The same Jesus who teaches us to pray our Father in heaven tells us God runs to meet his children who come to him by faith. So even as you run to God today, when you do, Jesus says you will find that God is running to receive you. Take the parable of the prodigal son. In the beginning, the son wants what he can get from the father:
David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Imagine a woman named Jane. She is a mature and growing Christian who loves Jesus, gives wise counsel, and helps others come to know more about Jesus … but she does not pray, read her Bible, or go to church.
Sometimes it is said regarding a friendship or romance that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But when it comes to our interaction with God’s Word, it is more accurate to say that “absence makes the heart grow cold.” If we are not regularly exposing ourselves to the Word of God, we tend to lose our appreciation for its value and power. And as our appreciation for the Word of God grows weak, so does our appreciation for God himself.
Paul briefly exhorts in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 for believers to “Pray without ceasing.” Yet some of us might ask the question: “Why?” Why pray without ceasing? That seems a tall order for busy people who have many life obligations on their plate already. But consider the biblical inducements to prayer by asking yourself a few clarifying and self-examining questions:
Here’s a brief meditation I wrote down from Psalm 119, a great text for Bible reading. You might find it encouraging as you continue looking for wonderful things in God’s law this year: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
The old British divine Matthew Henry refers to the practice of praying God’s Word back to God as “wrestling with God in his own strength.” For this reason, I love to peruse the Bible for prayers to make my own. And one of my favorite passages to pray is Psalm 25. As we look forward to a new year, I don’t know what changes, purposes, or opportunities await each of us, but I am confident that “good and upright is the LORD” and that, “therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100) Thanksgiving above all involves communication with God.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts… (1 Corinthians 14:1). Christians should desire giftedness. Although any spiritual gift is useless unless it is practiced in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-2), Paul exhorts the saints to desire the spiritual gifts. When was the last time you prayed for spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts can only come from the Spirit, and so prayer is the best way to pursue them.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father… (Ephesians 3:14). In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight (Exodus 33:13). I get chill bumps every time I read this verse. Partly because of the surrounding context: in the verse before, Moses quotes God’s declaration to him “I know you by name, and you have found favor in my sight” (Exodus 33:12). In the verse following, God speaks again to Moses and says, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).
I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him… (Psalm 142:1-2). Many Christians simply do not know how to talk to God. And we are particularly uncomfortable talking to God about our discontent, grief, or pain.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). After Paul fervently prayed for God to remove a particular trial from his life, he received an answer.
“Surely I am coming soon.” “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 When the ascended Christ promises the apostle John that the Second Coming is imminent, John replies by turning the promise of God into a personal prayer to God. “Lord, you promise that your return is certain and soon-coming; yes, Lord, please do what you have said.” Is this how we respond to the clear prophecies and sure promises of God in his Word?
George Muller, the great nineteenth-century English preacher, fed over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime — on nothing but prayer. Refusing to solicit donations or perform fundraisers, Muller famously found God more than sufficient for all the needs of the orphanages as he daily prayed for their provision (read an excellent article here for more on that). Countless Christians since Muller’s day have discovered there are life lessons to be learned from God’s grace in and through this man’s faithful ministry.