Why do atheists pray? Sure, not all atheists pray. But 34% of atheists said they’ve prayed. 34%! Isn’t that amazing?! I think it is. But I don’t think it’s that surprising. After all, there is something unusually beautiful about the idea that you could see miracles take place simply because you asked. There’s something incredibly attractive about the notion that your problems and plans could be handled by an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, and all-present God!
Yet, for many Christians, prayer is almost non-existent. For most Christians, prayer plays practically no role in their lives. Why is this the case? Some Christians probably haven’t been taught how to pray. Others, perhaps, have never tried to learn anything about prayer. Most, probably, are just too busy to pray. Whatever the reasons are for the lack of prayerfulness amongst us, I think we’d all agree they don’t justify our silence. I think we’d all agree, perhaps, that it makes no sense for the church to fail to ask our infinite God with his infinite resources to help us with our overwhelming problems and ambitious aspirations.
That’s why we’ve spent the last month reflecting on “5 Life-Changing Prayers” and will spend the next few weeks on a #30DaysOfPrayer journey! But in order to get started on this journey rightly, I think there are at least three truths that we need to take to heart.
First, prayer happens when we realize that God’s a Father who can help with anything and we’re childlike enough to need that help in everything. Prayer starts when we have a low enough view of ourselves that we realize that we need help and have a high enough view of God that we think he can help us. Ultimately, prayer is about identity. It’s about how we view ourselves and God. If you don’t think God can help you, you won’t ask him for help. If you don’t think you need help, you won’t ask for help. Often times then, our doctrine of God—our understanding of God—is our prayer problem. Other times, our doctrine of humanity—our understanding of ourselves—is our prayer problem. Recover a biblical view of God and humanity by realizing that we need God’s help enough to ask and he’s competent enough to make a difference. We need to realize that God’s a Father who can help with anything and we’re childlike enough to need it in everything.
Second, prayer happens when we use our desperation as a starting point for our prayers. When you face problems, ask God to solve them. As you feel pressures, ask God to relieve them. God intends for your problems to ignite your prayer life. Paul Miller rightfully and insightfully said, “prayer isn’t for the disciplined, it’s for the desperate.” That’s exactly what we see in Scripture as the Israelites “cry out” to God by the Red Sea, at Jericho, in the face of giants, and more. That’s what we read as the church “cries out” for Peter before he is executed. It’s what we’re told the Spirit enables us to do as we “cry, Abba, Father.” When you cry out, you are desperate. Let your desperation ignite your prayer life.
Third, prayer happens when we use our aspirations as a starting point for our prayers. When you dream about your life, ask God to cause those dreams to come true. When you make plans and set goals for your life, ask God to do the heavy lifting. Our aspirations are designed to ignite our prayer life. In Acts 1, the people of God pleaded with God to advance his kingdom purposes in the world. They asked God to move in their midst. And in Acts 2, God moved in ways they had never seen, could never bring about, and never could have imagined. Without the prayer in Acts 1 there would be no Pentecost in Acts 2. When you think about your plans, ask God to bring them to life. Ask him to enable you to have an impact that goes above and beyond your competencies.
Everybody can grow in their prayer life. We’re praying that kids, students, and adults ask more of God and see Him work in miraculous ways. Let’s prepare our hearts for this Saturday’s launch of #30DaysOfPrayer!