One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1 NLT)
The salient question “Why pray?” though not unfamiliar to a rational non-religious person, has also not surprisingly crossed the minds or slipped from the lips of a believer. Truth be told, because prayer in a measure is cloaked in mystery there are times when even the most devout believer can question its efficacy if not its necessity.
It is therefore worth documenting, from the life and teaching of Jesus, both for believer and unbeliever alike, the three main reasons why prayer is a non-negotiable necessity. Why pray? – here’s the answer.
1. Jesus prayed! The example of Jesus Christ, the son of God who came from heaven to earth in bodily form to fully identify with his creation, praying frequently and earnestly to the heavenly Father is one of the most convincing arguments there is for both the effectiveness and necessity of prayer. We are told that “during the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7 NIV) If Jesus had to pray in order to navigate through life and fulfill His purpose, how much more should we?
2. Jesus instructs and commands us to pray! Jesus made it clear to all those who followed Him that prayer should also be a priority in their lives. As an introduction to one of three parables He told specifically about prayer it is recorded that “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1 NLT) It could not be any clearer – “always pray and never give up.”
In addition, His disciples were so impressed with His prayer life they actually begged Him to teach them to pray the way He prayed. “Lord teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) The teaching that followed is without parallel as a practical instruction on how to pray and we know it as the Lord’s prayer. “This then is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6:9) It provides an essential outline beginning with adoration and progressing from surrender to personal petition, forgiveness and dealing with temptation and evil.
3. Prayer releases spiritual authority over the natural world. We all live in two worlds whether we acknowledge it or not. Jesus, like no one in history, knew the reality of the existence of two realms, the natural world and the supernatural or spiritual world. He knew like no one else that the spiritual world has authority over the natural world and that prayer is the means established of communicating and releasing spiritual power and authority from heaven to earth. In fact that is specifically why He instructs us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
Understanding this truth of an unseen, spiritual world from which the seen natural world must take its cues is the very underpinning of prayer and hope for supernatural intervention in the natural realm in which we dwell. Especially when we acknowledge as Jesus did that it is from the Father, who lives and rules supremely in that spiritual world, that every good and perfect gift proceeds. (James 1:17)
One of the hallmark illustrations of the supremacy of the spiritual over the natural world comes from the life of Elisha at the time when the city he was in with his servant was surrounded by an army. In order to allay the fears of his servant and convince him they were not outnumbered he prayed for God to open his eyes to the spiritual world. “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17 NIV) We can therefore be assured that same heavenly host in the spiritual realm is available to come to our aid when we pray. That is why God Himself proclaimed it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)
In addition to times when God through our prayers draws back the veil and allows us to see into the realm of the spirit there are other times in everyone’s life when there is an open portal between the two realms. At birth, death and in times of crisis, those in attendance often sense an opening of the sacred door into the spiritual world, the realm of eternity. At such times even the unbeliever senses the reality of another more ethereal world.
It challenges each of us to consider on what level or realm we want to live – solely in the natural world or more importantly elevated into the realm of the Spirit? Do we want to let things take their natural course or would we rather seek God’s intervention from the spiritual world through prayer? The spiritual world is positioned to have the last say in a matter – thus the principle of first the natural, then the spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:46) Why not follow Jesus’ example and urging to bring heaven to earth through prayer?
Why pray? Because Jesus did, he told us to and it does make a difference!
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