Four Basic Points on Prayer

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Prayer is about a relationship. Like any other conversation in your life you build and grow your relationship through conversation. Unlike any other conversation in your life you don’t get the direct feedback like you do from a human being sitting in front of you. Because of that, prayer can be a bit awkward at first. It might feel like you are talking to the wall. You may wonder if your prayers make it past the ceiling, as if God is up there and we are down here. When you start to pray, understand you are talking to Someone…a real being…a personal entity…the Creator of the Universe. You don’t use thee’s and thou’s in everyday conversation and you don’t have to use that with God either.

Prayer isn’t magical. Magic often involves using specific words and phrases said in a particular way to invoke or evoke a particular powerful action or response. Some people view prayer as if it was magical. It is as if they think God can only hear them if they use particular words and those words are not typically everyday words. The truth is there isn’t anything magical about prayer and you don’t force God’s actions by getting the verbiage right. There is no way to guarantee the action of another free and independent person.

Prayer isn’t magical but it can be effectual. Just because prayer isn’t magical, guaranteeing your desired result that doesn’t mean that prayer is ineffectual…that prayer has no effect. This is where things get a bit tricky but stay with me. Prayer is effectual. James 5:15-16 says this,

15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

So prayer matters and prayer can actually effect outcomes. It is a bit hard to know how this works as God knows the beginning from the end and yet we do get instances in the Bible where specific prayers change the course of God’s decision making (see Genesis 18 or Exodus 32). All that to say that although we cannot guarantee a result from our prayers that our prayers can influence the direction God takes.

Last, if you don’t think you are any good at praying you are not alone. Check out Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 3. He made a mess of it. Check out Abraham and Sarah’s conversation with God in Gen 18. The thing you will find with all of these people who had awkward conversations with God is this, keep on trying. Keep on talking. Keep on praying. It does, like in most relationships, become easier with time and experience!

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