Have you ever been in what appeared to be an impossible situation with no way out? Have you ever desperately needed or wanted something, but it seemed as though there was no way you would ever have it? Or, have you ever thought there was no future for you – that for you it was just too late?
It has been said that if you are swept off your feet, it is time to get on your knees. One thing that comes out very clearly in the pages of the Bible is the fact that prayer can dramatically change situations, people and sometimes even the very course of nature.
But what prayer changes the most is you. The objective of prayer is not to change God or to get him to do something different. The objective of prayer is to align ourselves with the will and the purposes of God. He will allow hardship and challenge and need and sometimes even tragedy so he can reveal himself to us – so he can put his power and glory on display. He allows things to happen in our lives so we will turn to him in prayer.
I have never prayed as much as I do these days. I need prayer, because I realize that I am weak. And maybe one of the reasons some of us don’t pray more often is that we don’t recognize this yet. We think we are so strong, so resourceful. In fact, we usually regard prayer as a last resort: Well, I have tried this. I have called all of my contacts. I have pretty much done everything I can do. I guess all I can do now is pray. In reality, the first thing we should do is pray and ask God for his help, his direction and even his provision. We need God’s help. And that is why we pray.
When we see our own weakness, we have a greater glimpse of the strength of God. In fact, the more we recognize our weakness, the more we are aware of God’s greatness. The apostle Paul put it this way: “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). Paul was referring to the fact that he had something in his life and had asked God to remove it. But God told him, “My grace is all you need” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). Loosely paraphrased, Paul was saying, “You know what? I am OK with that, and I’ll tell you why: When I am weak, then I am strong. I see God’s greatness in all of this.”
So if you are suffering, what should you do? You should pray. If things are going really well, what should you do? You should pray. The Bible says, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises” (James 5:13 NLT). No matter what state we are in, we need to pray.
There is no greater example of prayer than Jesus himself. He would often spend long nights alone with his heavenly Father in prayer. One day his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray. …” (Luke 11:1 NIV). They wanted to pray like him. They wanted to understand what prayer really was. So Jesus gave them what we know today as the Lord’s Prayer.
There is no record in Scripture of Jesus himself ever saying this prayer verbatim. He gave it to the disciples and to us. Jesus never would have prayed, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4 NIV), because he had no sins to be forgiven. This was a prayer for us, a template for prayer that Jesus gave. In fact, this prayer could be better described as the Disciples’ Prayer.
The first section of this prayer deals with the glory of God: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2–3 NIV). We don’t just come into God’s presence and say, “Father, give us each day our daily bread.” There is a place for personal petition in prayer, but first we are to contemplate and acknowledge the greatness of God. We are speaking to the all-powerful, mighty Creator of the universe. To pray, “Hallowed be your name,” is to say, “Honored is your name.” Effectively we are saying that we want God to be honored and glorified in our lives, that we want his will above our own.
The second section of this prayer deals with our needs: “Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (verses 3–4 NIV). We are taught that we need to pray daily for God’s provision in our lives. In the first century, bread was a staple. Pretty much every meal involved bread. No one was on a low-carb diet back in those days. Bread was essential, and everyone utilized it every day. So when Jesus spoke of “daily bread,” he was not just speaking of a particular food item, but of food in general. By praying, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we are essentially saying, “Give me the food I need … the clothing I need … the housing I need … all the things I need in life.” We need to ask God to provide for our needs. He wants us to come before Him in prayer and request things. This is clearly taught in Scripture. James 4:2 puts it this way: “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (NIV).
There may be things we don’t have in our lives because we have failed to ask God to provide them. Have you gone to him with your need and said, “Lord, I pray that you will help me with this. I pray that you will provide that”?
As C.H. Spurgeon said, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.”
We can ask God for his provision, and nothing is too big or too small or insignificant to bring to him. Jesus put it this way: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–11 NIV).
If you don’t put any heart into your prayer, then don’t expect God to put much heart in answering. But if you will pray like Jesus taught the disciples to pray, I believe you will see more prayers answered in the affirmative.