Of the many practical privileges that we’ve been given as children of God, prayer is the most profound and yet most simple. It doesn’t take any great physical strength, geographic location, or material asset to avail oneself of prayer. Nor is the activity of prayer reserved for only a special “caste” or class of persons while others are shut out, dependent on others to do their interceding and supplicating for them.
Having said all that, it is good to periodically clear the air on the purpose of prayer. Prayer fundamentally has only one essential activity, that of personally approaching the throne of the Most High. Prayer also has merely one essential qualifier: the one who approaches the throne can only do so through faith in Jesus Christ’s work of atonement (His substitutionary death and His victorious resurrection from the dead).
After all, in our own fallen human nature not one of us can approach the holiness of God without judgment befalling us since a perfectly righteous judge MUST judge sin – even such sins as we might label as “inconsequential”. It is only when we have surrendered ourselves to His forgiveness that we can come to Him unafraid as He completes His work of cleansing by counting to us the righteousness that comes from Christ Jesus’ perfect life and blameless death.
Make no mistake about it. Jesus’ payment of our sins and victory over the power of death pave the way for prayer to become what God has intended it to be from before the beginning of time. Prayer is less about coming to God because you want Him to answer your prayers (whether for healing, success, comfort, or help) than it is about your coming to “meet with” Him. Supplication and even intercession for others are the secondary purposes of prayer, while fellowship between you and your Creator are its ultimate rewards.
Because of the amazing truth of this and the incredible wonder of it, He taught us in Matthew 5:9 to begin our prayers with “Our Father….” How He loves us! How He longs to catch us up into His loving embrace! Heed the secret language of close intimacy between the Father and His Son and how He offers it also to us. “Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him…. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:19b-21, 23 ESV).
Does this really mean that He will “show Himself to us?” Did He really mean that He Himself, accompanied by “our Father”, “will come and make themselves at home with us?” Either He means this, or it is nothing more than sentimentality. Jesus was never interested in simply being sentimental however. He could never do anything less than speak the truth for He Himself was truth then and is still truth today (see John 14:6). He said these things to those who have given their hearts to Him so that they may understand the degree to which He treasures fellowship with them.
It is right and good to come to Him with your needs ready to be lifted up to Him. It is good and even great to approach His throne with the hurts and burdens of others on your heart, offering them up to Him as you intercede. But always remember that prayer must find its roots in the confidence and loving trust that only real fellowship between you and Him can provide. It may be that He chooses to not answer your requests as you have uttered them so that the blessings for which you hunger do not eclipse the One who sends the blessings. Seek to touch His face before you try to move His hand. The heart of a father or mother is moved most deeply by the child who wants more than anything to just sit on his or her lap. So come to the Father’s throne! Come seeking His help! But come mostly because you want to know Him better.
“We… proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:2b-3 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).