I picked up Timothy Keller’s new book, Prayer a few days ago in a local bookstore and already it is having an impact on me. Keller points out that the basic point of prayer is “to know God better.” In fact, in the four great prayers of Paul found in Colossians 1, Philippians 1, Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 3 he does not ask for a change of circumstances for anything that his friends are facing.
“It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure than ours is today. Yet in these prayers you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our lists of requests.” Prayer p. 20
In Ephesians 1:18 Paul prays that the Ephesians, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”
In the Bible the heart is seen as the central hub of our entire self. They saw the heart as the center of emotion, love, feelings, as well as their behavior and thinking. Therefore, to have the eyes of the heart enlightened is to allow truth to penetrate deeply into it to such a degree that the person is changed or transformed.
Keller points out that we may know God is holy from reading our Bible and study, but when our hearts eyes are enlightened we experience the wondrous truth of God’s holiness and goodness on an emotional level. It is this reflection upon His love and holiness that changes our behavior and turns us away from the things that are displeasing to God.
17 “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, “ Ephesians 3:17-19 What an amazing prayer!
Keller points out that the reason for prayer is not about getting more things from God but receiving more of God Himself. He makes it clear that it is not wrong to petition God, seek God’s leading, intercede for others, or ask God to change circumstances in life and there is a place for each of these prayers. But the central theme of prayer must always be to know God better.
If our prayers are focused on God doing things for us, then we become discouraged when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way that we think or wish He would. When we open our hearts to God in prayer and seek Him because we long for a deeper relationship with Him we grow spiritually. The result is, when we pray and things don’t work out the way we believed, we are not crushed. The reason why? It is because we have learned through prayer to trust in Jesus and be content in His ability to do what is best in any circumstance.
I have been a Christian a very long time and for the first time in my life am realizing how little I know God. My prayer life has been one mainly of petition asking God to intercede for loved ones, the persecuted church, and the broken of this world, along with asking for guidance in everyday situations. There is nothing wrong with this form of prayer, but it shouldn’t be our only way of communicating with God.
Keller’s book has started me thinking. In my prayer life am I really talking to the God of the universe? If I am, and I believe I am, then why am I doing all the talking? In prayer I have tapped into God Himself and all the power and wisdom of the universe and yet I am doing the talking. If you are anything like me you say your prayers, rattle through your requests say a quick thank you and exit the room.
What would happen if we started worshipping God through prayer? What would happen if we started listening for God to speak to us? What would happen if we took time to be still (quiet) in our prayer time and waited on God to speak to the eyes of our hearts?
My challenge to myself is to get to know God better through my prayer life. I long for a prayer life that is not about checklists but about real faith in the God that I profess to talk to in prayer.
Here is a question for us to think about over the next little while. Is it possible that we don’t see more answers to our prayers because we don’t have an understanding of the dynamics of prayer? Let me explain what I mean.
I believe that I am saved by grace and any works on my part are not part of the plan of redemption. In my prayer life, however, I easily think that when I receive an answer to prayer it is something I have done. I automatically think, “that worked,” or “God heard me and responded.” In my prayer life I tend to think in terms of work instead of terms of God’s grace.
Oh, I can mouth the words and in my heart believe God answered my prayer, but somewhere deep within me is this joyous thought that God answered MY prayer. When we pray to know God better, then this tendency for pride and wanting our prayers answered so we can feel good about ourselves disappears.
My prayer today is that you and I as brothers and sisters in Christ would get to know God better through the Bible and then allow the word of God to guide our prayer life. We were created to worship – let’s worship.
* Folks, the persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…