“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
It’s times like these where it seems like there’s something new everyday. Hurricanes, racism, classism, microaggressions; there’s always something going on. It’s become harder and harder to be who God has called us to be, but the foundational things of our faith give us the stability to withstand difficultly. They allow us to hold on to hope, faith, peace, and joy, even when there’s chaos around. When you have the right foundation, you can withstand anything. The foundation of a believer is a good prayer life. To build our lives around Him, we have to know how, when, and where to pray to Him. Through our prayers, He can move and motivate. You wouldn’t be where you are how you are without prayer. Even before you learned how to pray, somebody was praying for you. God has power to act, and also to soothe. Thank Him, communicate with Him. If we’re going to endure shifting times, it’s important to maintain foundational things. Don’t become so “spiritual” that you forget that your spirituality has real life consequences.
First, prayer with power is prayer that has proper motives. Jesus gave us instructions about what our prayer lives should look like, because God doesn’t want us to be in the dark about His expectations. He wants us to be clear about His expectations for our lives, to reveal how we can be Christians in times like these. He’s not passive aggressive. He’ll be straight up with you, if you’re willing to listen. He doesn’t want us to be hypocrites, only seen as “spiritual”. The danger in that is that you can be placed in situations where you have to fake your spiritually, fake your relationship with God. You’ll feel like you can never have a bad day because you’re too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to disappointed, but this walk isn’t perfect. You can have trouble and still be blessed, have chaos and still have joy.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
You can be all that you say you are and still have some bad days. The evidence of your relationship with God is better seen than heard. It’s about the fruit of your life, not the fruit of your lips. Some folks simply speak to be seen as spiritual, but you need to find a space to pray, somewhere private where you can seek the Lord. You need a personal space where you can be transparent. Not all of your relationship with God is for public consumption. Stretch your hands to Him alone; your help won’t come from anyone else. Your private time with God is what prepares you for public consumption. Your private space prepares you to face what you have to face. People will think that you’re just that nice, just that forgiving, just that loving, because they don’t know all the private work it took to get where you are now.
Don’t pray hypocritically. There are those who want to be seen by people, and there who want to be seen by God. Do you simply want to be seen as spiritual, or do you want the Lord’s help? Have the proper motives; know that you always need to seek Him. What are your motives? Sometimes you only want what you want because it brings you pleasure. God knows your heart. Private prayer with the right motive can bring public blessings. A strong public life comes from a strong private life. It’s not just a Sunday thing; spend your week in service and private worship. You can sing, dance, praise, shout, at foam at the mouth on Sunday and still live without power from Monday to Saturday. Even if you’re singing off-key during the week, be thankful that you can continue to sing on Sundays in a church that can lead and accompany you.
You have to have the proper motive, but you also have to use the right method. Why you pray determines how you pray. If you only pray to receive things, your prayer list will look more like a wish list. If you’re praying for His will to be done in your life, surrender and yielding will be seen in your prayer life. “Less of me, more of You” will be evident if you desire peace, guidance, and wisdom. The condition of your heart determines your reverence for prayer. Do you understand that in everything, you should pray? Not just before bed, in case you die during the night? It’s not about the length of the prayer, but the strength of the prayer. Jesus is not condemning long prayers; He’s emphasizing prayers that come from a right heart with good motives. You can pray for hours and never touch the heart or ear of God, because He’s not impressed with words, but with the genuine outpouring of the heart. He doesn’t need to be flattered, He doesn’t need to be reminded of how much He’s done for us. God makes promises, but He doesn’t owe us a thing. Everything He does is out of grace and mercy. He’ll say no to some of the things we want, because they’re not what we need. He’ll leave us where we are if it’s where we should be. Sometimes you need to stay in the storm to remember that He’s in charge.
We have to pray with humility and sincerity, but we also have to pray with faith. Stop wasting your time praying for things you don’t believe can happen. At least, stop praying for it by yourself. Sometimes, when my faith isn’t strong enough, I need to connect with someone whose faith is. When you feel like God can’t do it, it’s important to have someone who can remind you that He is and encourage you to find your faith again. Prayer isn’t about formula, it’s about relationship. Questions like “How often should I pray?””Can I pray about the same things more than once?” miss the relational component of prayer. Can you talk to Him often? Can you talk about the same things more than once? If you have a relationship with Him, why would He mind listening? He doesn’t. It’s about whether or not you’re willing to speak to Him. If you want any relationship to be healthy, communication is key. We should pray with faith and sincerity because of our relationship with Him.
If we’re going to pray with power, we need purposeful manifestation. You don’t have to waste time repeating yourself, because He already knows what you need. Jeremiah 29:11, He already knows about your struggles, and He understands your struggles because He became a man of sorrow. He knows what we go through. God isn’t waiting for you to pray to start coming up with an answer. Prayer brings into the natural what God has already declared in the spiritual. Prayer is the signal that you’re ready to receive what He’s already prepared for you. You don’t pray to remind Him that you’re in need, you pray to remind yourself that only He can provide what you need. If you ask for something, believe that you’ve received it, and it will be yours. Pray His Word back to Him to remind yourself of what He’s said. Prayer worked in the Old Testament, it worked in the New Testament, and it still works now. There is nothing strong enough to hold captive what the Lord has set free. Through prayer, all things are possible. You are where you are because of prayer. When you don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit can and will step in. Sometimes God has to pray for you, through you, without you. If you’ll open the door for prayer, He will come through.
Jesus’ last prayer was about you. We were and are His greatest concern, and He took it to His father in prayer. We should do the same.