Recently, the church I attend concluded a summer sermon series on prayer that encouraged my prayer life. Now that the series has been finished for a few weeks, I thought it might be useful to jot a brief reflection on several of the key points that stuck with me throughout this series.

1. Relationship

I was reminded that in the bigger picture prayer exists in the service of relationship with God and not mainly as a place to drop off my ultimate “fix-it” list. Nor is prayer designed to be like the “suggestion box” at the local eatery in which we might provide “feedback” to God about all the ways he could go about improving the performance of his “business.” Rather, one of the major effects of our drawing near to God in faithful and dependent prayer is growth in personal relationship with God.

This is a tremendous gift, because when it comes down to it, restored relationship with God is the greatest need that sinners have. More than anything else, then, we need to learn to want God himself – more so even than the particular answers to our laundry list of prayer requests.

Indeed, how helpful would it prove to our prayer lives if we regularly approached God in prayer in conscious recognition of the fact that it was Jesus’ own self-sacrifice that opened up the way of personal communion with God to us?

2. Revelation

Do you ever feel like your prayers are on autopilot because you don’t really know what to pray? I do. Consequently, I found it uplifting to be reminded to pray with the grain of special revelation in Scripture. In other words, prayer and Scripture meditation aren’t isolated, discrete activities. Rather, they are intertwined. We should read the Scriptures prayerfully, and pray scripturally. We don’t always know what God’s particular designs are in any given set of contemporary circumstances, but when we pray with the grain of Scripture, God is disclosing the most important part of his aims to us. Praying along this grain bolsters confident prayer. And it will lead us to pray not just for the overcoming of physical ailments (which are certainly worthy of our prayers), but also for things like growth in personal holiness, expanded love of the “law of the Lord,” and an increased burden for the magnification of God’s name among the nations.

3. Reliance

I was also encouraged by the instruction that prayer is a matter of dependence. It is wonderfully humility inducing. Maybe that’s why many of us are bad at it!! In this respect, prayer serves as a perpetual reminder that we are not self-sufficient and that we need to take all of our burdens, cares, concerns before the one who is. In prayer, I’m not attempting to bend God to my will, but to have him bend me toward him.

4. Remembrance

Finally, I was reminded that our prayers can also be bolstered by the remembrances of God’s past faithfulness, both in Scripture and in our own experience. We can cry out to God with confidence in our present need, not because he’s obligated to answer in the way or the timing that we deem best, but because of his past faithfulness. To be sure, many of those past faithfulnesses were mysterious and unexpected and not according to our designs, but in retrospect we can see clearly the superior wisdom of God’s designs. Such remembrance can help us rely on God in prayer while we wait on him in the present.

We have some family friends who capitalize on this concept nicely. In their home, they’ve set up a “Great is Thy Faithfulness” wall with two different displays on it. On one display, they use index-sized cards to post current matters of prayer concern to their family. On the other, they place cards of past prayer requests that are also marked with God’s answers to those prayers. Whenever they experience an answer to one of their current prayer requests, they move that card to the “answered” board as a sort of their own version of a “stone of remembrance.” It serves as a regular visual reminder to them of the Lord’s faithfulness, and it also serves as a great discipleship tool for their kids in the school of prayer.

Well, that’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but those are a few of the items that stand out as encouragements to my prayer life as I look back over this recent series. What other facets of prayer would you point out that have been edifying to you?