Prayer is the act of forging a connection between two specific points: our human needs and the resources of God offered to us in Christ. You can start at either point, and reach to the other in prayer.
True Christians have discovered that God, in Christ, offers them grace, mercy, pardon, peace, life, and love. This is revealed in the gospel, or “good news” of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:2–4). And true Christians have experienced how much they need these things—indeed, how the heart cries out for them in prayer (Ps. 84:2).
Prayer identifies the desires of the heart and expresses them to God. It can be silent or spoken. It can be as simple as “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13) or as detailed as the high-priestly prayer of Christ (John 17), in which He poured out everything He wanted God the Father to give to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It can even take the form of a song. The Psalms are called “the prayers of David” (Ps. 72:20).
Christian prayer embraces God’s will as revealed in Scripture for its rule or guide. The goal is to ask for things in harmony with what God wants for us. God’s covenant promises, sealed with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 11:25), are the surest foundation for prayer (2 Cor. 1:20). When divine and human wills agree according to God’s rule, prayer will surely be answered (1 John 5:14–15).
Christian prayer develops as believers come to trust in Christ more and more for all they need or are called to do, even to know how to pray or to ask for grace to keep on praying. We have no claim on God but must rely entirely on the merit and prayers of Christ and the indispensable aid of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26). That is why Christ commands us to “ask in my name” (John 15:16; 16:24).
Christian prayer is also part of our repentance from sin. In prayer, we confess our sins, asking God to forgive those sins and to provide the strength we need to forsake them and kill them. From God’s perspective, a sin truly confessed is a sin forgiven (Ps. 32:5). What’s more, the same God who forgives sin cleanses from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Finally, Christian prayer is an act of worship (Ps. 65:1–2). As we come to know God in Christ, we are moved to praise Him as Almighty God and our Father in heaven. As we experience God’s work in our daily lives, we learn to thank Him for the many good and perfect gifts He offers us as mercies from His fatherly hand (James 1:17). We also learn to rejoice in trials, hardships, loss, and sorrow, since these come to us not by chance but according to God’s will to accomplish His purpose for us (Rom. 8:28, 29).
We have much to learn to have a truly healthy prayer life. Pray for grace to open your heart to the Word and Spirit of God to receive the counsel of these meditations with a teachable mind and a moldable conscience. Begin now by praying for an understanding heart and grace to grow in the knowledge of Christ.
Developing a Healthy Prayer Life
James W. Beeke & Joel Beeke