Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
Continuing our series on how to navigate what lies ahead with 2020 vision, the sixth element of spiritual clarity is praying. Much has been written on this Christian discipline because much is made of it throughout Scripture. Yet, the Bible does not define prayer—largely because its original audience intuitively understood the concept of communicating with God. What we can glean from Scripture is how to pray to God. But first, let’s see how contemporary scholars define prayer:
In the Bible prayer is worship that includes all the attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates him in prayer. This highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought of as communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. New Bible Dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 947)
A few key words standout in this definition. First, is attitude. We can go through the motion, as the Scribes and Pharisees often did, while our hearts are far from God. Jesus condemned these religious leaders for their show of prayerful piety that belied their lack of faith and masked their hatred toward God. Second, is communion. We can only enter into a holy mindset of prayer by means of God first drawing us into his presence. In other words, prayer can be thought of as being pursued by our Lover to engage us in intimate conversation so that we might know him and ourselves better. So how do we go about developing this love language with our Creator? Jesus’ disciples asked him the same question as pertains to prayer. His response was succinct and eloquent:
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13 ESV
This succinct prayer of Jesus is intended to be a guideline of how we are to approach our loving Father. First, we praise him with a sense of awe and affection: he is holy and his name alone is to be greatly revered. While our Lover desires to be close to us, we should not presume our importance above that of his. It is his kingdom and his will that we seek. (And how it unfolds on earth has already been accomplished in the heavenly realm.) With this proper perspective, we can petition for our physical needs and spiritual protection, having confessed our sins against our Creator and against others. But the key element of prayer is a childlike faith in our Father’s goodness and grace (Matthew 21:22). Just as a young child trusts that he or she can confidently approach their loving parents and tell them whatever is on their mind, so may we confidently pray to the Father—thanks to the Son who has made it all possible:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrew 4:15-16 ESV
Now more than ever in our COVID-19 world, we need to draw near to our loving Father in prayer with a childlike trust that he is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).