Why Do We Pray?

by Marty Davis

If you’ve been at our Church any period of time, you have probably noticed the set aside time for corporate prayer by one of our pastors during our Sunday morning worship service.

If you’re like me, it initially feels awkward and clunky. Bowing, being silent, trying to quiet the kiddos, all the while thinking about where to have lunch. As I sit in these services and hear these heartfelt prayers Sunday after Sunday I wonder, first, how these prayers hit those in attendance; and secondly, how am I being affected? Is there any impact whatsoever?

Honestly, my thoughts during these prayers are all over the place. Who’s doing the praying and who’s around me and what are they doing? Ignoring my own heartfelt needs and more concerned with other things which are less important. Thinking “oh boy, I hope so and so hears this prayer, because they really need it.” It’s this frame of mind that dominated my thoughts until I came to the most important question of all, why pray?  Even more personal, why do I pray?

Sunday morning corporate prayer should be the exclamation point of your personal “in secret” (Matthew 6:6) prayer life every week! The time where we rejoice collectively for what God has done and continues to do in each of our lives.  A time to come to Him, humbly, thanking Him for redeeming us and for being all we need in this life.  Psalm 86:1 says, “Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” A weekly reminder that it’s not about me and my selfish needs. I owe my very existence to Him, and any knowledge that I have of Him is because of grace. Remembering that He will sustain me just as He has called me to Himself.

That said, how’s your prayer life? I’m sure with as many people who are asked that question there will be as many answers all over the place. We all know we should pray. Maybe there is a sense of guilt that accompanies the thoughts, based on some unwritten rule that says, “we should pray this much, this often and for these things.”  Rare is the one who can say, “I am completely satisfied with my prayer life”. A Holy dissatisfaction maybe!

Having sought The Lord for 40 years, God has given me a unique perspective based on what has and has not worked in my life, and how God has led me through the years.  In the beginning, prayer was all about what I wanted rather than what I needed.  “Here’s my shopping list God, and I’ll believe if you answer.” God could be my personal vending machine, dispensing exactly what I thought I needed, to the exclusion of God's will for me.  I was building my kingdom, little k, without any consideration of His Kingdom.

As I grew in my faith I began to see more in prayer; a real avenue where I could continually converse with the Creator of the universe, who was also my Father that loved me. But this new and deeper understanding of His desire for my life came at a personal cost, one I was unwilling to pay, to my shame, for many years.  That cost was one of surrender and submission!  Naturally we hate both of these two words, don’t we? Just look around at our society. Is that what is being exhibited, surrender and submission?  Quite the opposite! This ignoring of God’s will by the world was actually an indicator and proof that I was onto something on a Spiritual plane.

One of the core answers to the question, “why pray”, has to be that if Jesus is truly our Savior and my righteousness (and He is), then I am to follow His example to grow in my likeness to Him. One of the unmistakable essentials in Jesus Christ's life and in His teachings was that the Son of Man needed a fervent, continual, unrestrained, life-giving connection (prayer) with The Father.  We see this throughout His life.
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
Luke 6:12

“And when He rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow.”

Luke 22:45

“And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.”

Mark 6:46
When I began to understand who I am (a sinner in need of everyday grace) and who God was, my prayer life exploded. My prayers were actually bringing me more of God Himself and less of me.  Hallelujah! The costs I was unwilling to pay became something I longed to do so that I could get more of Him. Those things that occupied my prior prayer life paled in comparison to the gain I was now getting. HE is our treasure and our joy, and nothing we could ever desire can compare to Him (Psalm 73).
Prayer changes everything, mostly me.
With the recognition that all of our prayer lives are “wanting” to some and varying degrees, and that prayer actually has an effect, namely that God can be found in it, how do we get from where we’re at to a vibrant Christ glorifying life where my joy and hope in God overflows (literally boils over) into prayer? To where you can’t help yourself but burst into prayer!  Where prayer becomes instinctive, second nature, and typifies who you are.  A man or a woman of prayer!  I want that, don't you?

The hard truth is that you and I cannot muster this up by ourselves, you’re welcome (Jeremiah 17:9). You and I already know this since we've tried multiple times to “get better” at praying and if you’re like me, ALL of our efforts fall short and actually frustrate.  If this were possible, I would rely on myself and have no need for a Savior or the gift of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in prayer with the very words of God (Romans 8:26).

Praise God, He does not leave us there but gave us new life “In Him” (Gal 2:20)!

Our prayers must begin and end with remembering who I am, who Jesus is, and that without His death and resurrection, I am lost in my sins, deserving of eternal judgment!

That said, there are more “prayer tools” available then we can count which could help jump start our prayers, but I have intentionally not included them because we each have to find our own rhythm as The Lord directs. However, as a place to start fresh, I’ll leave you with just one great and helpful resource (One Way to Avoid Vain Repetition).  These verses keep my thoughts focused on Him and not on my list of wants.
I.O.U.S. Prayer Acronym
  • Psalm 119:36 – “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” 
    (That is, focus my affections and desires upon you, and eradicate everything in me that would oppose such a focus.)

  • Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (That is, let your light shine and show me what you have willed to communicate through the biblical authors.)

  • Psalm 86:11 – “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
     (That is, enthrall me with who you are.)

  • Psalm 90:14 – Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
     (That is, fulfill me with the fact that your covenant love has been poured out on me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.)
I encourage you to memorize these verses so that you have them “with you” without having your Bible and so that you can be ready to pray them no matter where you’re at.