The concept of prayer is problematic


My fellow church member friends and associates, please put down your stones. I know, I know, my even suggesting prayer is problematic becomes grounds for blasphemy. Please bear with me. I’m going to speak to the question foreigners to faith ask about why we pray. You know, what’s the point of praying?

For those yet to commit to God, that is, folks who haven’t yet joined our family, there is an ongoing skepticism about faith and the value of it. Polite bystanders are diplomatic with their bias. Less civil onlookers may confront us. But whether discreetly criticized or demonstratively affronted, we who identify as Jesus believers are judged, especially regarding our praying.

But that’s okay. It’s to be expected. Jesus said we would be.

We have to admit though, the practice of prayer doesn’t make much sense logically. Most outsiders just consider it a superstitious ritual stiff-necked people do. Though I’m an advocate and pray frequently, prayer is, frankly, counterintuitive. Just think about it: we worship an all-knowing, ever present, fully aware and limitless God. Why then, do we need to inform Him about our toothache? Seriously. Are there any needs God doesn’t already know about? Any heartfelt desire He’s unaware of? What is the reason we pray for anything, asking for God’s intervention or provision?

The answer my Friend, is relationship.

Whether we’re talking husband and wife, parent and child, or good friends, how close can our connection be without candid conversation? The same holds true with God. Prayer is a learned art. Just as our ability to speak grows from toddler gibberish to mature articulation, so our ease in sharing with God develops also. It takes practice. Eventually a sense of dialogue ensues, and as we engage in two-way communication, our faith flourishes and relationship with God deepens.

The Bible describes it like this: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”, (Psalm 145:18,19).

Prayer is weaponry to clear a path to knowing God. There truly exists an evil reality bent on opposing the relationship. It is described like this: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”, (Ephesians 6:12).

With apologies to my Quaker comrades, please know that repeatedly the Bible uses imagery of warfare to describe how good is pitted against evil in a colossal clash of wills. We, on God’s side, are instructed to put on the “full armor of God.” Instructions are given to wear a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (read Ephesians 6:10-17).

The sword of the Spirit is explained as the word of God, and is the only offensive weapon enumerated. The metaphor here suggests that scripture (“word of God”) is our weaponry to combat evil. That’s cool. However, a sword is of no threat while sheathed in its scabbard, is it? So, how can the sword of the Spirit be unsheathed and used to assault this so-called “darkness”? Prayer.

The very next thought following this description of our armament says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”, (Ephesians 6:18). You see, the battle to oppose evil is fought via prayer. The most potent resistance to spiritual oppression is waged on our knees.

It is by praying we connect with God and collaboratively resist evil. Prayer is not a superstitious reiteration of ritualistic mantras, but a super-powered affront to evil. It’s the Biblical mode to better knowing God, understanding our covenant relationship, and staying apprised of our responsibilities in His Kingdom.

More about prayer next week, okay?

Dave Hinman

Pastor Emeritus

Dove Church Wilmington

[email protected]

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