Some find prayer difficult because they have an idea prayer somehow has to be sacred or holy – and we don’t feel sacred or holy. After all, who are we compared with a holy God? We feel anger, bitterness, resentment – and so we don’t talk naturally to God. We somehow feel stuck.
But if you read some of the Psalms, you’ll see men who pray in the midst of their despair, anguish or anger. They are full of every kind of emotion.
I like the story of a Jewish farmer who was working in his field on Friday afternoon and forgot to watch the time in preparing for the Sabbath. He spent the whole day in his field till sundown the next night. He forgot about the Sabbath. When he got home his wife was very upset as was his Rabbi for being so carless. So the Rabbi said “did you at least pray out in the field? You spent the day missing the Sabbath. Did you at least pray?” The farmer thought for a moment “”well, I’m not too bright a man and all the prayers I knew I was able to say in 5 minutes. So, for the rest of the time I just recited the alphabet, thinking to myself that God is intelligent – He can make words out of all those letters”. I think it’s a great story –it’s a beautiful definition of prayer.
The alphabet of our lives – the anger, bitterness, joy, praise – we can them up and give them to God. It’s like the little boy of 6 who hadn’t been at school long. One day he had a hard day at school, and as his Mother put him to bed, she asked him to say his prayers: “No, I don’t want to.” “Why not? Asked his Mother ”I don’t pray because in school they taught us that prayer is talking to God and tonight I’m tired and I have nothing to say”. This 6 year old got it right – prayer is telling God how we feel. He was tired and he told God it was too difficult to verbally pray. That’s prayer.
There is really no wrong way to pray or say prayers. You don’t have to be inside a church building to pray or kneeling down at an altar. You can pray at the kitchen sink or while driving your car or sitting in a train. It doesn’t matter. God is with you and is listening anyway to everything you say or don’t say. The words are not that important. Don’t be afraid that your feelings don’t seem very holy – lift up your thoughts and feelings to God anyway.
Psalm 62:8 says “trust in Him at all times – pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge”.
If you really think about it, prayer can seem a little odd. What do you do in prayer? You bow, or kneel, or raise your hands, or just sit there and talk, or even think – and you have the knowledge that God hears you and answers your prayer. Prayer is an amazing reality – a reality that can radically transform your life. Why is prayer so important? Prayer is important because God invented it.
Prayer is not the random invention of a religious fanatic. It is not a fantasy, a crutch for the weak, or a pipe dream. Prayer is a rock-solid reality that God gave to us so we could talk to Him. Every book of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, records prayer. In an amazing act of grace, kindness, and love that God gave us this means for us to speak directly to Him. The fact that God invented prayer and asks us to pray is our confidence that prayer is important.
Prayer is important because the Bible commands it. God’s word is replete with commands to pray. Prayer forms a foundational element of the believer’s life. Without prayer, the result will be confusion, anger, lack of peacefulness, and even sin.
If anyone questions the importance of prayer, think about the importance that Jesus placed upon prayer. Repeatedly in the gospels, we read of Jesus going to a solitary place to pray, spending all night in prayer, and encouraging his disciples to pray. The final act that Jesus did before his trial and crucifixion was hold an all-night prayer vigil to His father.
Jesus thought prayer was important, and the Bible is full of repeated commands for believers to pray, too (1 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2).