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Prayer is not 'for crisis use only'

intentional faith - allen jackson
"Intentional Faith" by Allen Jackson. |

Alexander Graham Bell won the first patent for a telephone in 1876, a device that fundamentally changed the way we communicate. And for more than 125 years, the telephone was used for one reason: to make phone calls. In June of 2007, though, that paradigm shifted when Apple released the first iPhone. The phone introduce us to the possibility of a multi-faceted personal communication device. From phone calls to text messaging to social media to the way we consume entertainment, smartphones have become an integral part of how we manage our lives, our businesses, and consume entertainment.

Similarly, many of us still use prayer for a particular purpose: to make our requests known to God in times of crisis. This reason for communicating with God isn’t bad. But I want to invite you to imagine prayer in a new way: more as a way to process life with God, than as a way to talk to God in times of crisis.

Imagine prayer as less of an old rotary-dial landline phone and more of an iPhone – a personal communications tool. Prayer can become an expression of awareness that God is alive and at work in the world around us. It’s the conduit for messaging and receiving messages from God, a way to connect with him and receive all manner of information from the Creator of the universe. And if you’ve never experienced prayer this way, it’s not hard to learn. You have a God who wants nothing more than to teach you.

Allen Jackson

If I’m certain of anything it’s this: God wants to teach us how to pray. He is a personal God; a God of love, who wants to connect and communicate with us. This kind of connection and communion, though, won’t happen overnight. It takes daily commitment.

Far too often prayer exists primarily in the realm of dutiful religious obligation – dry, powerless and inert, expressed in boredom or fear more than anticipation. Do you pray only when the chips are down? When there’s a mild life crisis? Is prayer relegated to the family meal, or to that nervous space just before the big test at school, or as you walk into the conference room for your annual review at work? These are all good times to communicate with the Creator of the universe, of course, but God doesn’t want to just hear from us before dinner or a test, or during the scarier times of our lives; he also wants to hear from us throughout the day. He wants to connect with us in all the moments of life, big and small. How do I know? Because Jesus modeled this truth.

As you read through the Gospels, notice how Jesus’ life – a life perfectly connected to the Father – was marked by prayer. Prayer was a part of his daily routine. He prayed for seemingly ordinary things for children brought to him by the townspeople (Matt. 19:13), for meals (Matt. 14:19), for friends (Luke 17:1-25). He prayed before major events, too, like choosing the twelve disciples (Luke 6:12) and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41). Jesus seemed to imagine prayer as essential to his life assignment. He understood prayer as a powerful tool for sustaining momentum in his life. And because he is both our Lord and our mentor, his pattern directs us toward a richer, fuller, more constant life of prayer.

Jesus didn’t just model prayer, he invited his friends and followers into a life of prayer with him. He wanted them to experience the rewards of a God-oriented, God-connected life. He wanted them to communicate with the God who provides everything we need. So in his first public sermon, recorded early in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught the people how to pray. The method of prayer he taught wasn’t complicated. In fact, he put it quite simply:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)

Jesus knew that an active prayer life leads to a vital connection with God and that every good blessing, every need, every open door comes from God. Without prayer, then, how could we receive the rewards and blessings of God?

So don’t wait till all else has failed before resorting to prayer. Don’t wait till a crisis comes. Commit to pray every day now, and you’ll experience God in a new way. You’ll sense his work in your family, your job, and in the world around you. Your perspective will change as you see God answering prayers, opening doors, and giving good gifts. As you gain confidence in prayer, your faith will begin to grow. And when the dark days come, you’ll have a new response with confidence in a God who delivers.

Pastor Allen Jackson has served World Outreach Church since 1981, becoming senior pastor in 1989. Under his leadership, WOC has grown to a congregation of over 15,000 through outreach activities, community events and worship services designed to share the Gospel. The above excerpt was taken from “Intentional Faith” by Allen Jackson, Copyright © 2020 by Allen Jackson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson

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