Most of us recognize prayer to be a central part of the life of a disciple. But sometimes we tend to think of prayer as more of a duty—something that we should do. It can feel like an external requirement or burden, and it’s easy for us to feel guilty about our prayer life. That is not God’s intent.
Part of our problem is that we tend to think of prayer as something we need to perform, rather than a way of being. Our hearts easily forget that the Christian life is first and foremost a relationship. The Apostle John teaches us that eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3)… not merely knowing about God, but truly knowing God as a person. As the ESV Study Bible puts it: this suggests “an intimate relationship that involves actually knowing God as a person.” Similarly, in 1 John, the Apostle begins the letter by proclaiming the gospel so that we may have fellowship with God and one another, which is the way to experiencing joy (1:1-4).
What does a relationship with God look like? Well, there are surely many dimensions to it, but central to all of them is prayer. Conversation. Talking with God. Fellowship. Think about the person you’re closest to in life. It might be your spouse or your best friend. Imagine what your relationship with them would be like if you never talked. Or if you thought about talking to them as a duty that you needed to perform, merely something you should do. That misses the whole point, doesn’t it?
What do you talk about? Everything. But what is most stimulating to talk about is your shared passions. You talk about what’s on your heart. How does that translate to prayer? As we grow in fellowship with God, we begin to share the passions of his heart. As we grow to become like Christ, we tend to talk to God the way Jesus talked to God.
To continue the thought in John 17:
“I pray…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
A lot could be said about this, but notice that the heart of Jesus is for his people to experience intimate fellowship with God and with one another. And it doesn’t stop with those who are already in the family. He extends this prayer for fellowship and unity to the world, so that they, too, may know. The passion of Jesus’ heart is expressed in prayer that more and more people will come to experience this relationship with God and his people.
We know from the storyline of the whole Bible that God’s heart is for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to come into his family through faith in Jesus. That is the heart of God. It is what he is passionate about. It is what Jesus lived for, prayed for, and died to accomplish.
This was the theme of our Missions Conference. There were a ton of practical tips for “Joining the (Prayer) Rebellion.” If you missed it and would like to view it, email the Missions Team for a link and password to view the talks. You can learn more about our missionaries and how to pray for them so that “the world will know” by visiting the Missionary Updates page on the website at any time. We will keep this page up-to-date with the latest news from GRC missionaries so that you can be intentional about praying for them in your own times with God, as well as part of the prayer times in your small groups and Bible studies.
Steve Sage is the Pastor of Discipleship.