We can always pray

Prayer can often feel like the last best thing we might do as Christians. We’ve exhausted all other avenues, we’ve done everything we can. I guess there’s always prayer. Why not give that a go? Maybe it’ll do something, who knows!

Now, hear me well when I say this, I think some Christians do use prayer as a get-out-of-doing-what-I-ought-for-free card. ‘I’ll pray for you’ is, for many, the Christians equivalent of someone who could help you out saying, ‘good luck!’ Many Christians could help fellows churches, other believers, people within their own congregations in all sorts of ways. But all they offer is a quick ‘I’ll pray for you’ and, when it comes to it, they don’t even bother doing that. It is like the faith that causes some, according to James, to simply say ‘be well, be fed’ and then lets a needy person go on their way. That is to say, it is both meaningless and hypocritical.

The reason why I don’t write as much about what I am (shortly) going to get round to talking about it the above. Too many Christians offer to pray for people they’re not actually praying for and do so as a way to salve their consciences that they aren’t going to, and have no intention of, actually helping. Such people do not need encouraging that we can always pray, they need encouraging to actually do the commands of Christ.

But for everyone else, for those of us who genuinely do want to help but are truly unable, we can always pray. And I don’t mean always as if to say last recourse before we just give up. I mean, we can always pray. There is never a time when you cannot pray. There is never a time when praying is not helpful. Even those guys who are using prayer to get out of doing what Jesus asks, even their prayer serves a purpose. Either God will hear it and respond or he may convict the person in front of you that they could help themselves. Either way, even that prayer is ultimately helpful.

in fact, there is only one type of prayer that really has no value. Like zero. That is prayer that is not offered in the name of Christ. Prayer offered to God by people who do not know Christ and are not approaching the Father in his name because they do not belong to him. Sadly, those prayers are valueless. In God’s economy, the Lord nevertheless might have purpose in mind. But so far as actually approaching God with any right to be heard, they are pointless.

But the prayers of God’s people, offered in and through the name of Christ, these prayers have purpose. These prayers are entreating the living God, as his children who might dare to ask him, and better yet a right to be heard by him because of Christ, to move in the world. We are asking the God who is there, who loves his children and cares for them, to work and change real things in the universe for our sakes, for the sake of his kingdom and for the sake of his glory. These prayers have value. Indeed, James says they have “great power”. They are properly effective. These sorts of prayers mean we have a part to play in the unfolding plan of God in the universe who folds our very prayers into that plan being, as he is, actually pleased to work through them.

When we realise exactly what we are doing when we pray, not only are we colossal fools to neglect it, but why would it be our final, last gasp, throwing our hands up in the air, may as well give this a shot, final action? It should be our first, last and ongoing port of call. Whether we can do something about a request ourselves or not, whether we can answer our own prayer or not, why would we not always go to prayer? We can always pray and, as God’s children, be confident God will hear us. Not only hear us, but be delighted to hear from us. And not only pleased to hear from us, but actively keen to work for our good. We can, and should, always pray.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Prayer is God’s will for you. He wants you to rejoice and to continually prayer. And I cannot see a reason why we wouldn’t want to. We can always pray!