Voices: The purpose of prayer

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When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8, CSB).

There is an often overlooked aspect of prayer. It contains the answer to the question, “Why do we pray?”

It is an important factor in having an effective prayer life. It is completely opposite to the “name it and claim it” false gospel. Prayer is an alignment of our will to God’s will.

Every so often, I take my car into the mechanic to have the wheels aligned. The wheels get out of alignment when I hit a curb or a pothole. Sometimes, it happens over time as the components age. For whatever reason, my wheels get out of alignment. I want to be sure all of my wheels are going in the same direction because if they aren’t, I am going to throw a lot of money away in tires. Mechanics cringe when they hear of people who have never gotten an alignment.

What prayer is & what it’s not

Prayer is the alignment of our will to God’s will. Prayer that is self-centered and that demands God to do what you want him to do is paganism. Prayer is not like a raffle. The more times you play, the better your chances get. God is not a genie. He does not exist to grant your wishes. Prayer is not manipulation. If I just say the magic words, then God will give me what I want.

Prayer in the Bible

In Scripture, the most fervent and striking prayers are pretty short, but they contained great passion and a desire to do God’s will.

• Moses asked God to spare the people of Israel (Exodus 32:31-32).
• Solomon asked God for the wisdom to lead the people of Israel (1 Kings 3:6-9).
• Jabez cried out to God: “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request (1 Chronicles 4:10).
• The tax collector said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
• The dying thief, drawing his final breaths, said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

What God wants & doesn’t want in prayer

God does not want us to string empty words together. Christ condemns the spirit of fear and distrust that causes pagans and people who do not recognize a heavenly Father to babble on and on in the belief that an uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved god may grant their requests if he feels like it.

God wants sincerity of heart. He wants us to bring our need to him, trusting he will do what is in our best interest.

We are not trying to manipulate God or wear him out. The Father already knows what is in our best interests and what we need.

Sometimes, we come to God with flowery words and flamboyant speech, when all God wants is to have a real conversation with us. God wants open and honest conversation.

Jesus’ model prayer

Think about Jesus’ model prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, CSB).

Think about what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, CSB).

Three times, Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done. He knew what God’s will was, and he struggled, but he was obedient to the will of the Father.

The way you pray

When you pray, do you pray for God’s will to be done or for your will to be done? I think many times we are more concerned with our will being done than with God’s will being done. If your prayer life is going to be powerful, then you need to align your will to God’s will.

The power of prayer is in your hands. The power of prayer is at your fingertips.

Humble yourself before God. Pray sincere, open and honest prayers before God. Shut out the distractions around you. Trust God to work in amazing ways.

Prayer is the primary activity of those who walk with God.

Benjamin Karner is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Laredo. For more about him and his ministry, please visit his websiteThe views expressed are solely those of the author.

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