Prayer has a variety of meanings to different people. In fact, the word has become a “short-cut” for many. Rather than stating the purpose of prayer, they simply ask individuals to pray about something or just tell God they are praying for someone in a given situation.
Some believe prayer is a way to get God to act. While acknowledging this may be a true motive, God doesn’t need us to pray to have Him act. Actually, God doesn’t really need our prayers at all.
In reality, prayer is for us. It is to be communication between the one praying and God. No one should take this communication lightly, but sincere people … strong Christians are getting it wrong.
Prayer can easily be separated into communication aloud (most often in public) and in silence (private prayer). Public prayer can be a powerful tool in bringing people together for a common cause. So mighty is public prayer, Jesus taught when two or three gather in His name, God will answer their requests (Matt 18: 18-20).
The truth most people fail to grasp (which can radically change their prayer life) is the subtle variance demonstrated by what Jesus stated during His ministry and what Jesus told His disciples before He was crucified.
During Jesus’ ministry, a Pharisee lawyer asked Him which of God’s commandments was the most important.
And one of their number, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important – the principal kind – in the Law? And He (Jesus) replied to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:35-39 (Amp Bible).
Here Jesus points out to the lawyer; the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In contrast, during Jesus’ last Passover meal, he told His disciples;
“This is what I command you, that you love one another …” John 13: 34 (Amplified Bible).
This commandment is the only one Jesus gave His disciples. He provided multiple commands, instructions, and directives, but only this commandment. And, He was very serious about them understanding it, for He repeated it in John 15:12 and John 15:17.
The question is why didn’t Jesus preface His commandment with they should love God with all their heart, soul, and mind? He intentionally did not for the following reason. Going back to Jesus’ answer to the lawyer, He added the fact His answer depended upon the Law.
“These two commandments sum up and upon them depends all the Law and the prophets.” Matt 22:40 (Amp Bible).
The Law is from the “Old Covenant”. However, at The Last Supper, Jesus began a new covenant.
Then He took a loaf of bread and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me”. And in like manner He took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant ratified in My blood which is shed (poured out) for you.” (Luke 22:19-20 Amp Bible).
This “New Covenant” is hallmarked by the receipt of the Holy Spirit into the believer’s born-again spirit. Jesus considered the gift of the Holy Spirit a BIG deal. He delineates what the Spirit means to believers in John 14: 17-18, John 14: 26, John 15:26, and John 16: 7-11, 13-15.
The result of our receiving the Holy Spirit is profound. If God is inside us through the Holy Spirit, then when we obey Jesus’ commandment (that is when we love one) we love ourselves and God (with all our heart and our soul). When we love another, we love others and God who is in them. Therefore, Jesus did not need to include the explicit requirement of loving God, for it is automatically included in His new covenant commandment.
Compare the Old Covenant prayer methods with the New Covenant way. Those who have missed the change from the Law will likely still look to a God that is “far” off. They will hold their hands toward heaven, bow on an altar, and wait to be in a religious setting (such as a church) to offer their requests and thanks to God.
Believers, on the other hand, who see the difference brought about by the new covenant, don’t need to do those external things (although there is merit on some occasions). They don’t need to even say anything out loud when talking to God. He is right there in a newly born spirit and mind. One merely needs to speak to Him directly … inside our heads.
We might even reword the Lord’s Prayer as a New Covenant one:
My Father who is in my mind and spirit, I hallow your Name. Your kingdom has come, Your will is being done on earth as I know it is in Heaven. Give me this day all my necessities and help me forgive those who have trespassed against me as You have forgiven all my sins. Your Spirit will not lead me into temptations and You have delivered me from the evil one.
A final word of caution about realizing God is in us. He never leaves or allows us to go anywhere without Him. He knows every thought we have. He knows when we are living for Him or living in sin; when we are prideful and when we are humble. He knows when we do things for right motives or wrong ones. God is all-knowing and we are totally exposed to Him. Therefore … what should our actions show?