A ROYAL INVITATION
Imagine, the Queen of England sends word to you that she would like for you to pay her a visit. She would like for you to come to England, sit down in her living room (or whatever that looks like in a palace), just you and her, and she wants to talk to you about you, your life, your concerns, your victories, the people you know and what they may be going through, and so on.
Imagine how awkward it would be if you showed up to speak with her like we do when we show up in prayer and talk to our King…Jesus.
Perhaps you just keep rattling off her name, “Oh Elizabeth, oh Elizabeth, oh Elizabeth…” and never actually said anything but her name (I mean…it’s a nice name…but really?).
Or maybe you precursor every single sentence or phrase you say to her with her name or title. “Queen Elizabeth, the trip here was, Oh Queen Elizabeth, very long and very, Oh Queen, tiring and long.”
Or perhaps you only list off a bunch of requests and then sit staring at her blankly. “Oh Queen, please help me with this, and that, and the other thing.” *stares blankly*
Or what if you just walked in, sat down, and said nothing. You just stared at her, or closed your eyes and muttered under your breath a bunch of unintelligible words, or simply said “I appreciate you inviting me here, I have an unspoken request.” And that was that.
It would feel extremely awkward wouldn’t it?
We would probably go home embarrassed for how we acted in front of her. We would feel like we totally wasted her time, and blew our opportunity to have an audience with the Queen of England. No doubt we would have a desire to have a re-do and not look quite as absurd the next time.
But this is precisely how we look and behave when we pray to our King.
The God of the universe, sent His Son to die in OUR place, so that we might have a relationship with Him and be called the sons and daughters of God.
Church, WE have received a royal invitation to the throne room of God, the Creator of ALL things, to sit and talk with Him. He wants our undivided attention. He wants to connect with us.
Seriously, how many of you talk to your parents like we do God in prayer?
The reality is, prayer is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian walk, yet one of the most overlooked, frequently ignored, or highly misunderstood disciplines of the faith.
We seem to only turn to prayer as a “last resort” when we are face to face with some crisis instead of as a conduit by which we connect with the Almighty Living God daily.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s because we treat our prayers as simply words released into the air instead of a chance for mere mortals like ourselves to have an audience with the eternal King of the Universe?
HOW, THEN, SHOULD WE PRAY
I could certainly provide lots of personal opinions on what prayer is and what it looks like, but instead, let us consider what the Bible has to say on the matter of prayer:
Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Colossians 4:2 – Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
1 Timothy 2:8 – I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…
Matthew 18:19-20 – Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
James 4:3 – You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
And perhaps the most well known prayer (can you say it from memory?):
Matthew 6:9-13 – Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
From just these few examples, I believe there is much richness that can be gleaned about how we ought to pray.
To make it easy, here are 7 aspects of prayer that we can learn from these passages (there is more, so take some time to see what you can pull from these passages on your own!):
- God Wants to Speak to Us (Jeremiah 33:3) – It is in this time He will reveal things to us about ourselves, about Him, about His will, and many other things. How cool is that? God…the God of the universe actually wants to talk to us!
- Prayer Is Constant and Done with Thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2) – Our King has given us much…not the least of which is eternal life. We have a LOT to be thankful for. And we need to express that thanks to Him as often as we possibly can.
- Prayer Isn’t Just Something We Do at our Church Gatherings (1 Timothy 2:8) – It should be something we do anywhere, and everywhere. After all, how can we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) if we relegate prayer to only a specific place?
- We Should Pray With Others (Matthew 18:19-20) – Prayer isn’t just a time when God wants to speak to us as individuals, but often times He has something to say to the Church body. OK…He always has something to say to the Church body. So, when the Church body gathers, we should make prayer an important part of that gathering. We are told that when 2 or more of us are gathered in His name, that a supernatural expression of His presence will occur. Who doesn’t want that?
- Prayer is the Literal Door to the Throne Room of God (Hebrews 4:16) – And at the throne of God we can find mercy and grace for all the trials we face in this life. God cares about us. It’s not that He isn’t aware of our struggles, but He wants us to come to Him like a son (or daughter) to his (or her) Father. Bringing these concerns to Him.
- Caution Must Be Taken When approaching His Throne in Prayer (James 4:3) – If we approach His throne in selfish desire, James tells us that we approach Him incorrectly, and that we shouldn’t be surprised that God doesn’t give to us what we ask when we do this. The entire Gospel, the entire life of Jesus, was about putting others before you. The same goes for our prayer life. It’s not that God isn’t concerned about us. But if all we talk about is ourselves, then we clearly demonstrate our only concern is for ourselves. Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loved us, and He constantly prayed for the ones around Him. We ought to as well.
- How Jesus Prays (Matthew 6:9-13) – Of course this is probably the richest gold mine for prayer to be found, because it comes straight from the mouth of Jesus. But this prayer gives us an example of how we should approach the throne of God and what we should approach Him about. 1) We should enter his presence in prayer first with thanksgiving and praise. 2) Then we can begin to pray for His will to be made manifest in our lives and around us as it is in heaven (you will know how to pray this as it relates to your individual circumstances). 3) Speak to Him about and seek Him for our sustenance, both in physical form but also in spiritual form. 4) Ask Him for strength to be a forgiving and merciful person. 5) Finally, ask Him to help guide us through trials and tribulations and help deliver us from them.
There is a great deal to be learned about prayer in just those verses, but those hardly scratch the surface of prayer as the Bible lays it out.
But let me encourage you to not let these verses be your one stop shop for prayer. Instead, let them inspire you to dig deeper in to the riches of God’s word for what He has given to us. Never stop learning, and never stop praying.
If the Church would begin to master the discipline of prayer, we will find this to be one of the greatest tools to help us successfully walk this Christian life.
Let me leave you with this prayer that Jesus prayed literally for you:
John 17:20-23 – I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (That’s you and me!), that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.