When was the last time that you heard someone say, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray?”
The real message in such a statement is that only after every other resource has been exhausted for addressing the problem, all to no avail, prayer finally gets a chance, but mind you, only as a last resort. Such a position seems natural for someone who doesn’t believe in the power of prayer.
However, this sentiment is usually expressed by those who profess to be in a vital relationship with God. Why would anyone who professes to believe in prayer turn to it only when all else has failed? Could it be that many professed Christians don’t accurately understand what prayer is really all about? I believe the problem is heavily associated with a limited understanding of the power and purpose that prayer is to play in the lives of believers. Sadly, for many, prayer is often relegated to being the last resort instead of the daily, life-giving communion with God that it was meant to be.
In my class on prayer for college students, one of the very first assignments is to have each student create their own working definition of prayer. Students are instructed that the final product must be their own creation rather than a reflection of someone else’s thoughts. The purpose of this exercise is to assist them in realizing how prayer is perceived helps to determine how it will, or will not, be utilized in one’s life. Several years ago, I decided to create my own working definition of prayer that has since revolutionized my prayer life.
“Prayer is inviting God, who happens to be the most powerful force in the universe, to intervene in the affairs of my life, knowing that He has my best interest at heart.”
If I truly believe that whenever I pray, I am granting the most powerful force in the universe permission to intervene in every aspect of my life, knowing that He will do only what’s in my best interest, then why in the world would I ever use prayer merely as a last resort? Why would one wait to use such a powerful means that is dispensable 24 hours each day as a last resort? This is a question that all believers should answer. For a Christian, prayer should be the first response to absolutely every situation in life. The apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 4:6,7 (NKJV)*: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
One of the likely reasons there is so much stress and tension in the daily lives of professed Christians is because answers to life’s challenges are sought from just about every direction but God’s. His Word clarifies that we are to bring every care, every challenge, every hope, and every dream to him first. And the emphasis is on the word “first.” In a sense, prayer for God’s children should be as spontaneous as reflex responses. It should just be the natural thing to do in time of need. And when we do this, the promise is that God will grant us a peace that will be difficult to comprehend.
The words to one of my favorite hymns sums it up best:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer.