Perhaps one of the most powerful, most poignant; yet most underestimated statements ever uttered in the history of the church is, “let us pray”. Prayer is not something uncommon in a church, it is anything but. We pray before events, we pray before service, we pray before cell; we even pray before we eat. How could then, something as common as prayer, be so ignored and undervalued as it is? Prayer has been reduced to a bookmark, the ‘end’ of the religious atmosphere, to make it less awkward when everyone gets up from a meeting. This is especially present in our prayers before meals; having someone ramble on and on about the attributes and glory of God is hardly gratifying, especially when there’s a hot plate of hokkien mee in front of you.
As hilarious as this scene is, prayer still doesn’t seem to find its importance in the church. Perhaps those in positions of seniority like the Senior Pastor or Head Worshipper can still be seen with heads bowed in meeting rooms, but for the most part, prayer is merely used as an excuse to call something “churchy”.
I’ve heard quite a few definitions of prayer, ranging from a ‘cry of desperation’, to ‘simply talking to Him’, to even ‘relieving yourself unto Him’; underlying all this is that prayer is a means of communication to God. What we communicate, praise, adoration, problems, pains, anger; all this is still prayer. One definition I am particularly fond of is one made by Dr. Ralph Martin,
“Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God”.
The presence of God demands a response; 2 Chronicles 5:14 “so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God”. In our modern and significant less expressive context, our response can be and often is prayer.
Prayer is a command issued by God; Ephesians 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”. It can be found in the homes of the apostles; Acts 13:3 “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off”. It can be found in the household of Moses; Numbers 11:2 “Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down.” It can even be found in the habits of Jesus Christ; Mark 1:35 “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” The kind of magnitude and impact that prayer had is so vastly different from that it has today. Today it is seen as an option, a fall back plan. Don’t know what to say? Pray. Don’t know how to end the meeting? Pray. Want to eat? Pray. Anna, the prophetess from Luke 2, worshipped the Lord with fasting and prayer in the temple night and day for more than 80 years, for a Messiah whom she had no knowledge of, nothing compared to what we know now. Can we honestly say that our prayer is as sincere as hers? How many of us long for Him like that?
The point I’d like to raise is that prayer only feels inefficient if we don’t know who we’re praying to. Praying to an unknown God would feel as useless as calling for help to a faraway stranger. A 5 minute conversation with a close friend is more valued and treasured than a 5 minute prayer because unlike God, that invisible, intangible entity, our close friend is someone we know, we can trust. If I were to ask you to describe the attributes of your friend, or your family, or even someone you just met, would you be able to describe God in such detail? If you can’t, then perhaps you don’t know God; that is where prayer feels ineffective.
Find out who He is. Experience Him. Feel Him. Know Him. A.W Tozer describes this experience of a real and present God with this quote,
“The Holy Scriptures possesses in marked degree this feeling of actual encounter with a real Person. The men and women of the Bible talked with God. They spoke to Him and heard Him speak in words they could understand. With Him they held person-to-person interaction, and a sense of shining reality is upon their words and deeds.”
Know God, and discover the unfathomable, unquantifiable, immeasurable power of Prayer.