“To Pray is to Change”
The intimacy of knowing God personally transforms us. Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). The access we have to the father through Jesus allows us to view God as he is, that is to get to know him in a personal way, in a relational way. As we get to know him, we learn his heart and will. And just the knowing begins to shape our heart and will. As Richard Foster put it, “The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we become conformed to the image of Christ. To pray is to change.” [ref]John Maxwell. Partners in Prayer: Support and Strengthen Your Pastors and Church Leaders. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) 74.[/ref]The intimacy of knowing God personally transforms us. - Loren Gjesdal Click To Tweet
Get to Know God’s Heart and Will
As we get to know God’s heart and will, we will come to find that what God wants most is the continued healing and restoration of broken relationship between God and man. God’s will, heart, and commissioning of us to be a part of both is succinctly stated by Paul. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-19).
To reconcile the world to God is far too great a task for any individual to accomplish. That is why we must work in community, the church, to have an impact in the world. The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and resulting conversion of 3,000 souls took place after the community of believers gathered for prayer in the upper room (Acts 1:13-14; 2:1). If we must work in community, then we should also pray in community. That’s why Paul directs so many of his prayers towards the church collectively rather than to members or friends individually.What God wants most is the continued healing and restoration of broken relationship between God and man.- Loren Gjesdal Click To Tweet
As we pray together corporately, we hear and begin to share each other’s hearts. It was in response to the church’s united prayer of concern that Peter was miraculously freed from prison (Acts 12:12). As we individually align ourselves more closely to the heart of God through private prayer, then praying together should also encourage each one hearing and participating to similarly share God’s heart and will for the church collectively. Without community our prayers risk becoming a “self-justifying monologue.”[ref]Richard J. Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. (New York: Harper One, 1992) 254.[/ref]
As we understand God to be a relational being, we also come to understand that he created us as relational beings and that it is central to his plan and will in the earth that believers work together in community. “In any Christian view of life self-fulfillment must never be permitted to become the controlling issue. The issue is service, the service of real people.”[ref]D.A. Carson. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014) 62[/ref] Part of that service to and with real people, of being a part of bringing God’s will into the earth, is corporate prayer.
Give God the Glory through Prayer
Every believer and every group of believers should pray as a natural expression of a desire to know God and participate in His work. Without this link spiritual growth stagnates and faith dies—and so do churches. Along with reading the Word, prayer is our active entry into the presence of God. It is our intentional participation in his desired relationship with us. Prayer is the causal link that gives God the glory for changed lives and circumstances. When we begin to share God’s heart and to pursue being a part of his will, we find ourselves driven deeper into prayer and into transformative relationship with God.
As we seek to accomplish the will of God, we are reminded that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). “As we pray we are drawn into the love of God, which irresistibly leads us to our neighbor. When we try to love our neighbor, we discover our utter inability to do so, which irresistibly drives us back to God.”[ref]Foster, 255[/ref] We also become aware that there are spiritual issues and forces at work that we cannot see. Yet we are told “…the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). Therefore, prayer has power—transformative power in the life of the one praying but also in the spiritual realm and through it the lives of individuals and the health of the church.
Participate in God’s Will through Prayer
Prayer is the God ordained causal mechanism whereby we participate in God’s will being realized in the Earth. The greatest of His desires is that we would come to know Him, to love Him for who He is. The second of His desires is that we should become more like His Son, to share his heart of compassion for a lost creation. The third is that we would participate in the ministry of reconciling a lost world back to its father.
Through prayer we can enter a deep and intimate relationship with our abba father, we can share his heart and work. We can even be a part of his eternal spiritual realm, both individually and corporately. “God’s grace so draws creatures of dust to his side that they may join with him to seek his sovereign purposes. Union with Christ enables us to seek with him the fulfillment of his Father’s will.”[ref]Edmund Clowny. A Biblical Theology of Prayer. 6[/ref] We can and should be utterly changed by the experience, both in terms of our perspective but also in our living. Through prayer “We pass from thinking of God as part of our life to the realization that we are part of his life.”[ref]Foster, 15[/ref]
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