I can think of about seven billion people who would want to talk with God if He appeared and offered private audiences. Let me rephrase that… “talk at God.” Humans have much curiosity and little patience. God knows we’re looking to answer the life-scope questions of our existence, such as, “Why is there evil?” or “How should I live?” God understands we’re planted in an environment in which faith either grows or dies but never remains the same. He knows because He’s the one who planted us in this garden of uncertainty.
In reality, prayer is the way we speak with God. It is, at its core, an act of faith. God hasn’t offered seven billion people a face to face audience. “Why doesn’t God make Himself easier to find?” In truth, He couldn’t have made it any easier. Through Jesus, absolutely anyone can open a spiritual conversation with God by faith. Anywhere. Anytime.
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT).
“So how, in fact, do we pray?” The Bible shares many instructions about prayer. It would be easy to rush on and recite “how-to” recipes for our supplications. However, the more important question is, “Why do we pray?” The answer is, “Prayer is a humble conversation that starts in faith and builds a relationship of trust with God.”
We’d all like to know how to pray the “big” prayers. You know… big, public prayers that call down fire, raise the dead, or cure cancer. On a less dramatic scale, big prayers are offered at public invocations or private prayer breakfasts. We may hear them in the eloquent words from behind a lectern, (while the organ plays softly). In fact, public prayers are one of the most dangerous types of petitions a person can make. Why are they dangerous? Self-righteousness is a trap lying in wait for even the best-intentioned leader. More than that, God will never divide glory with men as if it were occupancy in a vacation timeshare. Big Prayers aren’t impossible; they’re just very, very difficult. Jesus cautioned His followers,
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5 NASB).
What Are Small Prayers?
I use the term, “small prayers,” to describe moment by moment exchanges with God. Rather than “Thee’s” and “Thou’s,” small prayers sound more like a discussion with an old and dear friend.
“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:6-8 NLT).
We ask, and we listen. We talk with God at every available opportunity in our days. We believe He hears us. We listen for His response. Prayer becomes an ongoing dialogue, not a temptation for showmanship. The nineteenth-century evangelist, Andrew Murray said,
“Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God’s voice is its most essential part. Listening to God’s voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine.”
Small Prayers for Big Things
I’ve never been one to stress the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some of the most powerful spiritual conversions I’ve ever known occurred without a church altar. I believe it is the small, earnest prayers of an individual turning to God that set a course for a warm and rich eternal relationship.
The movie, “Unbroken,” tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympian, and WWII airman. Miraculously spared when his bomber crashed, he survived 47 days in a life raft in the Pacific Ocean. Dehydrated and starving, “Louie” talked with God. He promised that if God spared his life, he would serve God forever. Zamperini endured horrific experiences in POW camps to return home after two years in captivity. Attending a Billy Graham meeting following the war, Louie recognized the hand of God in his life and professed faith in Christ. He filled the remaining time of his 97 years on this earth with testimony and praise for God. He traveled to Japan and personally forgave his captors. Small Prayers. Big Things.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).