There are lots of articles and books that tell you that you should pray. So why don’t we pray more? Perhaps one reason is that we overlook the benefits of Prayer that the Lord intends for us. What are these particular? I’ve listed here 4 benefits that you and I lose when we don’t pray.
Recognition of who God is
You and I both know that God is the most remarkable, wonderful and awe-inspiring object in the universe. That isn’t to say that God is merely an object, but when we consider the wonder of who God is, not only is He the most amazing person but when we consider Him next to the amazing works of His creation, there is no comparison. The Grand Canyon? It’s not grand next to God. The wonders of space? It pales in comparison.
When Isaiah stood before God in Isaiah 6, the holiness and magnificence of the true Lord of the universe struck him with fear. Isaiah was right to have this fear, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Likewise, when we come to pray, there should be a degree of reluctance to pray. A reluctance to pray indicates that we recognize something of the holiness, transcendence and majesty of God in contrast to our smallness and corruption. This sense of distinction should be in the front of our mind when we come to pray, but rather than letting it drive us from prayer, we need to let it change how we approach prayer.[shareable]A reluctance to pray indicates that we recognize something of the holiness, transcendence and majesty of God in contrast to our smallness and corruption[/shareable]
God graciously invites us to Him to pray, not flippantly, but with reverence and awe. Prayer is an opportunity to recognize the distinction that exists between us. Specifically, we need to acknowledge the majesty and holiness of God and remind ourselves of this as we worship Him. We also should recognize His goodness to us, because like Isaiah, we come before God with sin and corruption clinging to us. God graciously invites us to come in spite of who we are, provided we recognize Him for who He is. God doesn’t leave us in our uncleanness but cleanses us, so we can also understand his mercy to us.
When we pray, we have a fresh opportunity to recall God’s goodness to us as we remember and are confronted by our corruption and confess it to Him. When we don’t pray, we lose the benefit of encountering the majesty, mercy, and kindness of the Lord.
Recognition of our corruption
When Isaiah saw the Lord in Isaiah 6, God didn’t condemn Isaiah, rather Isaiah recognized that he could not be anything but condemned before one who was so holy and different. There was something vile and loathsome that Isaiah saw in himself because he was standing in the presence of absolute purity. When we think of God correctly, his righteousness and holiness will grow in significance, and we will understand our corrupt and evil tendencies more clearly. For Isaiah this distinction was overwhelming, and so he expressed his condemnation, “Woe to me, for I am ruined…” When we come to God, His purity and holiness should be one of the key elements we see in ourselves as we come to Him.
This is probably where you and I most often need to start in our time of prayer. We come to the Lord of the universe to speak, and we need to be conscious of the fact that God is holy, and we are corrupt, rebellious and sinful. Even if we can’t think of a particular sin that we have committed, the corruption of our flesh continues, because we continue to live in body corrupted by the fall, with all its desires and lusts.
It was when Isaiah confessed his corruption that his understanding of the goodness of God grew significantly. A seraph (one of the creatures in the presence of God) took a hot coal from the altar and cleansed his lips and told him that God had forgiven his sin. Within a moment of coming face to face with the Lord of the universe, Isaiah had recognized his sin, confessed it and been cleansed from it by the very one Isaiah knew he had offended.
God responded to Isaiah’s recognition of his condition with exactly what Isaiah needed – cleansing from His sin. God didn’t hesitate to provide atonement for Isaiah after he confessed his state. This revealed that God is merciful, gracious and kind and ready to provide what we need when we want it and ask for it.[shareable]When we don’t pray we lose the benefit of recalling the goodness God shows specifically to us[/shareable]
When we don’t pray, we rob ourselves of an opportunity to reconsider afresh who we are and our need for the grace of God, and the riches of the grace and mercy He shows when we confess our sin. When we don’t pray, we lose the benefit of recalling the goodness God shows specifically to us.
Thankfulness and Joy
Recognizing the chasm between the Lord and us, and the incredible grace and kindness he has shown us by providing everything we need for salvation so that we can stand before Him without condemnation develops heartfelt gratitude. To put it another way, if we recognize the wonder of God’s rich kindness to us in forgiveness, we can’t help be thankful.
We will be thankful first that we will not bear the consequences of our foolishness and sin. But that is just the beginning. When Isaiah saw the Lord and was cleansed he was allowed to stay in the temple where God was and began to watch the proceedings. God has determined not just to save us, but to also reveal Himself to us, interact with Him and witness His works.
But this isn’t all because we haven’t even mentioned the outcome God wants for our salvation. God isn’t in the business of saving sinners because they are worth saving, God saves so that He will be glorified and the glory God will get from saving sinners is not just about how merciful He is, but about how kind He is.
In Ephesians 1 we read of the blessings that are ours in Christ (Eph 1:3). Then in Ephesians 2:7 we read that He saved us, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The fantastic purpose of our salvation is that God has made us objects of kindness. God doesn’t just want to show mercy but to show grace and He shows the “surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
When we pray, and allow ourselves to feel the distinction between God and us, and we confess the wonder of who He is and the reality of our situation, it is easy to meditate on the mercy, grace, and kindness of the Lord which He is pleased to demonstrate so that He is glorified. If God gets glory from being kind to us, what restraint will there be on that kindness? That is a question that provokes thought![shareable]If God gets glory from being kind to us, what restraint will there be on that kindness?[/shareable]
The outcome of recalling and meditating on the mercy and goodness of the Lord will not be pride or an inflated sense of self, but deep thankfulness and joy. In fact, thankfulness is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 These 5:18). The kindness of God will be revealed most fully in the future, but even now, he inundates us with so many things of which we are unworthy. If we recognize our unworthiness to receive His kindness we will stop and joyfully give thanks to the Lord for all He is doing.
Certainly, in this life, the Lord’s goodness includes things like our life, work, salvation, family, home, and friends. But we have to remember that even the misery, hardship and suffering is not as bad as we deserve it to be. But God will also right every wrong and ensure justice is done and then treat us with kindness!
Prayer is an opportunity to grow in thankfulness as we recognize the truth of who we are, who God is, what He has done and how blessed we are. When we don’t pray, we rob ourselves of an opportunity to be thankful and joyful.
The opportunity to serve with love
Notice too that after God had cleansed Isaiah, as soon as he had a chance to serve, he volunteered. He was so moved by the majesty of God, thankful for the mercy and kindness of the Lord that he volunteered before he even knew the task the Lord had in mind! This readiness to do whatever the Lord asks of us comes from a heart that is right before the Lord, one that recognizes who God is, who we are and overflows in joy and gratitude to God for what He has done. This heart also knows and trusts that He controls all things and is working it all for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).[shareable]When we don’t pray and don’t pray for others, it is easy to become self-centered and become less useful to the Lord[/shareable]
Prayer is also an opportunity to serve others by praying for them. If we are praying for others, we will think about them more regularly, and more biblically and we will be more interested in serving them and doing what is necessary or useful to help them to grow in holiness.
In short, prayer drives us to serve because the focus in prayer starts with our sin and moves to the Lord and then to others. A well-ordered prayer life will be a great blessing both to you and to others. When we don’t pray and don’t pray for others, it is easy to become self-centered and become less useful to the Lord.
A well-ordered prayer life will enable us to see ourselves clearly for who we are, recognize the character and goodness of God, grow in thanksgiving and encourage us to serve. I hope that sounds like the sort of person you want to be.[shareable]A major benefit of prayer is that it forces us to confront the realities of the flesh and go to war against them[/shareable]
The problem is that our flesh wants to hide in the darkness where our inflated sense of self-importance won’t be challenged, and our need for and dependence on the forgiveness and kindness of others can be safely ignored. The flesh wants to keep us imprisoned. A major benefit of prayer is that it forces us to confront the realities of the flesh and go to war against them. When we wage war against the flesh in prayer, we receive the great benefit of righting our heart before the Lord. When we don’t pray, we lose these benefits.
[reminder]Can you think of other benefits we miss out on when we don’t pray?[/reminder]