As we’ve discussed the Lord’s Prayer this past week, there is an obvious theme: Prayer is much more than just asking God to change things. Indeed, as we look at the role of prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship, one of the main things prayer does is “change me.”
Richard Foster once said, something like, “How can one ‘master’ prayer if the main function of prayer is to be ‘mastered by it?’” (“Finding the Heart’s True Home”)
This does not mean that prayer does not change things or that intercessory prayer is not important. Far from it! I believe that prayer absolutely changes things. It is one of the great mysteries of life. I love to pray and intercede for people, places, and situations. And I believe that God hears my prayers.
But one thing I am becoming more and more aware, as the years go by, is that I often don’t know what to pray for. And when I think I know what to pray for, it ends up being the wrong thing to pray for. The reason: my wisdom and character falls short.
As James writes, “When you ask (pray), you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
I didn’t used to think James was talking about me. After all, I don’t spend what I get on my pleasures. Or do I?
Now that I think about it, when I ask God to do something for me, most of the time I’m simply asking Him to make my life a little easier, more convenient, more prosperous, or more fruitful. That sounds like stuff “for my pleasure,” doesn’t it? And I can go on and on with other examples. But enough with self-disclosure (and self-embarrassment)!
The point is that my intercession will always be wanting unless I go through transformation. I can’t pray to change the world without me changing first. How else would I know how to pray to change the world? So praying to be changed actually helps me to pray for change. As my character is transformed more and more to the image of Christ, I begin to see the right things that need to be prayed for in situations, in people I intercede for, in my church, in my ministry.
Paul says it well in the second half of our Whole Life Worship definition: Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to the world’s mold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern and approve (and pray for) what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I pray the Jesus Prayer, the “Help my unbelief” prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (both reciting and using it as a model), Contemplative Prayer, conversational prayer, spiritual language prayer, and any other prayer I can think of, so that I might be transformed more into the image of my Savior, Christ. I choose first to be mastered by God through my prayer. Then I can pray, with greater power and effectiveness, for others, for the church, and for the world.
It is how Whole Life Worshipers pray.
How do you find that prayer changes you before it changes things?
What helps you to be “mastered” by God through prayer?