If we’re not careful, we task-oriented people can approach relationships as a means to accomplish something. We can also approach God that way. In fact we often teach about prayer as if it’s more about how to get things than about how to connect with God.
When we talk about effective prayer do we really mean how to get answers? Do we believe we need to learn special techniques in order to convince God to be nice or generous?
Before I go on let me first assure you about two questions that may have just come into your mind.
First, yes I do think the average prayer life should regularly result in answers. In John 16:24 Jesus specifically calls us to pray so we will receive, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” The truth is that God is always, and entirely, loving. Paul makes the case in Romans 8:32, “He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?” Since God already paid the ultimate price in Christ, why would he skimp on anything else?
Second, let me assure you that I do think prayer changes things . . . not because we pressure a harsh God to change his mind, but because in love, an infinitely good God has determined to give humans a role to play. He wants to co-labour with us so much that he created a universe where children of God in the physical world can join with him to make changes in the spiritual world.
But (and it’s and important but) we can’t let prayer become like a job or an obligation.
Meeting with God is so much more than going through a list and ticking off answers. The most amazing privilege of prayer is that it is an opportunity to encounter God. We can have a genuine relationship with the God who created the entire universe. It may feel like we are so small—lost in a sea of billions of people—but we forget that God’s immensity also increases his capacity for relationships. God’s love is so huge that he created this many humans to fulfill his desire for relationship.
As Baptist Women focuses on prayer this year, I encourage you not to approach it primarily as a way to get what we and our loved ones need, but as an avenue for truly meeting with God. We will be giving you lots of resources to help.