What is the purpose of prayer in the Christian walk? By observing how Jesus prayed, we discover that there are at least four facets of prayer: 1. Adoration, 2. Confession, 3: Thanksgiving, and 4. Supplication. You can remember these facets by memorizing the acrostic ACTS.
Adoration: We worship God for his attributes, such as his sovereignty, his love, and his grace. During confession, we humble ourselves before God and ask him to examine our lives and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. We acknowledge these, repent, and thank him for his forgiveness. Next, we give thanks for all the good things God is doing in our lives. Finally, we place our requests before God through supplication.
As earthly parents, we want to have a relationship with our children because we love them. God feels the same way about us. Because God is omniscient, he knows everything about us already. However, he wants us to share our concerns, praises, struggles, hopes, and dreams with him, because he wants a relationship with us.
In any healthy relationship, there must be two-way communication. God’s preferred method of communicating with us is through the Bible; that’s why daily exposure to God’s Word is indispensable. You will not grow without it. Prayer is the primary way that we communicate with God. And apart from a healthy prayer life, our relationship with God will remain shallow. Hebrews 4:16 issues a standing invitation to prayer: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The primary purpose of prayer isn’t to “get stuff” from God!
The purpose of prayer is to deepen our relationship with God so that our wills become aligned with His will.
We see this purpose clearly reflected in Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6. After telling his disciples not to mindlessly babble on in prayer, thinking that they are going to impress God with their vocabulary or their eloquence, Jesus said in verse 9, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” When you pray that, here is what you are really saying. “God I pray that your reign and your rule will be established first of all in my life. I pray that your will becomes my will, that what you want, becomes what I want.”
As your will becomes more and more aligned with God’s, you will begin asking for things that God wants you to have—and suddenly, you will begin to see a dramatic increase in positive answers to prayer. You will receive many more “yesses” and less “nos” and “waits,” because your requests have been sifted through the filter of God’s will. You can have greater confidence that God will answer your prayers (1 John 5:14-15), and your prayer life will become more powerful and effective (James 5:16).
For further study, read The God Who Hears by W. Bingham Hunter.
Application / Challenge
- Align your will with God’s. Then you can pray with great confidence.