The Nature of Prayer (1): Asking
As Christians, we know that prayer is essential to our spiritual life and well-being. But what is prayer? I would suggest that it is three things activities which interpenetrate each other. The first (which we will look at to-day) and probably most elemental form of prayer is “asking.” Need awakens within us the desire to reach out to someone. When we have a need – particularly one which we cannot deal with by ourselves- we reach beyond ourselves and ask for help. This is the beginning of a prayer life. Sometimes one is made to feel inferior with type of prayer. But Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we need to ask. The Letter of James explains: ‘You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Jesus, on the Sermon on the Mount tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt 7:7).
But there is a dynamic in this process of asking which is often overlooked. Prayer is not like going to the candy store and asking for some goodies and then automatically receiving them. “Asking prayer” – whether we know it or not- begins a process of dialogue between us and God. We enter into a relationship with God on this one issue. We are taking God at His Word and trust that He cares for us. But as we keep asking, something happens. We begin to change. We rarely see things from the wider perspective. In earnest prayer, we begin to see things increasingly more from God’s perspective. We actually begin to pick up God’s mind about things (see Phil 2:5). Over time, our desires come more into line with God’s perfect will for us and we often change what we initially were asking for. God does answer prayer but first He needs to align our minds and hearts with His perfect will, making them one, so that whatever He gives to us will always be for our good.