This is the second post in a series on prayer.
So, what reasons do we have for our prayers?
If I look back at my (nasty, brutish, and short) life, I can easily find the main reason I’ve prayed: I was in trouble. E.M. Bounds writes in The Essentials of Prayer, “Trouble belongs to the present state of man on earth,” and “What an infinite variety there is in the troubles of life!” I’ve lived a pretty blessed life thus far - I mean, my main trouble is that I wish I had a new MacBook Pro instead of my six-month-old MacBook - but somehow I still find the need to cry out to God for earthly salvation on a weekly basis, and I probably should be doing it more often. Psalm 46 is a great prayer for these times; it’s a song for us to pray with others, remind each other that God is our strength and glorifying Him for our lives, our provision, and our protection. The video below is a great musical take on the psalmist’s words. (Much to my chagrin, as many times as I have sung this song, I cannot remember the composer’s name! If you know it, hit the comments!)
We also need God’s help for our salvation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m sure I’ve got Paul beat (I Timothy 1:15). Thankfully, God is our strength whenever we are tempted. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that He will always give us a way out of temptation. That’s pretty helpful! So we need to pray for help with our worldly struggles, and with our spiritual ones. II Chronicles 7:13-14 is my wife’s favorite scripture, and it’s about prayer for worldly help too. But what it says is that if we sin, and then we repent in prayer, God will forgive us and “heal [our] land.” I John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, He forgives us. I don’t know of any way to confess my sins to God other than through prayer, and it seems to me that I remember to confess my sins most when I’m in trouble and need God’s help, so it’s no coincidence that the two go together in God’s words in II Chronicles.
So far, we’ve got help and confession as reasons to pray - what happens after we receive that help, or are forgiven? We’re thankful, I hope, so we pray our thanks to God. Colossians 4:2 tells us to devote ourselves to prayer in thankfulness, and I Corinthians 11:24 says that Jesus, before he broke the bread for the last supper, prayed to His Father in thanks for that bread before He gave it to His disciples. He thanked God for His last meal - the meal that meant he was being given up for us! That’s a disciplined thanksgiving; I’m not sure I would be all that thankful if God commanded me to take my last meal, give it to my buddies, and then go out to be mocked, tortured, and executed. But Christ gave thanks. And that’s how thankful we should strive to be.
True gratitude to and love of God gives us an intrinsic call to serve Him, which I John 5:3 tells us is how we know we love Him - if we follow His commandments. I’d say that’s a good reason to pray - to ask God to sanctify us, consecrating ourselves to His service. Jesus prays of His own sanctification in John 17:19, and then prays for our sanctification in John 17:20! A man I very much admire named Chuck Woods wrote last Thursday that, “Prayer is not a requirement for ministry, it is a desperate need!” If we are to be effective men for Christ, then we need His blessing, His consecration, and His help… and we need to realize, as Paul does in I Corinthians 3:6, that God does it all. The best we can do is pray, for whatever reason we have, that His will be done.