This post is for FBNF to whom I said I would post on the purpose of prayer over a year ago but never did. Stingray’s post was a good reminder.
Essentially, Jesus prays during many different occasions in the Scriptures:
The Bible tells us in (1 Th 5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” While I don’t believe this literally means to never stop praying, I would say that Jesus probably came closer to never stopping than any person who has ever lived on this planet. He was continually in a prayer mode. He is shown to pray: alone (Mt 14:23)(Mk 1:35)(Lk 9:18)(Lk 22:39-41), in public (Jn 11:41-42)(Jn 12:27-30), before meals (Mt 26:26)(Mk 8:6)(Lk 24:30)(Jn 6:11), before important decisions (Lk 6:12-13), before healing (Mk 7:34-35), after healing (Lk 5:16), to do the Father’s will (Mt 26:36-44), among other things. He also taught on the importance of prayer (Mt 21:22)(Mk 11:24-26)(Mt 7:7-11)(Lk 11:9-13)(Jn 14:13-14)(Jn 15:7,16)(Jn 16:23-24)(Mt 5:44)(Lk 6:27-28)(Mt 6:5-15: including the Lord’s Prayer)(Lk 11:2-4)(Mt 18:19-20). If you take all of the places that show Jesus praying, you will have a PERFECT outline of how to pray (check out Jn 17).
We can boil all of these down to prayer as an exercise of faith. Hence, the purpose of prayer is to learn how to exercise your faith consistently. This is why it is no secret that Paul exhorts us to prayer continually to exercise our faith:
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Since I am a person who likes understanding these things, Paul in Romans does an excellent job explaining theological how all of these concepts tie together. Faith brings peace, and faith leads to hope which brings joy.
Roman 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, [a]we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and [b]we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but [c]we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Hence, we know that:
- Faith leads to Peace
- Faith in the grace which is the glory of God results leads to hope which leads to joy.
- Positive spiritual cycle: hope in tribulations -> perseverance -> proven character -> hope.
As such prayer is an exercise of faith which leads to us having a peace which passes all understanding. However, this exercise of faith is also meant to focus on the progression of faith to hope to joy.
Hebrews 11 affirms this:
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the [a]assurance of things [b]hoped for, the [c]conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old [d]gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the [e]worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
And various other passages scattered affirm that hope and thanksgiving lead to joy:
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Hence, at the end of the day this is why we know that prayer is an exercise of faith, and why there are multiple components of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, etc.
- Adoration focuses us to the glory of God which gives us hope.
- Confession brings us to repentance and the grace of God through faith which brings peace and hope.
- Thanksgiving focuses us to the joy of the Lord.
- Supplication is another act of faith that He hears us and knows us. It gives us peace and hope.
Overall, we understand that all of these theological concepts are intertwined, so if you don’t have the peace of God or the joy of the Lord you can focus and press into God where you need to meet God in your relationship with Him.
- Faith leads to peace. Faith can be exercised through obedience to His word, prayer, loving one another as Jesus loved us, giving to the poor and needy, and any other of the commands of Scripture
- Faith through the glory of God’s grace to us leads to hope. Hope and thanksgiving lead to joy. Hope in His promises and an attitude of gratitude in all things which God has given us leads to spiritual joy.
- Cycles of hope: hope in tribulations -> perseverance -> proven character -> hope.
Prayer is one of the spiritual disciplines that reinforces our faith and hope in Jesus. If it doesn’t then you need to examine why your faith and hope are wavering. Often times it is the case that we are believing lies about either God or ourselves that need to be confessed to Jesus.