Okay, I’m not mad at anyone or anything particularly. Truthfully, I’m probably mad about something – I typically am. My anger is one of the things I would dearly like to control, to mitigate, to suppress in the sense of controlling it, not just stuff it down and allow it to fester. But right now, I feel the need, the impulse, the direction by Almighty God to discuss prayer.
Prayer in the proper sense is communication with God. Communication suggests a dialog, not a monologue. If one prays in the proper way, one also hears from God, as well as directing thoughts merely to God.
This essay is primarily directed to Christians, but non-Christians are encouraged to read it as well. Perhaps not all the concepts herein will be fully clear to non-Christians; it is my expectation that some degree of clarity will transmit to all. In any event, the Lord has made it clear I should write this.
Why do Christians pray?
One obvious answer is that Christians are directed to pray. The words of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament rather expected followers of Jesus Christ – therefore, of God – to pray. However, that simple answer, as technically correct as it is, can be misleading. Christians are not to pray simply to check off one of God’s commands.
When we were children, or perhaps adults in a new and rather strange to us relationship with God, most of us prayed simple prayers of requests. Something on the order of “Forgive me for [fill in the blank yourself]; Bless Mom and Dad and so on and so forth”. Then usually follows (or proceeds) the list of ‘godgimmes’. “God, give me a new bicycle; God, give me new shoes; God, gimme the answers to the test at school” and such things. At meals, as ‘young’ (in some sense) we are taught to thank God for the food.
Allow me to point out all these things are valid in some sense. We are to pray and express remorse and contrition for sinful behavior. We are to pray ‘intercessory’ prayers for others. We are to express our needs and hopes and goals, and seek Divine assistance in these things. We are to be thankful.
But comes the question as we gain maturity, both as a person and as a Christian, why is this needful? God is omniscient, and therefore knows all these things before we do. What is the point of telling God what He already knows? Why does God command us to pray? What’s the point?
I suggest the point is that God wants us to be aware of these things ourselves, and to allow His feedback to appreciate all of life and our relationship to Him more fully.
As an example, when I pray over a meal and savor the thoughts, I realize many things I tend to skip in the normal course of the day. I provide my own meals in the sense I pay for them. However, to pay for a meal (either at home or ‘out’) I have to have money in my account (or pocket). That means I have to have a source of income. Neither food nor money falls from the sky to feed me.
My income these days comes from the retirement annuity from the years I worked. My annuity is based on roughly twenty-two years of working at a job I generally liked, but sometimes loathed. I dealt with idiotic supervisors and managers, idiotic co-workers and idiotic ‘customers’ while bound to enforce sometimes idiotic laws and regulations. Not all of them, of course. But enough to have regularly considered telling them all to shove it and walk out the door. I didn’t. But in retrospect, I didn’t because of the Grace of God who strengthened me to do the job. Not just to perform the appointed tasks and duties, but also to avoid insubordination, rebellion, physical violence and probably hardest of all, my rather sarcastic and vengeful mouth.
Thank you, My Lord. Thank you for keeping me from destroying myself in terms of career and earning power. Thinking back, this effort of the Lord was NOT a single occurrence. My dear Lord intervened in my life many times a day; probably more while at work.
When I pray over a meal, the Lord reminds me none of it came from chance or luck. All manner of food, meat, vegetables, fruits, cereal grains, coffee, water, beer and apple pie is the result of other people’s work. A normal breakfast for me involves a farmer – probably farmerS – who planted, watered, fertilized, weeded, harvested and transported potatoes and wheat grain to those who further process such things. My normal breakfast also demands some grower who put up with chickens, and the sacrifice of those chickens of their eggs. And a rather ultimate demand upon a pig or two.
Then there are the people who turn raw products into foodstuffs. Bakers come to mind. The people who grind coffee for brewing. Not to mention the staff at a restaurant who serve it. Even the many people who make sure the grocery store functions properly.
That’s just from giving thanks over a meal. (I’ve probably missed something in this. Forgive me.)
When I ask for ‘blessings’ on those I love, if I’m paying attention to what I’m saying, God reminds me of my responsibility for ‘blessing’ those I mention. What can I do for my children? They’re all grown up, but I still have a responsibility to encourage, comfort and assist them at need. My Lord reminds me I cannot merely mouth a ‘blessing’ and not seek out manners of assistance for them.
The same goes for ‘starving children in [fill in the blank]’. How can I say words of blessing for them and not be concerned about their needs? The Lord reminds me of this. How much can I send to reliable charitable organizations for the purpose? Are there children in my town – neighborhood? – in need? I must act in some manner, or my prayers are just self-righteous murmurings. If nothing else, God reminds me I ought to be about the business of helping others in need.
This same phenomenon occurs when I consider and pray for all those who do not know, who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I understand there are far too many people who do not have such. I can help feed children and adults who lack sustenance. However, they will eventually all die at some point – then what? As a Christian, I am aware the Grace of God extended to me as a sinner is not a corporate affair. Christianity, the following of Christ unto eternal relationship with Almighty God is an individual matter. Those are the rules set by God; everyone must acknowledge dependence on The Lord individually.
From Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 10) How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them
It’s not like specific directions ‘just occur’ to non-believers. Christians are directed by Jesus Himself to Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
When I pray with attention to God, He reminds me. I need reminding, it seems.