Prayer, what, who, where, when, and why should I? The five W’s of problem solving. Let’s take them one at a time. What is prayer for? We pray all the time, for strength, for money, for health and travel mercies. We pray for dogs and cats, for cows and calves. We pray for life and we occasionally pray for death. We get upset when our prayers go unanswered and we forget to say thank you when they are. Anyone who has ever prayed for the life of a loved one and still buried them has asked this question of God, “What good is it if I don’t get what I ask for?” The question first gets whispered in the back of our minds, a lonely little whisper “what good is it”, what good is it, and the more we think about it the angrier we get until we shout out to God in our pain and confusion, WHAT GOOD IS IT? It doesn’t work…and still we pray for enlightenment. The problem with our question is in direct relation to the value we place on prayer as it relates to God. Because we have been raised in a fast food society and capitalism is the system that we are taught from day one, we place prayer in a transactional relation to God instead of a communicative relation. We use prayer as a form of heavenly currency, I’m praying to you God, I believe in you God, now give me what I asked for God, and please don’t take too long God, I’m a busy person after all, things to do and places to go, so make it snappy if you please. Well as we all find out sooner or later, that just doesn’t work out very well for us. It never has for me, I keep buying lottery tickets and praying that I’ll hit the jackpot…but I never do, and I used to get mad because I would pray and pray for the Lord to “give” me a better whatever, fill in the blank. I still do, I just don’t blame God anymore for my own stupidity and impatience. I have learned that prayer is about relationship, that the purpose of prayer is to come into relation with God, to be able to know God. Prayer is not a transaction, it’s an exchange. An exchange so vital that our lives depend upon it, yet we seldom give it a second thought. We forget who we are praying to, just a reminder, we are praying to God not to Walmart. Where and when we pray is less important than the fact that we pray. Lying in bed at night or kneeling before the cross on Sunday morning the important thing is that you are in relationship with God.
The where and when while not very important, the actual manner that we pray has greater meaning, while prayer is most commonly done standing up, I do much of my praying in an upright position either with my head bowed or lifted to heaven. In the morning I pray lying in bed, for me that is my most intimate time with God it is the time I am most unguarded and most likely to hear God because there is less distraction. Today though just as it was in Paul’s time, to kneel before God was to signify your complete submission to His will and I still get down on my knees to give thanks for His gifts to me and the world and for the grace I don’t deserve but have never the less been given anyways. That it was His life that paid for my sins and not my own. 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Prayer is how we get to know our Father, how we experience His love, His mercy, these are the riches of His glory, and 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. To abide in Jesus is to be anchored in Christ, to be grounded in God’s love. The only way to experience that love is through prayer and that’s why we need to pray. Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is the very life blood of a Christian, why should we pray? Ask yourself why you should keep breathing, the answer is the same? John Wesley had this to say about prayer, “God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air. Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him. All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice. Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things. In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.
As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God. God only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.” 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Prayer is not about fixing your flat tire or getting a raise at work. Our prayers are so seldom answered because at the heart of it all, they are selfish instead of selfless. We ask ourselves why God doesn’t act the way we want Him to and that’s so wrong on so many levels and still we ask why? Abraham Lincoln said “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” We pray because we are not sufficient for the task, it is through God’s wisdom that we are remade for the tasks that can only be accomplished through God and prayer. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. I think John Wesley said it best when he said, “Prayer is where the action is.” Praise God!
“O LORD God Almighty, Father of angels and men, we praise and bless your holy name for all your goodness and loving kindness to humanity. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and for your unceasing generosity to us throughout our lives; But above all, we bless you for your great love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. We bless you for bringing us safe to the beginning of a new day. Grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger. Keep us, we pray, from all things hurtful to body or soul, and grant us your pardon and peace, so that, being cleansed from all our sins, we might serve you with quiet hearts and minds, and continue in the same until our life’s end, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Amen.” John Wesley