When we begin to learn about God’s sovereignty, the temptation is to turn into the “frozen chosen” who use God’s power as an excuse to be lazy. If God is in total control of everything, why pray at all?
Certainly this is a multi layered question that could be talked about endlessly in the theological classroom. The more pressing concern is when the idea of God’s sovereignty hinders your prayer life in a very negatively practical way. This is not what God wants.
So to answer the question, “Why pray if God is Sovereign?”, perhaps a counter question will help us see the Bible’s answer: “Why would you pray if God wasn’t sovereign?”
By God’s grace I have had the opportunity to do missionary work in Liberia, West Africa. During my time there I had the privilege of visiting a lot of orphanages, some on a weekly basis.
I saw hundreds of orphan children. Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers. Some well fed, some not so well fed. Some with beds to sleep in and roofs over their heads, some without. Some of these orphans were in the city, some were way out in the African bush. Some were healthy and loved to play, some were crippled and lame.
I remember one boy named Francis. He was probably around fourteen, but he didn’t know his true birth date because his parents died when he was young and no one was there to share the details of his early life, a common problem amongst orphan children. Francis was a free spirit and did not like the rules and expectations of an orphanage, so he lived in a shipping container in the port, wheeling and dealing with the sailors to provide food for himself. Just from talking to all the sailors from different countries he had learned multiple languages: English, Russian, Ukrainian, French . . . Francis could speak them all. He was a genius.
I like to over complicate things. Let’s go back into my childhood. Let’s take a deep look into my thinking process. Let’s analyze every word this person said to me. Na, Jesus says. Let’s just start with prayer.
As I was going through seminary and pursuing a Master’s Degree in pastoral counseling, I was taught a principle I believe Jesus practiced, “Complicated problems don’t always require complicated solutions.”
Psalm 19:14, Romans 12:3, Psalm 119:36-37, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Before my wife and I were married, we dated long distance for over a year. We would drive eight hours to see each other around every two weeks, but of course we wanted to connect more than that. Phone conversations were the next best thing.
Looking back, perhaps one of the best foundations to our marriage was that year of dating where we were forced to connect with one another through conversation. As humans, having conversations is essential to building deep relationships. The same is true with our walk with God.
As Christians, we all know we should pray more than we do and talk with God as his word instructs us to. But how can we pray more? Being disciplined and just deciding in your heart to pray more is certainly not the worst thing you can do. But perhaps there’s a better way.
The Bible explains that before we will truly have the desire to seek God we must ask God for that desire. To have a passionate prayer life, we must pray to God for a passionate pray life.
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.-C.S. Lewis
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.-John 14:13
Before going to college, I took a year off and headed to West Africa. I was volunteering with a Christian organization called Mercy Ships in the country of Liberia. Mercy Ships is a floating hospital that travels up and down the west coast of Africa to provide healthcare for the poorest of the poor.
I had left the States in hopes of a deeper relationship with Jesus. This was my hail-Mary pass, my attempt to push in all my chips, my last desperate stab at knowing God like never before. If I don’t experience him out here, I figured, then I probably never will. You see, I knew I was a Christian, but I also knew I wasn’t a very good one. Chronic sins plagued my life and I knew if ever I was to experience the freedom of God I longed for and read about in the lives of his saints, I had to do something drastic.
It was going pretty well. I was working faithfully in the ship’s kitchen to help feed the crew, serving in local orphanages on my days off, and spending a ton of time reading in the ship’s library due to the dullness of life spent docked in a port. But after three months, things were starting to get really stale. The awe-factor of being in a third-world country was wearing off, routine was setting in, and although I was no longer stuck in a sinful lifestyle like I was back home, I had yet to experience God the way I had hoped.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.- Ephesians 6:18 Pray without ceasing.-1 Thessalonians 5:17
One of the greatest dangers in the Christian life is complacency. Contentment in Christ is to be sought after and celebrated. Complacency in Christ, however, is very different.
Christian contentment means that no matter what happens, you are fully satisfied in Jesus. Christian complacency means that no matter what happens, you are fully self-satisfied with your current personal effort in pursuing Christ.
1 Peter 4:7, 1 Peter 3:7, James 5:16 (NIV), Psalm 66:18
God’s grace is a free gift which we cannot earn or lose due to our own actions. God saves, justifies, blesses, and loves us all because of his undeserved grace. And yet, it seems our obedience and personal effort to be pure are directly related to our spiritual power, especially in prayer. Here are three facts about the biblical connection between prayer and purity.
Impurity Cannot Steal Our Salvation, But It Does Hinder Our Power in Prayer
Sin does not cancel the grace of God. However, sin hinders are experience of God’s grace. When we become a Christian and then we sin, we will never be in jeopardy of losing our salvation. Once we are truly brought into the family of God, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). If, however, we forsake God in word or deed to such a degree that it shows we are not saved, this simply means we were never truly saved to begin with. It does not mean we lost our salvation since this is impossible according to Scripture.
Bible Verses: Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46
Struggling to pray? All true Christians want to pray more than they do. But all Christians, if they are being honest, go through seasons where praying is a challenge. To help overcome this barrier to prayer, it helps to ask, “How did Jesus pray?”
By studying Jesus prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46), we can discover at least four practical things Jesus did in prayer.
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” -Mark 14:32-26
The Bible’s warning on temptation is as clear as can be. It is not a matter of “if” we will be tempted; the Bible always talks about temptation in the context of “when you are tempted.” Therefore, like Jesus, we must prepare in advance through prayer before the moment of temptation is upon us.
Bible Verses: Read all of Psalm 19:1-14
If you are stuck in a rut spiritually, Psalm 19 provides a blueprint for connecting with God. It provides the three staples every Christian should regularly engage in to stay spiritually awake.
There are many other devotional practices which can and should be done to connect with God, but Psalm 19 gives these specific three which will help us immensely in staying alive and sensitive in our relationship with God, protecting us from spiritual ruts.
Psalm 19 is broken into three sections. Psalm 19:1-6 explain how nature is God’s mouth piece. Psalm 19:7-11 describes how the word of God also speaks but actually instructs the human heart. Lastly, Psalm 19:12-14 is a personal prayer from the heart to God for holiness.