A good amount of time in our lives is spent speaking and interacting with others. We go to school where we learn from teachers and share experiences with our classmates. We go to work where we interact with our co-workers and clientele and then we go home where we interact with family members up until the point where we find ourselves falling asleep while watching Netflix. Throughout these main portions of our day we interact with other people at coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations, etc. Even in the times where we are not directly interacting with people we find ourselves on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter interacting with the world. Rarely ever do we use the limited time we might have alone to really reflect upon our lives and how we interact with the society. We spend a lot of time interacting but very little time reflecting on those interactions. Prayer can be a useful method for us as Christians in order to understand ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. Though how we interact with the rest of humanity is important, understanding how and why we interact with the world in the way we do can be more important. It allows us to meditate on Jesus while discerning the role He has given us in this life.
Here are five reason why I believe prayer is important:
#1 Prayer Reminds You That You’re Not in Control of Your Own Life.
As someone who lives in Southern California and has the benefit of clean running water, daily food, electricity, and literacy, I am often able to live as if I have full control over my own life. I can get myself a job and pay for rent or buy food as needed. I have the ability to put clothes on my back and transport myself wherever I may need to go. It is rarely ever that I feel as if I am not in control of my life. It often isn’t until devastating tragedies or miraculous events that I realize the lack of control I have. People who are not as fortunate to have access to clean water (prayers to those in Flint, Michigan) or a roof over their heads don’t get this pleasure. They are often quicker to realize what some of us take years to figure out; certain things are far beyond our control.
Prayer can help us deal with this by letting us recognize how large of a role God plays in our lives. We see it all through Scripture. It was God who kept the Israelites fed as they wandered through the wilderness. It was God who threw down the plagues upon Egypt. It was God who raised Jesus from the dead! God plays a much larger part in our lives than we often acknowledge. In praying to God we take the time to understand that He has the ability to intercede in our lives and that “doing thy will” is most important. When we take control of our own lives it often becomes our will that takes the forefront. The house we want to live in becomes the most important. The job we want or the car we want becomes the object of our desires. It is only when God’s will is placed at the forefront that we, through power and grace, can conform to God’s will. When we forget that we are not in control of our own lives we often become prideful. We feel as if all the blessings we have in life come from our own doing when Scripture lets us know that every good and perfect thing comes from above (James 1:17). In reminding us that we are not in control of our own life, prayer can also work as a form of gratitude toward God.
#2 Prayer Helps Us Create A Sense Of Gratitude Toward God
Too often when we go throughout our day we forget to take time to thank God for the blessings we have, small or big. When we pray we are able to set aside a certain amount of time to truly reflect on things going on in our lives. Whether it’s that friend who lent you a couple bucks because you didn’t have money for lunch (it’s happened to the best of us) or whether you got a promotion at your job, there is always something in our lives that we can be thankful for. Similar to the previous point, it’s easy for us to think we’re responsible for everything good in our lives. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of believing that these things are just benefits of our hard work paying off. When we begin to recognize the role others play in our lives when it comes to success, we can begin to reach a place of humility and servitude. If asked, most of us will admit that we have been blessed by God in various ways, but rarely do we actually take the time to thank God ourselves.
#3 Prayer Can Help Make You More Conscious Of The Needs Of Your Neighbor
Similar to the rest of life, prayer isn’t all about us. If the only reason you pray is to petition things in your life to God, then I think you should really consider the world around you and those who are going through similar (or worse) struggles. As much as prayer can be a time of reflection, it’s not always self-reflection. There are many people in the world who can desperately use your prayers. Sometimes the person who needs your prayers is your neighbor. When we choose to add others to our prayers it forces us to take the time to focus on the needs of those around us. Who is that person around you that needs to be in your prayers? Is it that neighbor you have who just went through a messy divorce? Or that person at work who had a family member recently pass? Taking the time out to pray for these people not only forces you to focus on somebody other than yourself during this time of reflection, but it also urges you to do what you can outside of just your personal time with God. It encourages you to engage with these people in your day-to-day life so that you can both gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they need.
Time spent praying for your neighbor does not strictly have to be concerning bad things in their life. We can also keep them in our prayers in order to develop a habit of interceding for others with God. Often throughout Scripture we see people petitioning to God for the needs or blessing of others (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.). Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is this type of mindset that helps lead us to the understanding that we are truly connected one way or another. What happens to our fellow brothers and sisters around the world, directly or indirectly, has an effect on our lives. Praying for others can help us keep this sense of connectivity
#4 Prayer As A Kind Of Sabbath
A good amount of us live fairly busy lives. We’re constantly going from one place to another. As soon as we wake up, we start checking our phones, gathering news for the day, then we head out the door and get to work. As I mentioned earlier, our days are filled with constant interaction, either with someone or something. Many of us don’t have set specific times where we rest or decide to completely disconnect from the world and rest. In all honesty, most of us have almost completely abandoned the idea of a Sabbath. Even during our rest periods we are often receiving some form of external input, whether that be television or something else. Finding different activities that give you rest is extremely important, but they shouldn’t replace a time of Sabbath. Having specific times throughout the day that you put to the side solely for God helps us break from the whirlwind that is often our lives. The reason prayer can work as a kind of Sabbath is because they both help in creating a space of solitude from the world. And as strange as this may seem, a period of solitude from our daily activities will actually help us better interact with the rest of society. As Americans living in the 21st century, production is the main goal. What am I doing with my time to make it worthwhile? Am I getting the most out of my time right now? These are the questions that usually guide our day. Taking a Sabbath is inherently opposite to this way of thinking. You’re not producing anything or receiving anything during this time. For the most part you are simply taking time aside to rest and reflect on you and your surroundings. It’s hard to understand or appreciate the things we do in our daily lives unless we take the time aside to actually reflect on them.
#5 We Pray Because We Follow Our King
In the synoptic gospels we see Jesus praying to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane during His time of distress. He is at a point where He recognizes the imminence of His death and therefore steps away from His disciples into a time of solitude and prayer. A lot of times we think we have it all together and that we don’t need anyone else’s help or guidance, but even Jesus recognized that this wasn’t the case. When His proclamation of God’s kingdom finally got to the point where His life was in danger, He went to the Father to pray about it. Our King, the one we worship, recognized the importance of God as an authority and symbol of guidance in our lives. If Jesus took the time to pray to the Father, how much more so should we? Whether you feel as if you are already on a good and clear path, or if you have no idea what you are doing, setting time aside to speak with God can keep you focused on Him and His plan for your life.
Prayer can be more than just a way of asking God to intercede in your life. It can help you focus on things outside yourself. It can make you more aware of the needs of those around you and help you keep in touch with what is going on around the world. Prayer can help keep us focused on God when so many different things throughout our day are calling for our attention. The benefits of prayer go far beyond this list but they all ultimately culminate in helping you develop as a follower of Jesus Christ. In Luke 23:34 Jesus prays for those who are persecuting him and asks God to forgive them. If our King uses His prayers to show love to His enemies, how much more should we? It is crucial to remember that prayer is not simply a vertical relationship between you and God, but between you, God, and all of His creation.
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