Mercy Waithira reviews: Philip Jensen & Tony Payne, Prayer and the Voice of God: Listening to God’s Living Word Will Transform the Way You Pray, Mathias Media: 2006.
Prayer is the most natural but also unnatural thing to do.
It is natural because anyone can do it, and most people do it at one stage or another in their lives. Even the most hardened atheist will throw a hopeful prayer skywards in his darkest hour… ‘Prayer’… seems almost to be a spontaneous activity that simply happens to nearly everyone from time to time. It’s natural. And yet it is very unnatural, almost by definition. When people pray, they are seeking an intervention in the natural course of events… that would otherwise not have happened. They want super-nature to invade nature for their benefit… It’s unnatural in another sense, too, as anyone who has tried to pray for any length of time will tell you. The occasional desperate prayer in a time of need is not too taxing. But praying regularly, consistently and faithfully – that’s another matter. Most Christians will testify to the difficulty of prayer. (Prayer, p. 9-10)
God created prayer, and by this allowed us to call on Him, to approach His throne that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in times of need. Unfortunately there’s a lot of falsehood about prayer today especially with the rise in technology where it is so fast to get results for everything. People wish there is a code or password one could use to unlock answers for the prayers they make. We flock into churches where the preacher talks of instant answer to prayer… The other day I saw a book called, ‘Prayer cookbook for busy people’ where the author provides a result-oriented way of praying that would deliver blessings and miracles each and every time. However, if you read the small print you find a disclaimer – he is unwilling to be held responsible for either the actions they take after reading the book or the results the reader gets. How about that?
Before we get engage further on that, let’s for a moment focus on the basic reason for prayer. ‘Prayer and the Voice of God’ shares with us four reasons why we should pray:
- We pray because God allows us to – God is mighty and all powerful! He is Sovereign and determines how things should happen. “And yet this mighty, all-powerful God, who by rights should destroy us as His enemies, has instead reached out to us in love, wiped away our sins and adopted us as His own children. He has become our Father, and He allows us to approach Him and pour out our requests to Him at any time, promising that He will hear us and give us every good gift” (Prayer, p. 39)! Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:19-22. We are given access to the King and even allowed to participate in what He does within and around us. What a privilege!
- We pray because we must – “From the beginning of our Christian lives, prayer is not optional; It is necessary. For there can be no… father-child relationship with God unless our sins are dealt with through the death of Jesus… In other words, the Christian life starts with the tax collector’s prayer: “O God, be merciful to me, a Sinner!” This is not only how the Christian life starts but also how it proceeds. We never stop being repentant sinners. If we pretend otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves as the Apostle John reminds us [1 John 1:7-2:2]… Our relationship with God also demands constant prayer because… we are dependent, trusting children and He is the loving, generous Father. How can such a relationship be real if the children never speak to their father and express their dependence and trust in Him?” (Prayer, p. 39-41)
- We pray because we are commanded to – God commands us to pray (1 Thess 5:16-18, Romans 12:12, Col 4:2 etc) Prayerlessness therefore is disobedience to God! Unfortunately we suffer from this many times, we find ourselves lapsing back into the self-centered & self-sufficient mindset, thinking we don’t need God, neither thanking Him for the many blessings he showers on us in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-14). Moses warned the Children of Israel against this when they were about to enter the promised land (Deut. 8:11-17). Let us therefore seek to be faithful in prayer as God commands us to. We can never be too busy for God as we sometimes claim to be so that we need a prayer cook book! We must pray because prayerlessness is sinful as Samuel says to the people of Israel (1 Sam 12:23).
- We pray because of God’s promise – God has promised to hear and answer our prayers when we pray according to His will. “This is a powerful motivation. Not only does God grant us access to His throne through the blood of Jesus, but he promises that he will listen to us” (Prayer, p. 45) Matthew 7:7-11.
Given these few thoughts, I therefore think that we have no reason not to pray. However, prayer is not a matter of technique but of relationship. The best time for prayer is any time and at all times, it is not the length or the physical posture that matters, it is our relationship with God. May I call us therefore to prayer. Since we have a great High Priest let us draw near (Heb. 4:14-16).