Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
The little boy was proud of his dad—he was a well-known opera singer. One evening he went with his mother to hear his father sing in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, based on the Old Testament account of the famous prophet Elijah, written sometime in the 1800s.
The boy noticed that his father sang his heart out especially at the part of the story when Elijah prays for rain. As soon as the performance ended, the heavens opened up and rain fell in buckets. The boy looked up at his mother’s face and asked, Mummy—did God think daddy really meant it?
We sometimes call this ‘earnest prayer’ or pleading prayer. We pray with all our heart, meaning every word. When you pray do you really mean it? Does it make any difference anyway? Some people are confused about prayer thinking God is up in the clouds somewhere checking up on you to see if you’re behaving. And so maybe a few Our Fathers might be a good thing.
Prayer Is a Conversation with God
No, prayer is much more than that. Perhaps you are among the millions around the world who pray, but wonder if you’re truly reaching God. Then again, you may be curious about prayer, but are skeptical about whether it is anything more than fluff and human emotion. My mother had prayed with me during my bedtime prayers, but that was a long time ago. What about now?
The dictionary definition of prayer tells us that to pray is to make a request of God or to address him. But I think there’s a better definition. Richard Allen Bodey, a Christian professor and minister, has a better definition of prayer. “May we not say that prayer, at the heart of it, is just talking with God?” he asks. Now we’re getting somewhere—to pray is simply to communicate. The word with is the operative one here—prayer is talking with God and not just to God.
It’s a two-way level of communication because God loves to hear his children pray. Christian prayer is talking with the God of the Bible. It is a conversation with the supreme Creator of the universe, and the Father of Jesus Christ, who is also God. Many people have a misconception about prayer. They think that if they force themselves to pray a certain amount of time each day—especially when they don’t want to—this will bring them close to God.
But for those who are the children of God, this is not how prayer works. Prayer is not a magic gimmick, not something that if we do it—if we force ourselves to do it—will result in us being in touch with God. We pray because we are close to God. No, more than close. We pray because God lives in us through the Holy Spirit. It is a dynamic and living relationship that makes daily life exciting and interesting—because we can pray to God about anything at all.
We pray because God lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). That’s why prayer works—our Heavenly Father loves to hear and respond to your prayer.
You may be facing marriage problems, loneliness, money troubles or poor health. Perhaps you grapple with job difficulties, worries about children, fear of the future or unfulfilled life dreams. You don’t have to remain helpless in the face of these troubles! Spend some time every day and explain to God in your prayers how you are feeling, and what’s going on. Invite God, through the person of Jesus, to give you inner strength, insight, and wisdom, to know what to do next.
Prayer Fosters Restoration
It’s amazing how prayer can help the mind and body recover after a bad time in your life. Do we need God through prayer? Yes! We were made to function best, emotionally, in a prayerful relationship with God. As C.S. Lewis put it,
God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.
It’s spiritual nourishment of the best kind—divine help at the time you need it most. Who wouldn’t ask for that? Maybe you’re feeling too busy, tired or not good enough to pray.
The reality is that only a relationship with God can unravel the ultimate meaning of your life. Only through a connection with God, the most compelling reason to believe in prayer is simple. The answer is God. You were made by him and for him. No-one on earth can come close to loving you like he can. Until you come to faith in God, you experience a massive void in your life that only God can satisfy.
Sure, there are a lot of good things God has made. And those things can sometimes bring temporary relief from the pain of not knowing God, but they won’t satisfy your deepest longings—only God can do that. There is hope in this life and the next. Prayer is that connection. Unlike our flawed parents, God is the perfect Father. Once you put your trust in him as your Saviour, the prayer process begins. It isn’t always pretty and sometimes is a struggle. The important thing is to keep going regardless of the obstacles that get thrown at you.
What should you do if you don’t believe in prayer but want that to change? First, tell God how you feel. God loves authenticity and his shoulders are more than broad enough to handle your frustrations. Start talking to God every day. Don’t worry if these aren’t long and drawn-out prayers. The more important thing is to pray from an obedient and sincere heart.