Communicating with the God of the Universe in prayer is a fascinating endeavor. Questions like why, when and how we pray are massively consequential, and there’s more to read and research on these topics than can be quantified. Yet before we begin to wrestle with the practicalities of prayer, I believe we must first have a biblical understanding of who we are and who God is.
If we do the hard work of answering those two questions first, then the why, when and how of prayer begin to come into focus. Here is a very brief attempt.
Who am I?
This question is so intriguing because even for the non- or post-Christian, we have an agreed upon understanding of the finite nature of humanity. In other words, we all agree that both human beings and the earth on which we live are in a state of decay. Some disorder or disfunction is at work. There is no reliable scientific method that would dispute this.
How we ended up in this state of decay is up for debate, however. For Christians, we believe God created the earth and its inhabitants perfectly. When sin entered the world through Adam, chaos, disorder and decay were unleashed—not by an unloving God, but by sinful man. Without exception, humanity is fallen and just a shadow of what it was created to be.
Who is God?
Imagine you’re a child of the great Italian artist and car builder, Enzo Ferrari, and the famous maker graciously decides to build you one of his works of art, by hand. To do this, he uses proprietary methods of construction that only he knows and understands. He spares nothing in the design, fabrication and build quality of the car. When it’s finished, you become the proud owner of an absolute masterpiece. There is zero debate that the car is so beautiful, that it can only be the work of the master artisan himself. His signature workmanship is all over it.
But then, the unthinkable. Failing to follow the instructions your father gave about the vehicle’s limitations, you carelessly drive the car off the road, damaging it both aesthetically and functionally.
Now, only a fool would consider repairing the priceless automobile on his/her own. Instead, restoration must first begin with a conversation with the maker.
Such is the believer’s relationship with God through prayer.
We are so fearfully and wonderfully made that we can only be the work of The Maker (Psalm 139). Creation is so impossibly diverse and beautiful that it can only be attributed to The Creator (Job 38-40). Our names are written so graciously in His book that it can only be the penmanship of The Author (Hebrews 12).
The restoration, repair and forgiveness we so desperately need starts with a conversation with our gracious Father through prayer. It starts with a heart that confesses its wrong, turns from its foolish ways and trusts that the work of restoration has been both completed at the cross and is underway as the Spirit conforms us more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
Knowing who we are—in light of who our Father is—changes the way we pray.