Prayer is often something that is hidden away. It is true that Jesus instructed His disciples to go into a closet to pray, but we also see the early church holding powerful joint prayer meetings. Either they were blatantly disobeying Jesus, or as I understood it Jesus’ words applied to another situation where a person was looking for personal recognition through their prayers (Matthew 6:1). Of course, getting recognition for lengthy, spiritual or eloquent prayers should not be our purpose for praying. It doesn’t matter if you are a leader in church or not, we can all default to fleshly religion if we are not careful. This occurs when we pray for ulterior motives.
Those who do not have a healthy relation with God cannot have genuine prayers. On the other hand, when a person or a church for that matter are greatly concerned for God’s will, then they are not focused on their individual needs but on God’s will: bringing God’s kingdom to earth. We are to have a sincere discontent for what is happening around us. There is not enough love, not enough joy and just too much evil and selfishness around us.
Many people are trying to be spiritual but just are not clear on how to do it. This is where the Bible comes in and helps us on two major fronts.
(1) First of all, and most importantly, God helps us get into the proper relationship with God that enables us to pray. Even if we know lots of things about praying, when, how, why, motives, etc., we need a real relationship with God. Without a network card, one cannot properly receive incoming information from another computer. And without having a relationship with God, there is no way we can properly pray. There are many religions who pray, and even more people without a major religion that pray. But this is all to no avail without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Some religions copy the Christian methods but this doesn’t work. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 says that we need a spiritual network set up. That is analogous to salvation, where man who did know God now knows God and has the privilege of speaking with Him.
(2) Secondly, the Lord who understands all things comes and helps us to maintain a good speaking relationship with Him. There are a lot of things that interfere with prayer. When my network went down the other day, I couldn’t figure out how to set it up. I had to call a tech advisor who understood the network. It would not have done to call the nearby restaurant or even an insurance agent. Since God has set up the spiritual network, it would be foolish to go anywhere else to get the information we need to maintain its proper operation since He always is free and available.
By examining the prayers of others and God’s interpretation of what happened, we are able to clarify our picture of how prayer works. We will not be talking much about initiating our relationship with God. Although we are stepping into a scene from long ago, these were the people of God. They already had forgiveness from God and had entered into a covenant with God. If you want God to hear your prayers, you must first come to have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
But having said this, we have a lot to learn about prayer. A couple of questions we might ask of prayer are, “Why does God want us to pray?” “When should I pray?” “How should I pray?” “How does faith play a part in prayer?”
Some of these Old Testament stories are thoroughly fresh and stimulating. We are busily involved in our walk of life, writing papers, doing research, caring for children, etc. God often uses these old records to bring new life into our stale lives. He is very interested in our prayers because it is our basic communication line with Him. Let’s now turn to 2 Chronicles 20 and see six things we can learn about prayer.