The Real Purposes of Prayer
I have this friend who has some interesting ideas about prayer. His notions about prayer are wrapped up in his belief that when you pray something "in the name of Jesus," and you have enough faith, and your heart is pure then your prayer will get answered.
He also believes that if another believer "agrees" or backs up your prayer, that definitely helps, too.
When your prayer isn't answered--the reasons are simple. Your faith wasn't strong enough, or your heart wasn't pure enough, or maybe both. In other words, you have to go back and work on fixing yourself for God to hear you. Confess your sin, strengthen your faith, pray harder.
I have had conversations with people like my friend more than once. Typically, they will cite a number of verses from the Gospels where Jesus seems to back up this idea.
"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." - Matthew 18:19
"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” - Matthew 21:22
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." - Mark 11:24
I know that when you see these verses outside of the context of the overall teachings of Jesus on prayer, it can seem like folks like my friend might have a point.
But when Jesus taught about prayer, he was teaching more broadly about the intimate relationship he desired to have with his followers. His teachings on prayer were inextricably connected to relationship. In other words, when you are intimate with God, your prayers reflect that intimate relationship.
When we reduce prayer to a quid pro quo activity where we work hard to be good enough for God to hear us and grant our requests, we miss the entire point of what Jesus taught about prayer.
Jesus taught that when your relationship with God is close and personal, you have no problems simply talking to God about the things that matter to you, and essentially asking God to align your will, your desires, the things that matter to you with God's will, God's desires and the things that matter to God.
The purpose of prayer is not to create a divine slot-machine where you make deposits, then finally pull the lever when you need something. Prayer connects us with God, builds our relationship with God, helps us see the world, our circumstances even our own needs through the eyes of God.
May you pray today that your relationship with God would deepen. May you desire most of all to know God, feel God's presence, share your hopes, fears and dreams with God. May you feel God's living presence through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit as you pray.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.