This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from Pastor JD’s sermon on Luke 11 and 18 preached at The Summit Church, the weekend of April 2nd and 3rd, 2011.
We usually think of our prayer life as saying things to God (praising God, making requests, or having conversation) rather than saying something about God (evaluation of His character, power, or involvement). But prayer does both, and what our prayer life says “about” God often determines when, if, how, and about what we pray.
Think about it as if you were about to have a conversation with the president of a major company. What you said to that person would largely be shaped by what you thought about them. Were you a fan of their product? Did their product harm you? Did you want their financial support for a cause? Are they your spouse, parent, or sibling?
The same is true in our prayer life. In this post, we will look at five things that our lack of prayer can say about God. These are not the only five things, but these are meant to help you evaluate your own prayer life; not merely as a discipline, but as the expression of a relationship.
- God is powerless. Often, we do not pray because we do not believe God can do anything about our struggle. We view our struggle as “outside God’s jurisdiction.” We view God as constrained by the situational variables involved like Superman is constrained by kryptonite.
- God is uncaring. Other times, we do not pray because we do not believe God will do anything about our struggle. We might believe we are too insignificant for His attention. We may believe we have sinned in a way that removes His willingness to intervene for us. We may believe that God is just the Creator and doesn’t care about our prayer, because He just doesn’t care. Sometimes we view God as uncaring and we hesitate to pray because we have reduced “caring” to “giving me what I want most” and we fear being told “no” too much to ask.
- God is irrelevant. Our prayers may indicate belief that we have limited God to addressing “spiritual problems” and reduced spiritual problems to church, worship, and evangelism. We might not pray because we believe our daily concerns are not on God’s job description. In this case, we don’t pray for the same reason we don’t talk to a plumber about our computer problems.
- God intrudes on my independence. If we are honest, there are times when we don’t pray because we do not want to know what God might say. We are like the child who wants to “do it all by myself.” Praying would require acknowledging a level of dependence that our pride does not want to see.
- God is a set of wisdom principles. Sometimes we confuse prayer with contemplation. We might think, “I already spend time trying to ‘figure out’ my struggle, isn’t that the same thing as prayer?” this misconception can often be reinforced when we ask for prayer and immediately get met with suggestions. Another form of this misconception would be, “If God has already given me the Bible, what more could He have to say?” This would be the equivalent of a teenager thinking his/her parents didn’t want to talk about peer pressure, because they had already told him/her to resist it. There is power in a good, conversational relationship that enables us to live out the principles.
The big point is this, If we don not pray, it likely reveals a wrong view of God. “Trying harder” will probably not change the belief(s) that impede(s) our prayer. If we want to become people of prayer, we need to examine our beliefs and get to know God for who He really is. Hopefully, these reflections equip you for the self-examination.
For further study listen to sermon title “Surprised by God’s Willingness to Listen” in the sermon series “Kingdom Come” from April 2011. Watch sermon videos here.