When I started this post it was supposed to be a continuation of The Circle Maker series I wrote in July 2012. Since it’s so far removed from that series I decided to start a new series.
After writing a few posts that were critical of The Circle Maker I thought it would be constructive if we looked at what the Bible does say about prayer since Part 1 and Part 2 of the series pointed out what the Bible doesn’t say about prayer. The Bible says quite a bit about prayer. Although it never gives us a formula that guarantees our prayers will be answered, I believe we can learn about prayer by looking at prayer in the Bible.
Approach God Humbly
I think when we talk about prayer we should start with the Lord’s prayer. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. I think when God is asked a questions and we have an opportunity to directly hear the answer we should listen. This was his answer from the gospel of Luke:
11:1 Father, may your name be honored;
may your kingdom come.
11:3 Give us each day our daily bread,
11:4 and forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And do not lead us into temptation.
The first thing that came to my mind after reading this passage was Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart to bring up a matter before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth! Therefore, let your words be few.” Good advice about approaching God from the teacher in Ecclesiastes. Jesus gave similar advice preceding the recording of the Lord’s prayer in the gospel of Matthew chapter 6. Jesus says, “When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard.”
Another thing I thought of regarding this prayer is humility. This simple prayer gives honor to God, asks for basic needs to be met, asks for forgiveness, and asks not to be led into temptation. It’s humble. Hebrews 4 says we can go before the throne boldly or confidently, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go before God humbly also. What is humility? It’s not “I’m worthless, I’m a horrible person, I’m a failure, I’m not worthy”. I couldn’t define humility on my own so I looked it up and it really opened my eyes. It’s not a sense of no self worth like I fear we think it means, someone with no self worth isn’t necessarily humble. Humility is the quality of being modest and respectful. Our word Humility comes from the Latin word humilitas which is related to the Latin word humilis which you can probably guess is where we get the word humble, but it can also mean grounded because humilis is derived from the Latin word for earth, and that is what really caught my attention. Grounded… we can approach the throne boldly yet we must remain grounded in the fact that we are sinners and God is holy, and only by Jesus’ sacrifice do we have the right. That ties back to the verse in Ecclesiastes above. I think it’s key to be humble, in fact the Bible tells us we can’t approach God proudly. Proverbs 3:34 says God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble, He doesn’t just ignore the proud or let them be, he opposes them.
Pray With Persistence
After Jesus gives us the Lord’s prayer he tells a story about persistence. In Luke 11:5, Jesus tells of a man going to a friend’s house at midnight asking for bread. At first he is refused because the friend and his family are in bed and they don’t want to be disturbed, but the man persists and the friend finally opens the door and gives him some bread. I think it’s interesting that Jesus says, “I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” In this case even though the people in the story had a relationship, it wasn’t a matter of the relationship that caused the friend to open the door, but it was because of his persistence. That struck me as odd at first, but after I thought about it I realized I have initially refused doing things for family/friends/relatives until they ask a second or third time. The Bible tells us God acts in a similar way to our persistence.
Another similar story is found in Luke 18:1 about a persistent widow. This widow repeatedly approaches a judge, who does not fear God or respect people, to give her justice against her adversary and finally the judge gives in and says, “…yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice…”. Jesus says even though this judge who does not fear God or respect people will give a widow justice because of her persistence how much more will God give justice to his chosen when they cry out day and night.