What Is Prayer?

Praying Together
January 1, 2021
Jason Lapp

It has been said that if you want to bring conviction to those who love Christ then talk about evangelism and prayer.  These two habits of grace seem to be a struggle for many Christians.  I have good news; we are not going to talk about evangelism in this document.  I have more good news; we are going to talk about how we can commune with God to a greater degree.  Maybe you have a great prayer life, and this will be an encouragement to press on.  Maybe you struggle to pray and feel the weight of conviction that you do not pray as you ought to pray or even want to pray.  Maybe you have no prayer life at all and need to see the great privilege it is to come before the throne of grace.  Wherever you may land on the spectrum it is important to know that prayer is a great gift given to forgiven sinners through the blood of Jesus Christ.  We have access to the Father’s ear.

What is prayer?
There are many ways that prayer is defined.  Prayer is talking with God.  Prayer is bringing your requests before God.  It may be a combination of these things.  Bunyan defined prayer as “a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.”  I think that definition helps us remember that our prayers ought to be God-centered.  We want His will to be done rather than our own will.  This does not mean we leave our needs or requests out of prayer, but we hold them open in our hands and lay them at the feet of our Sovereign God who works all things for our good.  When we go to God thinking we know what would be good for us then we will be disappointed when He does something different.

What are we trying to accomplish in praying for one another in 2021?
Our aim is for every saint at BCLR to treasure Christ more in 2021.  Prayer is the way we remember we are mere children, wholly dependent on our loving Father who desires we come to Him.  We have access to the Father, let’s use that access to lift up one-another in prayer.  Another aspect of praying together is remembering he is our heavenly Father.  Yes, He is your personal Father but collectively as the church he is our Father.  This year is a way for each of us to remember one another on a consistent basis.  I am sure most of us have prayed for one another at some point.  But now each of us will have daily reminders to pray for each other.  We know the needs of our brothers and sisters and can go before our heavenly Father on their behalf.  In his book on prayer, John Onwuchekwa says, “We are both children of God and siblings to each other.  Prayer was never meant to be a merely personal exercise with personal benefits, but a discipline that reminds us how we’re personally responsible for others.  This means that every time we pray, we should actively reject an individualistic mindset.  We’re not just individuals in relationship with God, but we are part of a community of people who have the same access to God.  Prayer is a collective exercise.”

This should not merely be a goal for 2021 but a start to a new way of thinking about prayer that fuels a greater love for God and love for our neighbor.  After all, those are the two greatest commandments.  Perhaps we struggle to obey those commands because our prayer lives are lacking.  Envision a people so captivated by Christ that they bring others before the Father’s throne all for the sake of God’s glory and the good of their neighbor.  Talking with those same people week after week to see how God is working through the prayers of his people.  This is what it looks like to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).  This is the mindset given to those who are in Christ Jesus and it is modeled for us by Christ Jesus.

May this year be filled with the great joy of God’s presence through prayer and an increasing love of others in prayer.  May you rejoice in seeing God fulfill his promises through the prayers of his saints.  May our love for God and his people grow more and more throughout the year.  Prayer is not meant to be a nagging conviction that we dread being talked about in the church.  Prayer is meant to be the continual heaping of logs on an eternal fire that will grow brighter and burn warmer so that church will be seen and felt by the world.  Jesus said, “All people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  May our love for each other grow through our private prayers for one another so that our love for Christ and his people will be on display to a watching world.  
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