goodness and mercy to anyone who can hear.
How can we experience God’s gifts?
To experience God’s good gifts, there are a few things we need to do, not to earn them, to experience them.
The first is simple, though not easy, to do.
We must believe. John 3:16 goes on to say that God gave his only son “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Faith is at the heart of accepting and experiencing the blessings of God in our lives. Think of Mary, about whom Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)
But where does faith come from?
Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV)
I can tell you from experience that when I am most inconsistent in studying the word of God, I am most inconsistent in believing it.When I am most inconsistent in studying the word of God, I am most inconsistent in believing it.Click To Tweet
In Romans 10:14, Paul asked how people could believe in the one of whom they had not heard. I would, also, ask how we can believe the promises of God if we don’t know them.
Bible study teaches us who He is and what He has promised. It points our faith to the facts.
In addition to believing God is who he says he is and does what he says he’ll do, we need to ask him to keep the promises he’s made to us.
We Should Pray Because God’s Word Tells Us To
Consider what Jesus said is Matthew 7:11: “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
I can’t tell you the number of times I have known exactly what one of my children wanted, but I was waiting to have them ask me.
Other times, I planned on giving a certain gift whether they asked for it or not.
We, parents, are a bit like our Heavenly Father in that way, I think.
He knows what we need. He discerns our desires. We don’t have to tell him. He already knows.
But his word still says to ask.
Consider these verses:
- Matthew 21:22 – “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
- Matthew 18:19 – “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
- Mark 11:24 – “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
- Luke 11:9 – “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
- John 14:13-14 – “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
- John 15:7 – “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
- John 16:24 – “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
- 1 John 5:14-15 – “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
- James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
- Luke 10:2 – “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
It’s clear we are to take our questions and concerns to him and ASK for help, for answers, for everything.
We Should Pray to See God Work
When I was in college, my roommates and I hung a shower curtain on the wall in the hall of the house we lived in. Throughout the year, we each wrote prayer requests on the curtain, adding initials and dates beside the requests as we prayed for them, as well as answers as they came.
When the curtain on one wall filled up, we added one to the other wall and kept writing.
By the end of the year, we had a two walls full of answered prayers, a testament to the faithful Father we’d been asking things of all year long.
Would God still have done so many of those things if we hadn’t been praying and asking?
Perhaps! He knows what we need before we ask him and even if we don’t, but my friends and I would have missed the blessing of watching for him to work and acknowledging his answers as they came.
God would still have been good, but we might not have known it quite so well.
Why Don’t We Ask?
You’d think that experience would have taught me to pray consistently and ask God all kinds of things, and it did! But, I still don’t always do it.
I simply don’t pray like I should.
Not because I need to check it off a list and mark it as “done,” but because God word tells me to pray and He promises to answer when I do.
So why don’t I?
I think there are several reasons why we don’t always pray, even though we know the power of prayer.
First, I don’t take the time to really pray. It’s the truth. I pray and talk to God day in and day out, but devoting time to prayer, to focus on the things I want to ask?
Not so much.
It takes commitment. Prayer has to be a priority, and to be honest, it isn’t always one of mine.
Being “busy” becomes an excuse to try to do everything, rather than ask God to do things instead.
Second, I don’t always know what to ask so I just don’t.
I ignore the words of Romans 8:26, which says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans says I don’t know what to pray for, but it never says I shouldn’t pray. Often, just sitting in silence before the Lord, and telling him I don’t know what to pray, helps bring clarity and understanding. He teaches me what to pray.
Finally, I forget how good God is.
I don’t ask Him because I doubt Him.
Does he care? Will he listen? Will he act on our behalf?
I don’t want to be disappointed so I don’t dare to ask.
I lack faith in my good Father.
So what’s the solution?
To overcome that doubt, the solution is simple.
Follow the advice of Ephesians 6:18, which says, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Philippians 4:6-7 tell us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Use a journal to keep track of your prayer requests, noting the answers God gives along the way. Nothing will foster greater faith than seeing Him at work around you!
I’d love to hear any tips you have about cultivating a life of prayer. Please comment and share your insight! Also, be sure to leave a link or two for this week’s Encouraging Word Wednesday linkup!