Not too long ago, I was sharing how a prayer had been answered and how much I valued the reality of prayer. Someone said, “Oh, you probably just do it yourself.”
Some think prayer is a spiritual exercise, a psychological shot in the arm like auto-suggestion, but that is not what God says. Meeting with Him puts me in touch with reality. What could be more real than God’s perspective, or more objective than what the Creator says about His creatures?
If I were talking to the air or to myself, then my words would be from within me, my ideas. However, God has shown me the ugly stuff that comes from within. He says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” (Colossians 3:5–9)
Prayer must have a different content and motivation than that old self. In fact, prayer’s main rule is to ask according to the will of God — and doing it myself is definitely not God’s will.
The best way to learn what and how to pray about comes from the Bible. It is God’s revelation of His will and clearly shows the difference between what He does and what I think I can do without Him.
In reading God’s Word, I can sense the mind of God. As a Christian, God even tells me, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Because my old mind is polluted, He is transforming it. Acceptable prayer never comes out by looking within or “doing it myself.” Instead, the Word of God says . . .
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)
Besides putting off the old self, I’m to “put on” the new life Jesus gives. This includes attitudes like humility, meekness, and patience. I’m also to let the peace of Christ rule my heart and “let the word of Christ dwell in (me) richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in (my) heart to God.” (Colossians 3:12–16)
For all this, the Word of God is indispensible. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) for it is the only way to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
I need God’s perspective when I approach Him in prayer. His Word offers me objective truth, even His very thoughts. He urges me beyond any form of “do it myself” — in how I live and even how I pray.
Through His Word and through talking it back to Him, prayer becomes an amazing connection with reality. In prayer, I am not doing anything but expressing total reliance on the God that can do “exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or even imagine!”