Part II of examining our definition of prayer. Right theology unfolds the truth of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do. Have you considered the necessity of correct theology in growing in your relationship with God?
Wait a minute! Does God require us to get our theology cleaned up in order to pray? Absolutely not! If that were the case, no one would be heard when crying out for salvation. As a believer, within the household of God, if you want to grow in Christ and in grace, the Bible tells us that we must grow in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2). Spiritual couch potatoes do not grow; ignorance is not a fruit of the Spirit.
A question may be: How much do you want to grow in your relationship with God? or … How much do you want to grow in the area of prayer?
Everyone has a theology, even the self-proclaimed atheist as chosen a theology. Howbeit he is the god within that theology. Have you given thought to what and who has most influenced your theology? Have you given thought to what you believe and how biblically sound it is? What you believe molds more than religious views, it molds how you live and what you live for. To say that theology plays a critical role in your life would be a Grand Canyon size understatement. For instance, your values, morals, ethics, and for some people everything from their diets to their choice of personal attire are influenced by their theology.
Think about the choices that you have made, recently or over many years. What choices have you made that were influenced by your religious and/or moral beliefs? If your religious convictions and beliefs influence your so-called “secular” part of life, how much more are your spiritual exercises, such as prayer, worship, and charitable service, molded by our theological beliefs? Accepting the fact that you have a theology and that it plays a significant part in your everyday life is Step One. If your life is being guided and/or influenced in some degree by your theology—religious beliefs, then Step Two needs your attention. Step two is moving towards and acquiring a biblical theology. Let’s start that journey with a definition of Theology from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; the study of God and God’s relation to the world.”
That’s a plate full. The subject of prayer falls right in the middle of that definition. But since the Bible isn’t a dictionary, we’ll use a definition of prayer that is formed out of scripture and agrees with the whole subject of theology. We’ll use a simple yet thorough definition from the Puritan pastor, John Bunyan. It’s from his book A Discourse Touching Prayer. John Bunyan wrote this book in the year 1662 while imprisoned for preaching the Gospel and pastoring a non-government sanctioned church. In this book Bunyan breaks down the quintessential theological elements of prayer and takes us to the heart of the subject. If you are interested in a rich book on the subject of prayer, I recommend adding this to your library.
Under the chapter heading titled, What Prayer Is, Bunyan writes,
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.
In this description are these seven things. First, It is a sincere; Second, A sensible; Third, An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; Fourth, By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; Fifth, For such things as God hath promised, or, according to his word; Sixth, For the good of the church; Seventh, With submission in faith to the will of God.
Bunyan’s seven part definition puts the focus on God and His will. How does your view of prayer match up against Bunyan’s? Is your view of prayer more about you or is it focused on God?
In the Introduction of Bunyan’s book there’s a quote from Dr. Watt’s Guide to Prayer that reminds us of the glory and excitement of prayer. Consider this quote as icing on top of a mouth-watering dessert.
“It [prayer] is that language wherein a creature holds correspondence with his Creator; and wherein the soul of a saint gets near to God, is entertained with great delight, and, as it were, dwells with his heavenly Father.”
Point: When you pray, do you begin with God or self? Is there a consciousness that this is more than just about me and my wants? After reading Bunyan’s definition of prayer, would you rate your devotional time as “an affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God?”
Part III of this blog will focus on two theological words that will help us understand both the difference between and a dependence upon having a sound, biblical definition of prayer and a practical exercise of prayer.