Did you know that prayer brings about transformation?
Jesus said that when we pray, we are not to “heap up empty phrases” hoping that the more words we say the more likely God is to hear us. In fact, he stated that our Father in heaven knows exactly what we need, even before we ask him (Matthew 6:7-8). So why, then, do we need to pray? What is the point of going to God in prayer, if he already knows everything we need anyway?
Because prayer is not only about what we need. Prayer is about who God is, and who we are in our relationship with him. When we go to God in prayer, the time we spend in his presence begins to transform us into the women and men of God that he created us to be.
Jesus instructed his disciples, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money [mammon].
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:24-25).
He continued, reassuring his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (7:7-8).
As we can see, Jesus specifically taught that God has every intention of providing for all our earthly needs. God knows what we need, and he is our ultimate provider. What God most wants to give us is his fellowship, his companionship, and his presence. Whenever we go to God in prayer, we are deepening our relationship with him.
It is from within this deep fellowship with God that the answers to our prayers arise. Our Lord instructs us not to pray “with much speaking” as unbelievers do because those prayers are shallow. They do not spring from the well of an intimate relationship with our Creator.
Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness means that the first goal of our prayer life is to develop an intimate, ongoing relationship with God. Seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness means coming to understand his character. His character is righteousness. His character is goodness. His character is mercy. His character is grace. His character is love.
Righteousness, goodness, mercy, grace, and love are not something that we hope God demonstrates. God is the literal source of all these ideals. He is the font from whom all blessings flow. Without God, there would be no righteousness, goodness, mercy, grace, or love. They cannot exist without him, because these attributes are what the Triune God literally is, in himself.
God is First Cause: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Because God’s character is perfect, and through his perfection he is the Creator of all things, we can completely trust in his righteousness, goodness, grace, and love to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:6-7,19). Jesus’ brother James wrote that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God’s character is eternal, and it does not change (Hebrews 13:8). He is always righteous, loving, merciful, and good, and God wants to give his good and perfect gifts to his children.
Therefore when we go to God in prayer as his beloved children - bringing him all of our needs, our fears, and our praise - as we rest prayerfully in his presence he has already begun moving from the unseen to demonstrate the proof of his lovingkindness, his goodness, his grace, and his provision. As Jesus said, God already knows everything we need before we ask him. He said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). God wants to bless us because his blessings are the proof of his righteousness. God’s blessings always bring him glory!
When we are in the presence of God’s blessings, we are also in the presence of his glory. This is what Paul describes in his second letter to the church at Corinth:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end…But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this [transformation] comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
When we come to God in prayer, when we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness – and that means “when we seek to know his character” – we become saturated by his goodness, his love, and his glory. Being saturated by God’s presence transforms us – from glory to glory – as we become more like him. We become more loving, good, kind, and merciful through the presence of his Holy Spirit acting in us and through us.
God intends to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. And he wants us to come to him with all our cares and desires. In fact, Peter instructs us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). God wants us to cast ALL our cares on him, holding nothing back.
God asks us to do this so that we may come to know him – his kingdom and his righteousness. When we do this, we come to understand how the kingdom of God operates, and what God’s character is like. As we rest in him, he meets all our needs, transforming us into the people of God that he originally designed us to be.
As we are being transformed through the presence of God and his Spirit, then not only does God meet all our needs through Christ Jesus, he also forms us to become vessels that are fit for the Master’s use so that we in turn can be used by God to bless others. The more we trust God, the more God can bless us, and the more available we become to be a blessing.
As Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:5,7-9,11).
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.