Effective Prayer Requires a Relationship
- Thursday, August 04, 2005
Several years ago I read an interview of a Hollywood star whose acting work I respect. The interviewer, trying to get past the usual barrage of questions, asked her what she does when she is in an overwhelmingly frustrating situation. Her answer rings all too true: “I try to pray,” she said. Not, “I pray”; just “I try to.” Leaving open the question of whether or not she gets through to Heaven.
I don’t know whether this actress has a personal relationship with God. But I can’t help but wonder how many of us know we ought to communicate with God, we may even try to do it, yet we haven’t made the proper preparations for the journey—we haven’t established a relationship with Him.
It is, after all, rather audacious for one who doesn’t know God personally to reach a crisis and suddenly try to storm the doors of heaven with requests or demands. As strangers to Him, what right have we to make requests of Him? We can try to pray, but like this actress we will continue to be left wondering whether our prayers might get through.
The code to unlock the access portal of Heaven is the simple address that Jesus uses when beginning His prayer. Father. For, not only does He claim God as His Father, but He invites us to do the same. “When you pray,” He tells His followers, “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6a, emphasis mine). Even I—a flawed, puny human from the heavenly perspective—can call God Father, if He has adopted me into His family.
This adoption is free on our side, but it came at great cost to God the Father and His Son Jesus. The Apostle Paul explains, “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose … to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. … He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven” (Eph. 1:4-7, NLT).
Why did the purchase of our freedom—yours and mine—require the shedding of Jesus’ blood? Well, no matter how good we may think we have been, the Bible tells us that every one of us has sinned—has fallen short of God’s holy standard of utter perfection (Rom. 3:23). It matters not whether our sin is small or great in our own eyes, even one little transgression of His law is enough to disqualify us from access into God’s presence.
Yet, there was something God could do. He initiated a way—the only possible way—for us to be made spotless in His sight, but this required that someone without blemish or sin give up His life in our place. That someone was His only Son, Jesus, who laid down His own human life two thousand years ago, letting His lifeblood splatter down from a cross and puddle in the dust of a hill outside Jerusalem, taking the penalty for my sins and yours upon His perfectly sinless shoulders.
Jesus agonized over the burden of our sin, over all our pain, and especially over our distance from the God who loves us. He did this so we could be established with all the rights and privileges as sons and daughters of God. He bore our guilt, and now we can be free of it. And the amazing part is that all the pain was on His side; He made it so easy for us to be clean that it sometimes seems to our constricted minds that we must do something more to become worthy.
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