There is a big difference between knowing about a person and knowing a person. A person who never prays can know a lot about God, but only a prayerful person can know God (Psalm 73:25-26; John 10:27-30). We are called to an ever-deepening life of knowing the Lord who loves us and wants us to share our whole lives with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
Any mature relationship involves “give” and “take.” Because of who God is, we receive far more than we can ever give, but he asks us to offer:
Praise — appreciating and enjoying him for what he is (Psalm 96:7-8).
Thanks — for his gifts, his rescue, and his answers to prayer (Psalm 103:1-5).
Meditation — reflecting on his Scriptures (Joshua 1:8).
Ourselves — willingly, gladly for his service (Romans 12:1-2).
Prayer is not twisting the arm of God. Rather, it is cooperating with him in his purposes for the world. In prayer we discover his mind (Ephesians 5:10, 17) and join in his purpose (Matthew 9:38; 10:5). Praying and working go together (James 2:18-26).
Learning to pray
Though prayer is as natural as speech, like speech, it has to be learned.
- Learn by doing. Make regular times for prayer (Daniel 6:10).Pray alone (Mark 1:35) and with others (Matthew 18:20) because, as in a family, we do not learn to speak in isolation.Learn to pray brief “arrow” prayers as needs arise (Matthew 14:30; Nehemiah 2:4-5).
- Learn from Jesus, starting from his great “pattern” prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and going on to his meditation in John 17.
- Learn from books — e.g., Michel Quoist’s Prayers, and above all else, the Psalms. Hymn and song books can be an inspiration, too.
- Learn from the Holy Spirit, who is given to us to help us pray (Romans 8:15-16, 26-27).
If your prayers aren’t getting answered:ask the following questions to yourself.
- Do you actually pray (James 4:2)?
- Do you mean it (Matthew 7:7)?
- Are your goals selfish (James 4:3)?
- Is there unconfessed sin in the way (James 4:8)?
- Do you persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1-8)?
- Are you seeking God’s will (Mark 14:36)?
Remember that answers do not always come in the form we expect or at the time we demand; we may be meant to answer our own prayer (Matthew 14:15-16); the answer may be no; and sometimes, if he appears not to answer, maybe he wants us to start loving him for who he is, not for what we can get out of him!