Tuesday, 18 September 2007

School of Prayer III

Why should we pray?

The following is a summary of chapter three ‘Why Pray?’ in their excellent book on prayer by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne. It’s a terrific chapter because it provides us with motivation for speaking to our Father and making our requests known.

1. we should pray because we can
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf we can talk to God as Father. As Philip Jensen and Tony Payne put it,
‘this almighty, all-powerful God, who by rights should destroy us as his enemies, has instead reached out to us in love, wiped away our sins and adopted us as his own children. He has become our Father, and He allows us to approach Him and pour out our requests to Him at any time, promising that He will hear us and give us every good gift’.
The first reason that we should pray is that we can. We have the immense privilege of being able to walk into the throne room of heaven and speak directly with the King. Familiarity with this truth must not be allowed to develop into contempt for this truth.

2. we should pray because we must
Prayer is not an optional extra in the Christian life. It expresses the essence of our Christian life. To be a Christian is to be a dependent child of God. To not speak with our Father in heaven makes suspect our profession to know Him and trust Him. Listen to Jensen and Payne on the reality of our faith,
‘We are no longer rebels who snatch the Father’s gifts but refuse to honour or thank Him. We are no longer pagans who run after food and drink and clothes; as if our lives were entirely in our hands, or as if these things were all that mattered in life. We are now the grateful recipients of His incredible grace and forgiveness who have come crawling back to Him in repentance, and we now look to him to provide us with all that we need. We want to give Him honour and glory in all that we do, and God is never more honoured and glorified than when we humbly ask Him for things, when He grants them in His mighty power and generosity, and when we pour out our thanks to Him for His kindness’.
We pray because we are children who speak to our generous father. This is the relationship that we have with the Lord. And so we should pray because we must!

3. we should pray because we’re commanded to
Prayerlessness may be bizarre, perverse and wrong but we’re very capable of such folly. As Jensen and Payne acknowledge,
‘We find ourselves lapsing back into the self-centred, self-sufficient mindset of our neighbours who think they don’t need God, and who neither ask him for anything, nor thank him for the many blessings he showers upon them anyway’.
What is God to do with us? In His kindness, He helps our prayerlessness, and He commands us to pray. This is a repeated exhortation in scripture. Like an encouraging Father He urges us and directs us to do what we sometimes don’t want to do but is in our best interests. There is a less sympathetic side to this. God commands us to pray and if we don’t pray then we’re guilty of sin. It’s not therefore something that we can shrug our shoulders and say ‘hey whatever’ about. We all fall into sin throughout our Christian lives. As with all sin, it is not to be entertained but to be confessed and repented of. God is a God who permits and encourages new beginnings. It may be that some of us here need to repent of our disobedient, rebellion demonstrated in our prayerlessness and provide some substance to our profession to trust God as our Father.

4. we should pray because of God’s promise
We pray because God has spoken and promised to hear our prayers and answer them. This is a powerful motivation. Not only does the death of Christ grant us access to God as Father but our Father promises that He will listen to us and grant us every good thing. We respond to those promises in trust and demonstrating that trust by praying to Him. Jensen and Payne put it this way,
‘Every time we open our mouths in prayer, we are saying, ‘I know you are able, I know you are willing, I know you are my creator and Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know that you have promised to hear me when I call to you in prayer’.
We pray because of God’s promise.

Why do we pray? Because there’s the opportunity to do so, because there’s a necessity to do so, because there’s an obligation to do so, because there’s every good reason to do so. These four reasons to pray are worth remembering, pondering and above all else believing.