Summary: Is prayer for us to get from, or is it something more?
What is Prayer For?
Men’s Prayer Retreat
We’ve talked and studied a lot about prayer here this weekend and, as we draw toward the conclusion of our special retreat time, I ask, “What is prayer for?”
Is prayer to get from God? A lot of people think it is. There is very much of a vending-machine approach to God and prayer in western society. A lot of this springs from the health and wealth gospel idea, too.
So, you’ll hear people talking about how: - if people pray according to God’s will, then they’ll get from God.
- If people ask anything in Jesus’ name, then they’ll get from God.
- Obviously, it’s God’s will and Christ’s provision that we be healed, so just ask and you’ll get it.
- If people have even the smallest faith like mustard seed, then they will move mountains, or whatever else it is that they want from God.
All of these ideas are based on scripture, without question. But it doesn’t always seem to work as simply as we might think. People are looking for the magic formula- the magic bullet- the perfect legalism, in order to always have God give them whatever they ask, and some build whole ministries on the idea that they can get God to do what they want Him to do for them and others all-the-time.
But what happens? When people do these actions and don’t receive or someone dies, then it throws these Christians into despair, soul-searching, analysis, and the like.
We’ve been studying what has been called the Lord’s Prayer, and it directs us otherwise and I hope we’ve gained a bit of insight into what prayer is really all about. It’s not about getting, even though we do get, oftentimes, when we pray and when we ask.
There’s a mighty passage to look at today:
James 4. 1-4- this introduces the idea of how our lusts get in the way of our receiving. Lusts are deceptive, without question. We think we’re doing or asking for the right reasons and even for godly reasons, but we are often self-deceived in this. We have deceitful human hearts- even when we’ve got conversion in us. Jeremiah was inspired to write this about our human heart- Jer.17.9- it’s deceitful and it can be as deceitful in a Christian person as in someone who isn’t. It’s often simply that the heart gets to be deceitful about different things.
What is God after? What is prayer part of, in His great plan and purpose?
2 Pet.3.9- God is after hearts. God is after people whose hearts are turned to Him. He’s not after people whose hearts are filled with all sorts of grasping and getting for themselves and others. He’s after hearts.
Let’s turn to Revelation 4, where we began on Friday night. What do we see here, in people who are praying? We see adoration, praise, and relationship. These angelic beings KNOW they’re taken care of. They know God. Do we? Or is knowing God tied to how much He gives us, and if He doesn’t give us what we want, we doubt- our conversion and our relationship with Him?
Asking does not guarantee a ‘yes’ answer. You cannot find that in scripture!
Our commitment, as praying men, needs to be to relationship with God. That’s enough! What more do we need? If he doesn’t change our wives for the better, if he doesn’t give us more money, if he doesn’t give us more secure work, or more obedient children, or better health, etc., this is not to shake us. How weak are we? I’ve been amazed, over the years by how easily men will give up on God. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, but, often, it’s the women who keep going and the men stop and mope. For us, we need to be dedicated to simply a relationship. Simply to be in God’s presence, through prayer, is more than enough. What more can anyone need? There’s nothing else. The angels show us this- they set the example to us. Yet, we’re the ones who get to be in a family relationship.
There’s not guarantee of ‘stuff’ in scripture. We must be careful not to assume there is and to wrest scripture to our destruction because of that. We must not create legalisms about prayer- ‘if we do this, say this, posture this way, spend so long, talk so loudly, ask a certain number of times, etc., then God will give.
Just to be in relationship with God is enough. He’s cared for me since I was conceived. He’ll care for me till I die, even if it would be on the street in a cardboard box. And I need to be joyously grateful to God through all. I see that in the angels of Revelation 4. I see this in Job’s responses- Job 1.21 & 2. 9, 10. These are examples to us, men, in this weekend of focusing on prayer.