Prayer is an expression of our need for God. In football, what is the pass a team throws when they are losing by a touchdown and they only have one play left? Hail Mary. To be clear, this is an unbiblical prayer, but what is the reason for naming a play after a prayer? The idea is that you plan the whole game, but when you don’t have anything left and you need a miracle, you call in Mary and see what can happen. Just to be clear, we don’t pray to Mary; we pray to God. The reason we pray to God is because we are desperate.
We don’t just need him in extreme situations. We are desperate for him in every single situation in our lives. There is no activity in our lives that does not require a prayerful attitude, a dependence on God, and desperation for Him. I think about my own life. I can’t be the husband God desires and calls me to be. I can’t be the dad God desires and calls me to be. I can’t be the man, the witness, the pastor God calls me to be apart from God’s help. I can’t breathe apart from God’s help, and neither can you. You need God for everything good in your life. This is a massive realization that I pray God opens your eyes to. You cannot carry out your marriage, parenting, your life as a single, your job, you cannot make wise decisions, you can’t love and serve, you can’t be the man or woman or student that God has designed you to be––or experience the life God has created you to live—apart from daily divine intervention. Every moment of every day is a “hail mary” in that sense.
We need God. That is why we pray. Prayer is the most clear, critical, and central expression on a daily basis of the reality that we need God. We need God’s grace, strength, wisdom, sustenance, peace, joy, and provision for everything we do, every single day. Prayer is an expression of that. Our conviction in prayer is that we can do nothing without God. As Jesus taught His disciples, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5). Prayer is an expression of humility. If we are not praying, then what are we saying? We are saying that we do not need God. This is where we realize that prayerlessness at the core is pride. Prayerlessness in our lives is evidence of pride in our lives. Prayerlessness is an attitude that says, “I can do this on my own.” And it is not true. We even need His help to pray. That is why our confession in prayer is, “Lord, teach me to pray.” Even this, I hope, is encouraging and comforting.
Listen to these words from J.C. Ryle: “Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.”
We pray to express the depth of our need for God and we pray to explore the mystery of intimacy with God. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread, forgiveness, leadership, and deliverance. Even here we must see that our greatest need is not to get stuff from God but to know God. Jesus teaches, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases . . . for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:7–8). God knows what you need. It is not as if God is sitting up in heaven with a steno pad writing down your requests. You are not informing him of things he has not thought of. He already knows what you need. That causes many to wonder what the point of prayer is. Arriving at this means you are close to an incredible breakthrough in prayer because you realize that the primary goal of prayer is not to get something—the primary goal of prayer is to know Someone.
The heart of prayer is what happens when you are in a room alone with the Father in heaven and you realize there is intimacy to be found in Him. Realize this: the most important thing in the world is not your family, not your husband, not your wife, not your kids, not your job, not your finances, not your health, but the most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with God.
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