Why Prayer is Life-Changing

Prayer is one topic Christians like to discuss but struggle to practice. We throw around phrases like “I’ll be praying for you” or “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” without ever putting in the time.

Why Prayer is Life-Changing

Matthew 6:9-15

Today's Scripture Passage

A Few Thoughts to Consider

If you were close to death and thus close to meeting God, what would be the greatest regret you might have?

Several years ago, one of my professors in college nearly died. As he lay in the hospital, his life flashed before him, and there was one regret that rose to the surface. And this regret prompted him to tell God, “If you help me recover, I will spend more time with you.”

In his wonderful book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul Miller writes,

If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray. Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something “productive.” So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God.[1]

Prayer is one topic Christians like to discuss but struggle to practice. We throw around phrases like “I’ll be praying for you” or “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” without ever putting in the time. But as author Daniel Henderson says, “What you are on your knees is what you are.” I’ve often thought about this statement, and it takes me back to Jesus’ familiar words in Matthew 6:

“Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
14 “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

Notice the pattern. Praise, Release, Ask, and Yield. Praise: “Your name be honored as holy.” Release: “Your kingdom come.” Ask: “Give us today our daily bread.” Yield: “Your will be done.” These four pillars should form the foundation of our prayers to God.

A Meditation to PRAY

Let’s walk through this four-step pattern by looking at this passage. In this section, I’ll show you how to pray this prayer, but in the remaining days of this devotional, I will make it first person.

Praise | “Your name be honored as holy.” To honor God’s name as holy is to distinguish it from everything else. This means your time with him isn’t just some ritual you check off your list. Instead, it’s intentionally elevating his name above everything you count significant. Andrew Murray says, “Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!” So praise God today that he transcends your thoughts, needs, desires, and ambitions. Nothing rivals his goodness.

Release | “Your kingdom come.” In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard writes, “So when Jesus directs us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ he does not mean we should pray for it to come into existence. Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded: ‘On earth as it is in heaven.’ With this prayer we are invoking it, as in faith we are acting it, into the real world of our daily existence.”[2] Ask yourself, are there any areas in my life where Christ is excluded? If so, what would it look like to invite God’s kingdom, along with his values and ideals, to transform this part of your life?

Ask | “Give us today our daily bread.” What do you need from God today? This request symbolizes trust in God as the ultimate provider and a reminder of our reliance on him for sustenance. It goes beyond just asking for physical nourishment. It’s a call to acknowledge our dependence on God for all aspects of our lives. It also conveys a sense of humility and a recognition that while we work and make efforts to meet our needs, it is God's grace that sustains us, reinforcing the spiritual principle of seeking the kingdom of God above all else.

Yield | “Your will be done.” Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was transformative when he prayed in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” You know what you want today, and God knows what you want. But the secret to living the conformed life is to trust God to shape our desires to match his.

A Challenge to Act Like Christ  

A prayer Dr. Brian Russell likes to pray when he reads the Bible is, “Lord, astonish me anew.”[3] Many Christians struggle to have a strong prayer life. If that is your story, embrace this PRAY pattern and ask God to astonish you anew.

Daniel Henderson says, "Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.” If this is true, the reverse is also true. When we pray, we acknowledge our full reliance on God for everything, just as Jesus did.

[1] Miller, Paul E.. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (p. 37). The Navigators. Kindle Edition.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. HarperCollins, 2009. 34.

[3] Brian Russell, Astonished By the Word, 22

Discussion Question | If there is one way you could see your prayer life transformed this coming year, what would that be?

*Unless you specify otherwise, comments and questions you ask may be featured in upcoming podcast episodes.