“Trey, I’m diligent about my prayer time. I make lists, both on paper and in my mind, of prayers to bring to the Lord. I try and remember every sin I’ve committed each day and pray for forgiveness. I pray for everything; good weather to not interrupt my son’s ball game, Aunt Sally’s hip replacement surgery, the people who prepare my food, the man who cut me off in traffic (and for forgiveness when I flipped him off as a result), for safety during my travels and protection for my children. Man, I’m trying to be a prayer warrior. We need more prayer warriors . . . Right? Sometimes, I do wonder why HE doesn’t answer my requests. What’s your take on prayer time in your life? What does quality prayer time look like?”
I love this particular friend. One of the nicest men I know. He knows his scripture and memory verses much better than I do. He gets to church every week early so he can get his favorite seats reserved for his wife and sons. He is a servant of the Lord through and through. I enjoy our talks very much. There is one thing about him that I find interesting. He always seems a bit unsettled and anxious, even with his prayer time. He just doesn't seem to have much peace.
So, what does quality prayer time look like anyway? My answer to his question, looking at the finished work of the cross, is actually another question. I looked at my brother concerned about his quality prayer time and asked, “How do you define quality prayer time? Is there a scorecard? Do you pray and ask for all these things, say AMEN and think, ‘I crushed that prayer? I know God heard it. I’m now gonna wait, watch and see if he will answer it. I pray he does.’” Yes, he actually said one time he prayed for his previous prayer to be answered. That’s some serious dedication.
Is it me or does it seem many prayers I hear today revolve around God doing something for us or others? (Aunt Sally’s hip, healing from sickness, good grades for our students in school so they will have better opportunity for a good job, relationships, protection, etc.) Now . . . don’t get me wrong. I know the Lord wants to hear whatever is on our hearts. No need to send me an email of concern here. I do feel the Lord wants to hear our cry and our specific prayers for whatever is on our heart. Yes, I do want and pray for Aunt Sally to heal from her hip problems!
But, you know, when it comes to “quality prayer” the Lord always puts Paul on my heart. Now, there’s not much biblical evidence of the exact words Saul of Tarsus prayed as a pharisee. In my mind he was probably very diligent. He probably prayed like Jesus warned us NOT to pray in his sermon on that Galilee hillside in Matthew 6:5. I personally picture him praying with fervor, loudly and with condemnation on obeying law, line by line, list by list, law by law. Praying for forgiveness constantly and going through his list to make sure he had everyone covered. (That’s just my 5 cents worth and that definitely won’t buy you a cup of coffee today.)
But, after Paul’s transformation in Christ, it is clear to see how he prayed some of the most beautiful and heartfelt prayers in the bible. In most of his letters, we find prayers that we seldom hear or pray today. He prayed for each church, that he established in his travels, but he didn’t go through a list (Like I said, if that’s your thing, go for it). He penned simple prayers in the hope that each church will understand one thing . . . WHO THEY TRULY ARE IN CHRIST.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” – Ephesians 3:14-19
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:15-23
Wow!! Do you see this? Paul is praying for the saints in Ephesus to grow in the spiritual knowledge of who they truly are in their “inner beings”! That they have the strength to understand the unknowable . . . THE LOVE OF CHRIST . . . who they are totally filled with! In these prayers he’s praying for things beyond a "to-do" list. He’s actually praying for a Spirit of wisdom and that they have the revelation of God and their fullness with HIM through Christ! That they understand that they are seated next to him, RIGHT NOW!! We have to remember that these are Christians to whom he’s writing, and it seems clear . . . They don’t fully understand the power of the blood of Christ and what His resurrection did to them. They don't yet know who they are in Christ. He’s praying they understand this GOSPEL TRUTH. (You can read Paul’s prayers to the churches throughout his letters.)
Paul's prayers make me think of the church today. How many church goers in 2023 are in the same situation as the people gathering in his letters in the New Testament? Do we truly know who we are IN CHRIST? Imagine the result, if our prayers, like those of Paul for the early churches, first focused on understanding who we are as Christians; that we truly know the power of what Jesus did to us with His blood and how forgiven, holy, justified and righteous we are by His grace through our faith. Imagine how our prayer time would change and how we would grow by having a loving conversation with our father knowing He has our requests covered because of who we are as His children. He wants to hear us cry out to know Him more. He wants us to know who we are, the power of His grace and . . . that we know He’s got Aunt Sally’s hip fully under His control! TALK ABOUT QUALITY PRAYER TIME!! So, let's pray . . .