God Listens When You Talk To Him
God’s Surprising Emphasis on Prayer
There are 154 references to prayer (pray, prayer, praying, etc.) in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. That means, when averaged across the whole, prayer is mentioned in every other chapter. That is incredible. God is not careless in what he emphasizes. His emphases always have purposes.
Consider this small sampling of references to prayer in the NT:
Mt. 6:5,6,7 “When you pray…”
Mt. 6:9 “Pray then like this…”
Mt. 9:38 “Pray earnestly to the Lord”
Acts 1:14 “All these…were devoting themselves to prayer”
Rom 12:12 “Be constant in prayer”
1 Cor 7:5 “Devote yourselves to prayer”
Col 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer”
Eph. 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit…”
1 Thess. 5:17 “Pray without ceasing”
What might God’s purposes be in giving this emphasis to prayer? I suggest it is because God wants us to know that he listens when we talk to him, like a good Father (Mt. 6:9), and acts on our behalf, for his glory and our joy.
Four Powerful Enemies of Prayer
Yet, even so, prayer remains one of the most neglected gifts God has given to his people. Why is that? While there are many reasons, let’s consider four common enemies to prayer.
First, prayer is humbling. To pray is to acknowledge that there are things (the most important things, in fact) we can’t achieve in our own power. To pray is to say, “God this is your universe, not mine. My life is ultimately in your hands, not mine” (See Acts 4:24-30). Prayers like that cause our self-sufficiency to bristle.
Second, prayer requires faith. To pray requires a genuine living trust that God not only loves us, in Jesus, but also delights to hear and answer our prayers. As Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Mt. 21:22). That kind of faith causes lingering unbelief to bristle.
Third, prayer takes patience. While God promises to answer our prayers, he typically does so on his timeline. What feels urgent to us, doesn’t always appear urgent to God (see 2 Peter 3:8). This is why Jesus encouraged us to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1-8). Yet, this reality causes our impatience to bristle.
Fourth, prayer calls for grace. This is particularly true when praying with others. When we pray with others, we quickly discover that others pray differently than we do. They use words we don’t use. They ask for things we would never ask. They talk longer than we’d prefer. Corporate prayer can cause our self-love to bristle.
So, it’s not difficult to see why we so quickly give up on prayer, right? There are mighty, though subtle, enemies warring against our prayer life, whether personal or corporate: self-sufficiency, lingering unbelief, impatience, and pernicious self-love.
How do we go to war against these enemies? By praying. We defeat the enemies of prayer, by leaning into prayer through faith in the living God who loves us and is for us (Rom. 8:28). This is why prayer is described as an irreplaceable weapon in the armory of God (Eph. 8:18).
An Invitation To Pray This Sunday
Therefore, I am writing to invite you to our next church wide Prayer Night this Sunday, April 26th, at 5:00 PM via videoconferencing. The link to the event is found in our most recent DCC News email and will be posted again in our Sunday Morning Guide and by notification through our app.
Yes, I know it is easier to pray alone. Yes, Jesus himself commends it (Mt. 6:6). Yes, it takes less time and is far more convenient to do so. Yes, you can avoid the discomfort of praying with those you don’t know.
But, there is something unique that takes place when Jesus’ people set aside time to pray to him together. It is significant to note that every spiritual awakening in the history of the church was preceded by Jesus’ people humbly, fervently, and consistently praying together. It is also important to note our church exists for the same reason.
Allow me to end, where we began: God wants us to know that he listens when we talk to him, like a good Father (Mt. 6:9), and acts on our behalf, for his glory and our joy. What might he do next?
I hope you’ll join us.
Praying with you, and for you, in Christ.