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Tara-Leigh Cobble: What’s the Point of Prayer?

Tara-Leigh Cobble: What’s the Point of Prayer?

You know you’re supposed to pray. You probably even know how to pray. But do you really understand why we pray?

Prayer often remains mysterious to us even as we engage in it. Sometimes we let that mystery intimidate us and keep us from communicating with the Father. Emilie Griffin astutely sums up our hesitation in this way:

“We may have built walls against prayer, against the presence of God, because of things He has not given us, things we thought we deserved. We may be blind to the blessings He has given us and think only of those things He has withheld. We may be refusing to enter into any mentality that accepts loss and defeat as trials given for our growth and perfection. We may be refusing to pray because we don’t intend for God to have it His way.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Take this as your opportunity to lean in — don’t let what you don’t yet know stop you. In fact, the impulse to pray comes to us from God Himself; He is relational, and He communicates within Himself and with us.

Scripture encourages us with reminders that our God is both attentive and generous. He invites us to ask and reminds us that He is in the business of meeting all our needs (John 16:23–24; James 4:2).

Our God is eager to give! It’s His nature. And He can only give what is good and best. Even in the difficult things that come our way, the eternal reality is that our Father can be trusted. And our trust in Him can coexist with any pain, sadness, or anger we may feel in our current circumstances. He aches with us. Knowing that it’s not in our good Father’s nature to give bad gifts, we can pray and ask while we ache and wait.

It’s challenging to understand why God might tell His children “no” or “wait” when they ask for something. There is no easy remedy for the pain this can bring to our relationship with Him. No single answer can explain His reasoning because it is often beyond our understanding. Efforts to make sense of His ways can ring hollow or lack compassion. Still, trusting Him in those dark times of denial and waiting can bring an intimacy with Him that comforts us — an intimacy we can’t experience any other way.

Every time we come before God, humble ourselves in His presence, and ask Him to meet our needs, it shows we acknowledge Him as the source of all things. When we pray, we declare our faith in His character and His ways. But we must be careful to remember that this is our faith in Him, not faith in our faith or faith in our actions. I can’t believe something hard enough to make it happen, and I can’t force His hand through my obedience. He’s not indebted to me, and He doesn’t owe me a yes. It’s easy to assume that if we want something and it’s not sinful, then it is good, and we deserve it.

The Joy of Trinity by Tara-Leigh Cobble

But God’s plan involves giving us more than just what we perceive as good—He’s determined to give us what is best in the scope of eternity, and that’s something we don’t have the wisdom to perceive!

This is why we want God to say no to us at times. We can’t even begin to conceive the things He has in store for us! Our plans are far too small and temporary. His plans to bless us exceed our ability to imagine. Surely you’ve begged God for something you later thanked Him for saying no to. I know I have. His no is always for the greatest good, and as we’ve noted before, because we aren’t eternal like He is, we don’t have eyes to see what He sees.

Though we’ve explored this earlier, it bears repeating: even Jesus, being fully God and fully man, had human longings that the Father said no to. In Luke 22:42, on the night before Jesus died, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And in knowing what the eternal plan was, Jesus’s human nature submitted to the Father’s will. Again, our humanity must do likewise.

How do we make sure we’re yielded to God in prayer and that we’re not trying to take over for Him? We need the Spirit’s help. Paul told us that we should pray “at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). What does that mean? When quoting Meyer’s Commentary, John Piper described it like this: praying in the Spirit is praying in such a way so “that the Holy Spirit is the moving and guiding power” of the prayer. In other words, we are actively engaging with Him as we pray, decidedly yielding to His guidance, not autonomously praying out of our own desires and experiences.

Draw near to Him in prayer today. He will meet you there — in your longings, confusion, sin, and gratitude — and He will be the loving Father you need in all those categories. He’s where the joy is!

Excerpted with permission from The Joy of the Trinity by Tara-Leigh Cobble. Copyright 2024, B&H Publishing.

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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