Oswald Chambers, author of the popular devotional My Utmost for His Highest, once said, “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” When we look at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he tells the saints to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…” (5:17). Jesus also models prayer in Matthew 6, at a place called Gethsemane, and all throughout the gospels.
Prayer is obviously supposed to be a huge part of our experience as believers, but it’s also obvious we often struggle to go to God first, if at all. Some time ago, I had the privilege to sit in on a meeting of our elders at Christ Chapel as they considered the short and long-term direction of our church. I was so encouraged and impressed to be a part of prayer after prayer throughout that meeting when any uncertainty, any compulsion, any inclination provoked it. Another time, a friend was going through some difficult circumstances and I suggested he talk through things with someone. He responded he was first going to go to the Lord with it, opposing his natural inclination to first go to people instead of God.
While these examples are encouraging I think it’s fair to say passionate, believing, unceasing prayer often eludes us. We first try to deal with situations. We run to friends and the people around us as soon as possible. We fail to acknowledge God’s provision, presence and power in our lives far too often. It’s no secret that in good times and in bad, when things are great and when they’re terrible, the first thing that should happen is our going to God. So why do we find ourselves distant from this? How do we increase in our praying and get closer?
The noise, distractions, and affinities in our lives can cause us to wander from having the best, from having what God would have for His people. He certainly wants His people to pray, so how do we take steps toward regular, consistent prayer? From the outset, the most glaring answer to grow in praying is simply to do it — pray. We will not grow in our praying if we do not pray. Just as we cannot expect to build muscle or relationship if we fail to go to the gym or communicate. The same is true of praying. If prayer is to become more in our lives we must devote time, energy and attention to it. Sometimes this feels like a burden but we do not have to drag ourselves into prayer. Understanding more of the purpose, value and importance of prayer will have us desperately seeking out the Lord and bowing before Him in prayer.
We started the year with the series “First Things First.” One of the messages discussed how prayer was about submitting our will to the will of God. Prayer was defined as “a conversation with a personal God that acknowledges who He is and requests what He can do … prayer is relational, and changes us as much as God allows prayer to change the things around us.” Prayer is you and I getting on the same page with God. It’s seeking out what heaven would have and being a part of making it a reality on earth. Prayer acknowledges the supremacy, sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and Personhood of God, and seeks out what He desires and how we are to be a part of it. Prayer is not requesting God get on our page or respond to our demands, but to come to understand more of His purposes and our role in relation to them.
Realizing the purpose and power of prayer can do a great deal to stir our appeals to the throne. We increasingly stop looking around us for answers, advice or direction and, instead, seek after God and what He desires. We realize the privilege we have been given to know Him and approach Him for purpose, direction and wisdom in the midst of whatever we encounter and face. In all things we do not need to wander through the weeds, going to lesser things. We have a holy, righteous, all-knowing God who desires we approach Him — who desires to give us the desires of our hearts after Him like wisdom, discernment and the guidance of His Spirit. So, instead of going to God last, let’s go to Him first. Let’s begin right where we need to in all things. Our lives are full of good things and bad things. And we certainly need to deal with this and that, but first we pray.
Singin’ in the Rain
Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 21-24
Christ Chapel’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” is splashing into Fort Worth this August! Invite friends and family and join us for a performance. Click here for free tickets.