Ordinarily, we should not be driven to pray by our circumstances but drawn to pray by the beauty of our God.  Prayer “brings the mind to the immediate contemplation of God’s character and holds it there until the believer’s soul is properly impressed.” I do not know who originally described prayer in such a way, but I find it exceedingly edifying and appropriately biblical. Prayer serves many purposes. Chief among them is to catalyze our communion with God.

Here are four graceful reasons why we should want to prioritize prayer.

One, prayer recalibrates our relationship with God.

In the hustle and bustle of daily living, we often forget who we are in relation to God. Yet, as we draw near to God in prayer, we find a still point to be reminded that in Christ we are His children.

After a late night of serving others, Jesus still “rose very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mk. 4:35). The term “desolate” is the same term used to describe the context for Jesus’s baptism, where His identity as His Father’s beloved Son is first affirmed (Mk. 1:11). In most English translations of Mark 1:4, the term is translated “wilderness,” but it is the same term in Greek. Jesus returns to either the same place or to a very similar place to pray.

Prayer recalibrates our relationship with God by reasserting our identity before God. Jesus taught us to address God as our heavenly Father in prayer (Mt. 6:9). The Creator of the cosmos is our heavenly Father. That is a reassuring reality in a world marred by so much identity confusion. In Christ, we are beloved sons and daughters of God.

Two, prayer fosters intimacy with God.

Since God is our heavenly Father, we are privileged to enjoy familial intimacy with Him. Such intimacy cannot be snapped into existence; it can only be cultivated as we make room for it in our lives. If we desire closeness with God, then we must carve out time and space for unhurried and unhindered prayer.

In order to cultivate intimacy in my marriage, Kim and I must set aside time and space to be together without bother or distraction. We turn off cell phones, have friends watch our kids, and go somewhere to enjoy one another’s company. Intimacy does not occur instantaneously; it must be cultivated intentionally.

Jesus often rose early and sought a desolate place to cultivate intimacy with His Father. Although I believe there is wisdom in establishing a pattern of early morning prayer because life easily invades other times of the day, I am more concerned about disciples finding some time rather than a certain time to pray. Then, find a space that is free from bother and distraction. It doesn’t have to be a quiet, isolated room. The goal is not necessarily to reduce noise but bother and distraction. Some of my most memorable moments cultivating intimacy with God have occurred while walking on the relatively busy Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle.

Three, prayer affirms our dependence upon God

Prayer is the posture of dependence. It is how we practically dismantle the illusion of independence and self-governing autonomy. Prayer honors God as an expression of our humanity and our humility.

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes well on how Jesus affirmed His dependence upon God in prayer: “It is a clear indicator of his humanness that Jesus feels a need to withdraw and speak with His Father in heaven. To gain perspective and direction and perhaps also reassurance. Prayer is the posture of a human as he approaches his God. It’s a matter of supplication not the forcing of a reluctant deity to do something God might not otherwise have done. Jesus prayed because he needed to do so for he was truly human.”

Moreover, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (Jn. 5:19). Prayer prevented Jesus from acting independently from His heavenly Father. For that, we are forever grateful because our salvation is dependent upon Jesus’s dependence. He lived a life of perfect obedience because he lived entirely dependent. As a result, His death on the cross was fully capable to atone for our incessant, albeit illusory, desire to live independently.  In the Garden of Eden, the seed of sin was sown in our desire for independence from God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the seed of salvation was sown in Jesus’s prayer of humble dependence upon God.

Four, prayer strengthens our resolve to fulfill God’s will.

God designed prayer for our good and His glory. Prayer serves us well by recalibrating our relationship with God, fostering our intimacy with God, and affirming our dependence upon God. In so doing, prayer strengths our resolve to fulfill God’s will.

Prayer kept Jesus on course to the cross even when his own disciples sought to interfere. After praying in the desolate place, his disciples approached him saying, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mk. 1:37). But Jesus responded, “Let’s us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mk. 1:38).

Later, once again, Peter tried to interfere with Jesus’s resolve to fulfill God’s will. In Mark 8:31-33, we read, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning aside and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind not he things of God, but on the things of man!”

Jesus refused to be pushed off course by the praises and whims of others. His mind was set on the things of God. His life followed the course of God. Likewise, prayer sets our minds on the things of God so our lives are more equipped to follow the course of God–even if that course leads away from people’s praise and towards death on a cross.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:57-58).

 

 

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