Praying to a God Who is There

Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”  –Oswald Chambers

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” – Jesus Christ, as quoted by John the Apostle in John 15:4-8

Jesus states that for those who truly abide in Christ and in whom the words of Christ are living and active, their prayers will be answered.  Many people read these words and wonder why they do not seem to be receiving answers to prayers they offer to God.  The key to understanding this promise is found in understanding the idea of abiding in Christ.

Too often, it is thought that if prayer is to be effective, it must be repetitious, even exhausting. Praying is sometimes referred to with terms such as “laboring in prayer” which lends itself to the idea that praying is a kind of uphill battle. I believe that to be earnest in prayer is critically important, and that sometimes praying can be difficult, even costly. Yet not all prayer is to be this way. 

There has been much said and written about this idea of “effective” praying. Praying effectively is often meant to describe prayer that gets the answers we are seeking to things we want our God to do.  If we get answers we want, our prayers were effective.  If we do not, they were not effective.

One of the problems with this concept of prayer is that it assumes that the primary purpose of prayer to get our God to act, and the one measure of effective praying is getting the answers we seek.  The problem with this flawed idea related to “effective” praying is that such prayer is primarily asking, begging, pleading with our God for things, fixes, and relief.  If the primary means of communicating with our God is to ask Him for things, this will both define and inhibit our relationship with Him. We see God primarily as a dispenser of answers, and not as our intimate companion, the lover of our souls. 

In these words of Jesus quoted above, the promise of answered prayer is found in the New Covenant relationship of being in Christ and Christ living in us.  As we have seen over the last few months, the New Covenant is centered on our union with our God, on being one with Him.  We no longer rely on our own understandings, and we no longer live for our own will, our own purposes.  We no longer live our own lives.  We are being crucified daily and the life of God is taking over in us.

The words of Jesus about prayer are in this context – a life that is not about us but about the will, purposes, and life of God lived in us.  The promise reads like this: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.   My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  The promise of answers to prayers are for those who are abiding in Christ and Christ is in living His life through them

The key to prayer as well as to the rest of our living is abiding in Christ. If you have chosen to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and intimate companion in this life, He indwells you by His Holy Spirit at all times.  You cannot be any closer to Him than you are now, any more joined to Him than you are now. Our God is within us and is always hearing us. He knows our thoughts and situations better than we do.  He is intimately connected to us, not distant. The New Covenant has placed us in a state of oneness or union with our God at all times.

However, abiding in Christ is a conscious choice on our part.   The defining quality of a deep relationship with our God is our abiding in Him.  Abiding in Him, having communion with Him is a choice we make every day.  The fact of our oneness depends upon our God’s work in us by the atonement and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The realization of that oneness depends upon our pursuit of it above all other pursuits.  This is what is meant by the word “abide.”  We must choose daily to deny ourselves and to pursue a conscious state of oneness, of communion with the Spirit of Christ in us.  The primary focus of daily living and of prayer for the disciple of our Lord Jesus is a conversational expression of our relationship together with Him.

“…Instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him.” – Tim Challies

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