Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Part Two: A Surprising Reason to Pray (Back 2 Basics Series)

As we turn our focus to prayer in this Back 2 Basic series, I’ll admit that I’m sometimes amazed that there are people who are uncomfortable praying. That is - until I recall that I once held the same fears.

Have you ever experienced a fear or overwhelming anxiety then suddenly realize you no longer feel it? Consider talking in front of people, for example. Statistics show that more people fear public speaking than dying. I remember the trepidation I felt during my very first speech class in college, yet when I speak publicly now, I feel more excitement and anticipation than fear. By facing my fear, praying, and working hard to overcome it, I’ve reached a point where I can barely remember feeling afraid. Public speaking feels nearly second nature now (although I do still get nervous jitters from time to time).

The Lord has helped me overcome my hesitation to pray in the same way. In fact, when I am about to pray aloud with others, I am now more afraid that I’ll ramble on with too much chatter as opposed to not knowing what to say. But there was a season in my spiritual life when I was too self-conscious and insecure in my prayer life to share it with others. It’s a fear worth facing.

Why should we pray?

If we think back, I believe most of us will identify a progression of prayer that looks something like this:

  •             As a child, we prayed before bed and asked God to bless the people we love. We might even ask Him to give us particular desires like toys, or pets, or the fulfillment of other wishes. For me, my bedtime prayer was by rote – I was taught to use the same words night after night.
  •             As teens, we silently prayed for answers to tests, for the affection of a certain someone, or perhaps for a friend who was struggling.
  •             After high school, we might have prayed for admission into a specific university, for true love with the spouse of our dreams, or for the beginning of a lucrative career.
  •             As parents, we pray that our kids will be free from heartache and pain, that our spouse will find success, that our marriage will hold together, and for other significant needs.

There’s a common theme to all that praying:  Asking. We spend our prayers asking for things we believe we need and for the desires of our heart. But according to the context of Scripture, there are many different reasons to pray, with one primary reason that may surprise you.  Some of those reasons are outlined below:

·      Throughout the Word of God, we see that prayer gives us the privilege to watch God work. When we ask and then see Him answer, our faith is increased. Would you agree? It’s a gift from the Lord to see evidence of His power and might, and through prayer, He offers that gift to us. (For examples see 1 Kings 17:21-22 and Mark 5:21-43).
·      We see prayer used as spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6). According to scripture, there are armies of heavenly host who seem to receive fuel and strengthening by the prayers of the saints.
·      It is a pleasing sacrifice – an aromatic offering to God. See Psalm 141:2.
·      Here’s the reason that may surprise you. It’s one that I find to be one of the most compelling reasons of all: To build and deepen our relationship with God.

Pastor Chip Ingram describes it like this: 
"In Luke 11, we read that even the disciples struggled with really knowing God. One day when they were observing Jesus’ deep communion with the Father while He prayed, they noticed how He spoke to God intimately. He wasn’t caught up with following certain rules or rituals. The disciples wanted to have that same connection so they asked Jesus to tell them His secret to having close communion with the Father.

Jesus revealed the answer to them in an astounding parable, which is summed up in verses 9-10: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seek finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” 

Jesus’ message -- for all of us as God’s children -- is that God earnestly desires to talk to us and spend time with us through prayer. And when we come to the Lord in prayer we can be certain that He is not reluctant to help us, but instead He is exceedingly ready to come to our aide and to bless us."

When I first prayed as a child, or when I first made a commitment to steadfast and consistent prayer as an adult (you can read that story here), I had no idea that this spiritual practice would strengthen my relationship with God. It was a glorious surprise and an offered a gift I never want to be without. Its become my primary motivation for spending time with Him in prayer.

How to develop the practice of prayer:

The most basic and easiest form of prayer to practice is that of the Lords prayer that Jesus described in Matthew 6:9-13. His model teaches us to:
·      Express our gratitude
·      Worship Gods character
·      Confess our Sins
·      Ask for our needs

I think its important in a post like this to reiterate that it is not wrong to ask for our needs and desires. God wants to hear our hearts. But prayer is much more than petitioning Him for our wants. If we stop there, weve missed a bountiful blessing. Weve missed the best He has to offer Himself.

I also learned the value seeking the Lord’s presence and listening for His response. His whisper comes by way of His Word (the Bible), promptings by the Holy Spirit, and confirmation that comes through other followers of Christ. These, too, are important aspects to prayer life.  In fact, I’ve learned that these aspects are critical. They offer a foundational way to discern more about God’s character. Through prayer, through what I read in His Word, the prompting counsel of the Holy Spirit, and by watching Him move through the lives of the Believers around me, I began to grasp His Character. He reveals His nature to me.

Then, when I return to prayer, my communion with Him is sweeter. It becomes more intimate, real, and personal. They cycle continues and I receive deeper revelation about His character, which enhances my prayer life, and the process continues.

In all of the faith building practices that we’ll cover in this Back 2 Basics series, I believe you’ll see a common thread: prayer. Without prayer, our time in the Word will be less powerful than we might desire. Without prayer, our time of fasting has no purpose. Without prayer, we’re less able to memorize Scripture. And we’ll find that through our times of prayer, our worship best magnifies the Lord and offers the pleasing aroma of sacrifice to Him.

Later this week, I’ll share a conversation I recently had with my mentor, Doreen Ohlin, on the topic of prayer. She and her husband are mighty prayer warriors and as I interviewed her on the topic, I could barely contain my tears. The wisdom she shared truly touched my heart, even though we’ve had many such conversations over the years. I can’t wait to share her insights with you.

In the meantime, I’ve written several posts on prayer. You can read them by clicking the links below.

            We Don’t Pray Big Enough (on Lauren C. Moye’s blog, Chaotic Life of Lauren) 
            10 Ways to Pray for a Hurting Friend 
            How to Pray in 4 Simple Steps 
            21 Prayers for Law Enforcement Officers 
            Shifting from Empty Prayers: For Moms 

As I mentioned, prayer is a valuable faith-building practice and worthy of our time and effort. While we have a tendency to believe that prayer changes our lives our circumstance, in truth, our time with God in prayer changes us. We learn more about His heart and become more like Him. That’s something I don’t ever wish to be without.

Your Turn:

When have you seen the Lord move with power in your prayer life?

Are there times when you’ve prayed and have not seen the results that you desire, and feel that your faith was shaken as a result? What do you believe might be God’s motivation in giving you an answer of “no” or “wait,” instead of giving you a “yes”?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or sharing your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to connect with you!

Be Strengthened Today, by His Word
Psalm 119:28


Cathy McIntosh is the author of Victorious: Finding Triumph When Hope Seems Lost. When you can’t see God’s activity in your situation, you might begin to feel hopeless. You’re tempted to doubt His care and involvement in your life because He feels so . . . absent. Victory feels elusive, as if God intends it for everyone but you.

But God is never absent. He is as involved in your life today as He was when He protected Queen Esther and the entire Jewish nation from annihilation, and He will bring victory.


  1. Cathy you are incredible.I love how you encourage the listening to God in prayer. I find I'm in a season of life were God has been teaching me the value in waiting for his answers and to trust him. I think the waiting has encouraged me to a deeper prayer level than answered prayers do

    1. I understand completely. I told someone recently, "waiting is my middle name." When we wait, we get His best because we're not running ahead after our own intentions or aspirations. He has great things in store for us. He has a good plan and His timing is always best. Without waiting for His answers and for His lead, we'll miss it.