Will you pray for me? And of course you say, “Sure.” What else can you say? It wouldn’t be Christian to say, “No.” But what does praying for me mean? Am I asking you to talk to God about my situation—on my behalf, in my place, because He isn’t paying attention to me?
At a rudimentary level, does prayer work? And more pointedly, will you pray if I ask you?
Concerning prayer, I have far more questions than I have answers. Still, there is plenty to know about prayer. In fact, there is more than enough to confidently engage in its practice.
Fundamentally, prayer is communication with God.
With that though, we are already challenged. Think for a moment about the things people around the world are doing to get God’s attention: blowing themselves up, wailing, burning themselves, killing their babies, starving themselves, striving for perfection, buying favor, giving their money away. Oy!
Here we are—followers of Christ Jesus. Our God, who wishes to be called “Father,” has come to us (versus requiring us to get to Him), cleared the way of obstacles to get our attention, engaged us in dialogue, and stated without equivocation that His highest desire is to communicate with us.
“Pray,” God says. “Pray all the time.”
This means, first of all, showing up. Note that He is already at the meeting site, i.e. life.
Note as well, prayer encompasses both talking and listening. Most of us are stronger on the talking part than we are on the listening part. As if to underscore the takeaway point, our Creator gave us one mouth and two ears.
Prayer with God embodies the same principles of communication I have with all of the important people in my life. Nothing more, nothing less. He wants to hear from me, and I want to hear from Him. That’s it. He has in mind relational dialogue.
Prayer can be persuasive, but it must be more than that. If every conversation we have is a sales pitch, persuading you to adopt what I would like, it won’t be long before you quit listening when I open my mouth.
There is a viable aspect of communication that is persuasive, but relational communication must be broader than supplication regarding my perspectives. No one wants to be a bore. At least, I don’t think anyone does. We sure do a lot of supplicating when we pray, come to think of it.
When the Scriptures say, “Pray without ceasing,” I get visions of callused knees, lists, sweat and travail, sleeplessness, and red eyes. I have a personal history of no callused knees, forgotten lists, good intentions, and lots of guilt.
Prayer encompasses these sorts of practices in devotion, and I don’t doubt the biography of a man like “Praying Hyde” who prayed until his knees callused like a camel’s. But neither do I understand Hyde’s biography. It would have been nice to visit with him regarding communication, his view of God, and his calling. I’m afraid he’s gone though.
For me, the guilt of not having calluses on my knees is not great enough to create callused knees. My heart just isn’t in that type of communication.
After sorting through the failure of guilt to motivate me, I have come to this: Prayer is about heart and heart’s desire.
What I hear God saying when He says I’m to pray is, “Talk with Me.”
Remember the invitation recorded by Isaiah? “Come,” God said to him, “let’s discuss this—let’s reason together.” Quite amazing. “Let’s wrestle this issue into submission together.”
Considering prayer further, God values when we talk to Him together, like at a family meal. This makes sense. After all, there is individual communication and corporate communication. Both are advantageous and both are indicative of healthy communication.
Thus the legitimacy of my request, “Will you pray for me?”
In addition to visiting with God personally about what’s on my mind, I am told to pray for—communicate with—you while considering you my family. The implication here is that God is listening to our conversation and this also constitutes prayer.
It comes to this: Any venue of spiritual conversation is prayer—as if God is present and listening.
Come to think of it, He is present. And, He is present all the time, everywhere, in all situations. This works out the challenge of praying without ceasing.
If we are awake, our minds are running. We are interacting, communicating at a variety of levels, and He is present. And when we are asleep? Scripture states that God invests in us while we are asleep (Ps 127:2). That pretty much covers life since I’m either awake or asleep.
Peter writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt. 5:8). John describes Satan as a great red dragon with a huge tail and a voracious appetite to destroy God and the things that are important to Him (Rev. 12:3-4). These are not happy verses from the holy writ.
Satan has a special disdain for God, His initiatives, and His people—that would be you and me. This should not be worrisome, however.
A few years ago, I got crossways with a hostile waiter in New York City. It’s a long story, but he got aggressive, even threatening me. I was having dinner with my brothers, and when the waiter stepped over the line, all three brothers stood up together. The message was clear: Mess with him, and you will have to contend with all three of us.
The waiter probably lost his job, and we got free meals from a horrified manager. The point is: Family stands together when the circumstances are demanding.
Prayer is familial affirmation of this spiritual reality: We are family. You have heard it said, the family that prays together stays together.
When I say, “Pray for me,” I’m reaching through a dark place to feel if you are there, with me, beside me, en force with me, standing with me. To be clear: I’m not asking you to stand with me before God. Jesus already did that once—and that was enough. I’m asking you as family to stand with me as reassurance when I’m feeling less than confident.
Let’s be clear: When we pray together, we are not ganging up on God.
Sometimes, especially when our prayers are not answered [correctly], we think of the verse that states, where two or three are gathered together in My name, I’m there. When prayer isn’t working like we want, it is tempting to reference this verse as the rationale to hustle away and find a friend or two to pray with us [against God]. Ostensibly, we get two or three together in order to assault the ramparts of heaven until God [relents and] answers our prayers [correctly]. Please. Everyone loses when we think of prayer this way.
The verse is simply God making the point: When the family is together, I’m present and accounted for—just like I am when you are by yourself. I’m with you because I’m in you and I won’t leave you because we are bonded together. If God is present in you and me, how could He not be present when we are together?
The enemy employs circumstantial strategies indicative of Earth’s fallen domain. There are extraordinary stressors, technical anomalies, last-minute cancellations, suffering spouses, disease, family trauma, distractions, and seemingly hopeless hardships. There are car wrecks, health problems, financial challenges, disappointments, losses, fallen friends and colleagues, tumult, floods, trials, and more.
In many ways, these things are normal aspects of life. But when I consider the volume, timing, and implications and consult with Father, He indicates, “Tell the family and ask them to pray.” The implication is: “After all, our family is filled with My Spirit, we have all authority in Jesus’ name, and we are standing together. If Satan messes with one of us, he messes with all of us.”
Interesting comment by Him. “Tell the family. Ask them to pray.”
Why should I tell you, to tell God, something I have already told Him, that He already knew about before it happened, regarding something He has already resolved?
Prayer has nothing to do with informing God. One who is omniscient doesn’t need to be informed. On the other hand, everyone who is relational needs to be communicated with. While Dianne informs me of her day over dinner (I’m not omniscient), the main reason for the talk is relational dialogue. How much more relational could God be than to lay aside divinity to take on humanity for the express purposes of living together?
When it comes to prayer, I am clear on this: At its core, prayer is about communication and connection. That I should pray is akin to saying I must communicate with my wife. That I am to pray is a statement of the obvious: You need the community of connection and communication. Prayer is God saying, “Come here. Let’s discuss this until we get it reasoned out.”
What purpose could God possibly have for “reasoning” with us when He already knows how it is going to turn out? The only explanation seems to be that He wishes to have a conversation.
When we say, “Let’s pray,” I think God must say, “Okay.”
We are free to converse. We can relax and have a conversation with God. All impediments have been removed by Jesus. We have been brought near to God and the communication channel is wide open. He begins: “Let’s talk.”
Worry is illegitimate. This is not to say that God doesn’t want to visit about our anxiety, but He promises our needs will be met, our tears will be appreciated, and we will not be left to our own devices when it comes to problem solving. God has pledged that we will not suffer need deprivation. Of course, the operative word in this sentence is “need.” It requires a solid definition to ward off the enemy’s accusations to the contrary.
We know all of these things when we pray, stand together as family, and talk with Father. Prayer is communication with God—the conviction that I enjoy ceaseless connection to Father and the family.
Why pray? Should I pray? How do I pray? When do I pray? These questions are answerable. Each is rooted in communication and connection with God and each other.
There are, however, two questions about prayer that are not fully knowable. The first question is, what will God’s answer be? The second question is, will you pray?