Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5: 1-2
Prayer is and can be many things to many people but at it’s most basic form, prayer is a conversation. It is a conversation between a person and their God. This is true of many religions in the world but it is particularly so for the Christian faith. However unlike many other world religions, for Christians prayer is neither initiated nor dictated by us, rather prayer for the christian is entering into a conversation that has already been started by God.
One of the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith is the belief in Revelation “The idea that God reveals and has revealed himself”. As Christians we believe that God has revealed himself through what he has created, theologians call this natural or general revelation and secondly Christians believe that God reveals himself through what he has spoken. Christians believe in a God who speaks and has spoken, theologians call this spiritual or special revelation. General revelation is the world that God has created and all that is in it, as well as all that is known and unknown in the visible universe. Special revelation therefore is what we have come to know as the Christian bible, both the Old and New Testament. In the bible the acts and nature of God are written for us in the Hebrew old testament and the Greek new testament which most people in the world receive through different language translations.
Through general revelation we come to know God as the creator, the creative power behind all that we see but it is through special revelation that we come to know God as a personal being, one who is not aloof and disinterested but one who is intimately involved in all aspects of his creation. We come to know him as a God who loves and cares for his creation but most importantly, we come to know him as the saviour of his creation especially its people.
Both general and special revelation are a conversation that God has initiated with his people and more so special revelation as it is through the scriptures that God reveals not only his works throughout history and looking towards the future but he also reveals his character so that we may know him. It is through the scriptures that God helps us know him as triune, God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. It is through the scriptures that God reveals himself as Love and displays many other attributes like grace and mercy but most importantly it is through the scriptures that we get to know him as God come in the flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the scriptures we get to know his work of redemption, saving mankind from sin and eternal death.
All this is to say that prayer amongst many other things is a response to what God has revealed about himself through his works and through his word. Prayer is not a one way monologue, where we dictate or give a list of wants to God. Although that has its place, but prayer primarily is acknowledging what God has said and what God has done and responding to that. As such prayer is just as much about listening as it is about speaking and some times to listen is better than to speak.
So if prayer is entering a conversation that God as already started, how should this then inform how we pray on a day to day basis? Well I’d like to suggest a few things;
- Firstly in response to general revelation and in accordance with Romans 1: 19-21 as well as Hebrews 11: 3; 6
Believe in the existence of God, honour him and be thankful and this requires humility and no presumptuousness on our part. If there is anything that we learn from creation, it is the absolute power and wisdom of God therefore our response ought to acknowledge this fact and therefore approach God accordingly.
2. In response to special revelation
Listen before you speak, this entails that your hear what the scripture have to say about God and his works before approaching him. This requires a sufficient knowledge of the scriptures as well meditation upon the scriptures so that our prayers are then shaped and informed by what God has revealed about himself.
This will help us saturate and ground our conversation and requests to God in the truth of the scriptures therefore conforming to the will of God.
So as I close I would ask you to think about it in this way. If prayer is a conversation that God has started and calls you to join in. As you begin to pray think about what God has said in his word, think about how that should shape your response and then respond in humble prayer to your God.