Prayer is a serious business for in prayer we come before the King—we speak to God, commune with God, rely upon God. We submit our wills to God and entreat him for what he can grant, what he can provide, what he can accomplish. And though we come freely and confidently, we dare not approach disrespectfully. To guard against disrespect we should be willing and eager to be the means God uses to answer the prayers we have made, whenever that is possible. We should always be willing to labor not just in prayer, but to see our prayers answered.
God invites us to pray, directs us to pray, commands us to pray. He even assumes we will pray, for when his followers ask him for instruction, he prefaces his teaching with “when you pray,” not “if you pray.” The Bible assures us we have been given bold, confident access to God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Petitioning the King is one of the great privileges of his children, so that we can at any time draw near to God’s throne to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We can pray in all circumstances, for no condition is too dire. We can pray about all matters, for no petition is too small. We can pray alone or in a crowd, at great length or in a single sentence. We can pray while broken by sorrow or lifted by worship, while experiencing the depths or grief or the heights of joy. But whenever and however we pray, we must take care that we do not make light of so great a privilege.
With this in mind, we must ensure we never approach God disrespectfully or entreat him frivolously. God is not a genie who must grant our wishes once summoned, not a servant who must do our bidding once commanded. Prayer is not a kind of talisman we can invoke at a whim or a kind of totem to grant us supernatural powers. Rather, it is, most simply, appealing to God that his will would be done on earth even as it is already done in heaven.
One way to guard ourselves against flippancy is to ensure we do not pray any petition for which we are unwilling to act. True faith and true submission is not praying and wishing, not praying and hoping, not praying and sitting, but rather, praying and acting.