Prayer for Perfection

2 Corinthians 13:7

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.

The Christian life is full of paradoxes.  We are sinners but we are considered righteous in God’s eyes.  We are not under the law but this doesn’t mean that we should go on sinning.

Another paradox of the Christian life is that we are called to be holy but we will never be perfect while here on earth.  Still this shouldn’t stop us from striving for perfection.  We should never give up fighting temptation or throw up our hands in frustration when we fall into sin.

Whenever we face temptation or fall victim to it, we should try harder so that we’ll be able to stand against it the next time.  This battle does not begin with us however, it begins with God’s strength.

We should ask God for help in not doing anything wrong.  The Holy Spirit will prompt us by recalling what the Bible says about certain things.  He will act alongside of our conscience.

The help of God doesn’t guarantee our sinlessness however.  Unfortunately we ignore the pleas of the Holy Spirit and we willfully sin at times when we know we shouldn’t.  This is why we don’t reach perfection here on earth; it has nothing to do with God failing us.

Still, we keep striving for holiness and praying for God’s help.  The more we pray, the closer we will get, even if we will never fully attain it.

Not Knowing What to Pray

Romans 8:26

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

There are many times in life when we are so frustrated, overcome with grief, or even overjoyed that we don’t know exactly how to pray.  We don’t need to worry in these situations about finding the right words however.  All we need to do is cry out to God and He will hear us.

Often we try to make our prayers sound eloquent and spiritual.  We make sure to ask for the right things in the right manner.  We ask God for His will to be done.  There is nothing wrong with these things and we should ask for God’s will to be done.

But there are times when there are simply no words to adequately express how we feel.  Our emotions well up inside of us with feelings that are indescribable.  During these times we can do nothing more than cry out to God and trust Him to answer.

The Holy Spirit will intercede for us and interpret our prayers.  These are not times of spiritual weakness and we shouldn’t think of this as a bad thing when we don’t know what to pray for.  Instead, this is a time of physical weakness, mental weakness, or emotional weakness.  As in all other things, God helps us when we need Him most and call upon Him.

Asking in Prayer

Matthew 21:22

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

We should be quick to realize that God did not write us a blank check to get anything we want from Him.  If someone is not happy, healthy, and successful it does not necessarily mean that they don’t have enough faith.

God absolutely will answer prayers and give us what we ask for if we ask properly in faith.  However, what we ask must be in accordance with God’s will.

When we pray, we should always seek to ask for what God wants.  This means that our prayers will not be for selfish reasons.  We should not expect an answer from a selfish prayer.

There are other times when are prayers are not selfish but for the well being of others.  Ultimately we have no way of knowing whether these things are God’s will or not and so we should pray for God’s will to be done.

God may desire for someone to recover from an illness or he may have a greater purpose in allowing the sickness to remain.  It is by no means wrong to ask for healing for someone but we should always pray that God’s will would be done in the situation and not just what we would want.

When we pray for God’s will to be accomplished in any situation, we are guaranteed that God will accomplish His purposes in answer to our prayer.

Babbling Like Pagans

Matthew 6:7

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

In the last devotion we saw how the Pharisees liked to pray in public so that others would praise them for their great religiousness.  They also like to fill up their prayers with many words instead of just asking God for what they needed.

The example that Jesus gave us in the Lord’s Prayer is a short and simple prayer.  It is right to the point and it doesn’t waste words unnecessarily.

We also know that Jesus spent hours in prayer.  The time he spent in prayer was in private however and was not for show.  Not even His disciples were around for many of His prayers.

Jesus obviously didn’t spend His time babbling in prayer.  It was a precious time of communication with God the Father.

Just like there is nothing inherently wrong with public prayers, there is nothing wrong with long prayers.  The idea is that our prayers should not be for show.  We shouldn’t think that a long prayer is a better prayer.  A prayer may be long because there are a lot of things to pray for.  But a simple prayer can be just as effective.  See “The Quick Prayer” for a great example of how a short prayer is just as good as a long one.

Praying in Private

Matthew 6:6

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

You are likely to experience public prayer quite often.  Every week you hear it in your church services.  At mealtime you and your family may pray aloud.  Likewise, you may pray with your children or in a prayer group.  There is nothing wrong with public prayer.

The issue that Jesus dealt with was that the religious leaders boasted about their prayers.  They made loud and long prayers for show so that others would see how religious they were.

God knows and sees all that is done.  No one needs to make a public spectacle out of their prayers.  The Pharisees did what they did for show.  They were praying to God but their prayers were worthless because they were more interested in the praise and respect from men than they cared about God.

For this reason, Jesus urges private prayers.  These prayers are heartfelt because there is no one else there to witness them or judge them.  A person who prays in private does so only for God.  There is no show about it and neither the length of the prayer nor the words said are important when done privately.

There is nothing wrong with public prayer so long as it is not done for show.  Loud and lengthy prayers do not make a good prayer.  God responds to prayers from the heart.