When the disciples observed Jesus’ prayer life, they asked Him to teach them how to pray. As He taught them, He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.

  • Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.
  • Luke 11:2  “He said to them, “When you pray.”

He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray. Prayer is to be a normal part of our life, so much so that Paul said we are to “never be finished praying” (1 Thess 5:17).    Prayer is part of our ongoing encounter and communication with God. It is like oxygen to our inner man. It is the continual breathing in the life of the Living God.

Prayer Intertwines Us With God’s Bigger Purpose

There is another important dynamic that happens in prayer that can be elusive to people. If we pray the way Jesus has instructed, prayer has a way of lifting us out of our orbit and bringing us into His. As Jesus said over and over in the gospels when we “lay down our lives for His sake” it is the best life one can live. Pursuing His cause brings us into the fullness of His life (Matthew 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, 10:20-22, Luke 9:24, 14:25-35,  17:32-33, John 13:37-38, 12:24-27). As Jesus gave them instruction on prayer, the sequential priority was important. The first order of business is adoration of Him (“Our Father who is in heaven hallowed be Your name”). The second is His purpose being accomplished on the earth (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:9-15, Luke 11:1-6). His first priorities for prayer are His glory and His purpose. As we embrace these things, it has a way of transforming us into His life. When Jesus and His purposes become central to our lives, then everything else in us lines up for the better. Unfortunately, with many people, prayer never touches on these important things and it leaves them in a deficient state.

A story that highlights the important truth of God’s Bigger Purpose

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray. Their individual needs, will, and desires are often foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this. Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation, including all universes. If He is the God of all creation, then obviously our alien friends want to find out what this God is all about. They sent an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  The envoy was invisible to humans, so he could get an accurate account of what he observed. He attended their individual homes and their corporate gatherings. He watched and listened to their interaction and communication with God. He listened to their personal prayers. Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently. As he attended several varieties of corporate gatherings, he noted their “prayer request times.” Most of what he heard went something like this.

  • Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog. 
  • Pray for me that I have the willpower to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise.
  • God help me win in the drawing at work. 
  • Pray that God would get the devil off my back. He has really been harassing me. 
  • Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to that prestigious school she really wants to attend.   
  • Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better. 
  • Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced, so I have something to match my new outfit.  
  • I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss. How about making me the boss?   This new one expects me to work all 8 hours while my previous boss let me have some “me time” during the day.

As the envoy observed the way Christians lived and listened to their prayers, He determined what this Christian God is about. He reported it to those who sent him.

“Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beck and call. He exists to give them the life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future. The total of His existence seems to be to serve them as they live for themselves! 

The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing.

“THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME. IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT.”

Three important things that prayer brings us into: [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.” [/perfectpullquote] We understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God with our personal shopping lists. Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to walking with and living for God.

  1. Prayer affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze. Through prayer, we become more Christ-centered and Christ-like. As we come under the force of His gaze, we become more aware of Him and the priority of His life. We see things from His bigger perspective. As we do, He “works in us that which is pleasing in His sight” (Hebrews 13:20-22).  Things in our life come in alignment with His rule, which is the best way to live. He shows us things that keep us from experiencing the fullness of His life and enables us to turn away from them (“Put to death the deeds of the flesh by His Spirit” Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:24).
  2. Prayer affects our perspective, so we become stirred to do His will. By praying and seeking God, He can influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will. The psalmist said it well, “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9). In His light, we become freshly reminded of His grand purpose. We become both softened and stimulated to move in the will of God that may have become dormant in our lives.
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart as we live for Him. Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and “co-labor with Christ in what He is doing” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It emphasizes that God intertwines our hearts with His, so we move “In Him and labor with Him.” This causes us to progressively live more for “His sake” not ours.

Three Great Resources If you want help in developing a consistent Christ-centered prayer life, here are three resources that can help.

1. Previous post. 9 Biblical Tips in Developing a Consistent Prayer Life.

2. The prayer course. This is an online course that has eight sessions designed to help us learn how to pray more effectively. This course has videos and notes. It is ideal for personal or small group use.

3 “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.” This document lays out the Biblical understanding of praying for God’s bigger purpose. It also gives us examples of every prayer in the New Testament, which reflects praying for His purpose. This will help us come into alignment with God in prayer according to His will.