Authentic Prayer | Life Group Study Series 5/8
Every Jesus-follower knows that prayer is important (or at least they should). We are to “be persistent in prayer” (Colossians 4:2; Luke 18:1-8) and to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
But, (and it’s a big but!), the truth is many of us don’t pray as much as we should. We can be worried, as CS Lewis writes in his excellent The Screwtape Letters, “with the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no objective result” as our secular contemporaries would argue. As a result, we can become indifferent toward prayer when we should be passionate about it.
Reminding ourselves that prayer works, from a concrete example in the life of David, of how prayer turned around a situation of despair and brokenness (Psalm 60:1-3) to “The Lord” giving “David victory wherever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6b) could be a timely remedy.
One of the greatest barriers to prayer we face is self-reliance, particularly if Phillip Yancey’s definition of prayer “a declaration of dependence on God” is to be believed, which I think it is. We can be conformed to the values our individualistic society boldly asserts, in the words of the poem Invictus, “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.” We can even end up saying to ourselves, as David surely did, to quote rapper Eminen, “there’s no mountain I cannot climb”. We can take the credit for every success and victory, and live as if we don’t need God, or pay lip service to Him, reciting ritualistic prayers with no heartfelt intent.
This is why God grants us wakeup calls to pray. For David that meant destruction at the hands of the Edomites. For you, it could be challenges at work, with family or neighbours, financial pressures or even illness. It is not a cry for attention from an insecure god but an attempt by a gracious God to get your attention for your good. He invites you, in such situations to confess your sins (especially self-reliance) and, in the midst of your difficult circumstances, to lay hold of what God has spoken, to plead His promises with faith that what God has said must come to pass.
This is what authentic prayer is. Yes, it is asking according to God’s will (James 4:2-3). Yes, it is persistent. Yes, it is giving thanks (Colossians 4:2) and so much more. But, above all, it is the relational expression of dependence upon God and not ourselves. Or, as Henri Nouwen put it, “To pray is to walk in the full light of God, and to say simply, without holding back, “I am human and you are God.”
Is your prayer life authentic?