Last night my son Josiah was very chatty. He's eight months old, and joyfully discovering his voice. When he has these moments of exploring new sounds, my wife and I are filled with joy and immediately reach for our phones to capture it on video. We truly are millennial parents!
Josiah's vocal discovery last night resulted in what we are claiming as his first proper word. In amongst the gurgles and giggles there came a pause, followed by one word, which I thought sounded a bit like an attempt at 'addendum', but my wife was pretty sure was 'dada'.
If you're a parent, you'll know that there's nothing that compares to hearing your child trying to speak to you. Every little sound they make brings joy to your heart. After Josiah had gone to bed, we replayed the video again and again. We sent it to his grandparents on our family WhatsApp group. We celebrated the moment, because it was precious.
God loves to hear his children talking to him. We call this prayer. Somewhere along the way, we've come to see prayer not as children talking to an adoring father, but as something we 'have' to do because we're Christians. We've lost something. Allow me to suggest three reasons why prayer is more than a chore.
1. We have access to Father God
This first reason is really building on what I've already said, because it's so important that we catch this. God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He holds all things together by his mighty hand. He rules over the whole universe, and he is our father. It can be so easy to only see God as the mighty king, and forget that he is also father.
The closest I've ever come to speaking to royalty was when I was in Windsor one day and caught a one-second glimpse of the Queen as she drove past. You and I do not have access to speak to members of the royal family, and if we did, we'd probably have no idea what to say or what would be the appropriate way to address them. God is king, but because he is also father, we have access to speak to him.
'The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth' (Psalm 145:18).
God is not distant; in fact, he desires for us to connect with him. When my son speaks, I have no idea what he's trying to say but I hang on his every word. Father God knows exactly what you are trying to say, even when you don't, and he is far more invested in what you have to say than any earthly father is in his children.
2. We can hear from God
You've probably heard it said that prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. I know from my own experience that when I've struggled most with prayer it's been at least in part because I've been worried about running out of things to say. Perhaps you've been there as well; you set aside half an hour to pray, but after five minutes you've forgotten how to say words.
We need to learn to listen to God. Jesus said, 'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me' (John 10:27). Recently, one of my colleagues gave an excellent analogy. He had an old transistor radio and he said that the room we were in was full of radio waves. They are always around us, but we cannot perceive them unless we tune into the signal. He then turned the dial, and as he did so what started off as static eventually gained clarity and became a beautiful piece of music.
God is always speaking to us, but are we listening?
3. We can change the world
This one might stretch you a little bit. What if your prayers had the power to affect the change you want to see in the world? That'd be great, right? The good news is, they do!
Joseph prayed and God gave him the interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams, and a position of authority to shape the culture of a nation. Hannah prayed and God gave her a son who grew up to lead a nation. Elijah prayed and there was no rain for three years; he prayed again and it rained. Esther prayed, and changed the will of the most powerful man in the world to save her people. Daniel prayed and God shut the mouths of lions. Nehemiah prayed and God gave him a vision for a restored Jerusalem, and the means to see it done. Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed and God gave them a son who prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus prayed, and God established the church.
'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land' (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Our prayers are powerful and can change the world. We pray, 'Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.' That is God's purpose – to bring about his Kingdom rule and reign here on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you"' (Matthew 17:20).
What about you? Do you struggle with prayer? Are you prepared to give it a try with fresh perspective today, so that you can connect with Father God, hear from him and change your world?
Rev Jack Skett is associate pastor at Elim Church, Selly Oak. He is the author of 'A Better Kind of Intimacy: The Price of Porn and How to Overcome it', published by Instant Apostle. He also blogs on his website, jackskett.co.uk