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What is the Point of Prayer?

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You are not in control and you are not capable of solving your problems.

This is not a pithy way to start a post or for the purpose of shaming you. This is the reality of our desperate need we communicate when we pray. 

Prayer is an absolute necessity in the life of the believer. The purpose of prayer is expressing dependence, not on self, but on the only One who is capable of redeeming our brokenness. In his book Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church, John Onwuchekwa says, “prayer is breathing. There’s no better metaphor of what prayer should be for the Christian.”[1] Our need for prayer shows our need for the gospel. As a result, our prayers are continually communicating the reality of our need for the gospel to ourselves, to our church, and to our God.

In Matthew 6:9-13 we see Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray: "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." This prayer focuses on growth in our dependence. And think about the reality of prayer for a second.

Ask yourself this question: How can sinners come to a holy God in prayer? 

At the very heart of this question is the dependence expressed in the truth of the gospel. Not even one can come before holy God on their own because of their sin—but God has provided a Mediator between Himself and man that man must depend on in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 testifies to this dependence. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." We cannot even begin to pray without a realization that Jesus is our mediator, interceding on our behalf to the Father.

If this is the foundation, your mindset going into prayer immediately shifts from selfishness to reliance, humility, submission, and faith.
You are relying on the One interceding for you because you would be rejected otherwise.
You are humble in your confession of sin and making your requests for His will to be done above all else because, after all, it was His will for you to have a Savior interceding for you.
You are submitting to His will and His sovereignty because He is on His throne. You express faith and complete trust in the Author of your redemption.

Do not miss what this means: If you are only viewing these statements on an individual basis, you are missing a significant aspect of the beauty of prayer. Prayer is not just for the individual. His bride, the church, must also be devoted to corporate prayer. Again, Onwuchekwa states, “A church that practices prayer is more than a church that learns; it’s also a church that leans.”[2] His bride expresses her dependence on her self-sacrificing husband in prayer. We pray together not to primarily admit our needs to others who can meet them, but to admit our dependence on God together as a people who are in need. What a gift prayer becomes when we realize we are not at the center of it—it exists to express our deep dependence on God. 

Another helpful tool in approaching prayer is the acronym ACTS. First, there is adoration, where we proclaim the infinite worth of our God and our response to His infinite worth. Second, there is confession, where we are proclaiming our sinfulness and repentance to the only One who is capable of offering forgiveness. Third, there is thanksgiving, where we proclaim out of grateful hearts His goodness and grace toward us who are eternally undeserving. Last, there is supplication, where we proclaim our humble requests that His will be done and that we would align ourselves with it. 

Prayer is another way we get to herald the truth of the gospel. So believer, pray the gospel.

Pray as a sinner who has no hope of saving themselves.
Pray as one in desperate need of grace.
Pray as a sinner who God loved while they were still sinning.
Pray as one who knows the Lord of glory became sin for you.
Pray as one that the Son of God took on humanity and died on the cross for you.
Pray as one who worships Him because He rose from the dead, defeating death and defeating sin, and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father. If you are discouraged in your prayer, pray the gospel and be encouraged by the truth. Our prayer, just like our faith, is not dependent on our goodness or our strength, it is dependent on Him who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. 

[1] Onwuchekwa, John  Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church p.17

[2] Ibid p.92