Jesus told us that we should “ask in My name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father Himself loves you dearly because you love Me and believe that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27). “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.” (John 15:16). To pray in Jesus’ name is more than just mentioning it at the beginning or end of a prayer. Praying in Jesus’ name means that we are praying with the same mind and spirit that Jesus prayed, while believing the promises that He gave us, and relying on His grace to obey His commandments.
God does not intend for any of us to become hermits or monks and withdraw from the world in order to devote ourselves entirely to worship. Our lives need to be like Christ’s life—with both times alone with God in nature and with times where we are interacting with others. Those who only pray will have one of two things happen: either they will give up on prayer, or their prayers will become a routine and become meaningless. When people neglect their social lives, and withdraw from sharing Jesus with others, they lose the reason that Jesus came, and without this reason, they lose all motivation for prayer and have no reason to continue learning. Their prayers end up becoming selfish and only about themselves. They lose the passion for helping the lost and for helping to strengthen Christ’s kingdom.
We end up losing in the end when we forget or avoid spending time with others. Together with other Christians, we can encourage and strengthen each other, and as a body, we can work together in helping others. Without community, the truth that God has shared in the Bible looses importance and clarity in our minds, and our hearts will slowly fade and our spiritual lives will slowly die. By staying connected with other Christians, we are able to sympathize with each other’s struggles, and with the challenges that the world faces. If we isolate ourselves from others, we are not fulfilling the instructions that Jesus gave to us to go into the world. He instructed us to “go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). By focusing on our social lives, and by staying connected to each other, we are better able to sympathize with others and the desire to serve and help others increases.
As Christians, we should associate together, sharing and reinforcing the messages of God’s love for us, and the truths about how Jesus has saved us. By doing this, we will renew our hearts, and we will strengthen and lift each other up. Also, by sharing with each other, we may continually be learning more about our heavenly Father, and by hearing each other’s experiences, we well gain a fuller understanding of God’s grace, which will encourage and uplift our hearts. If we focused more on Jesus and less on ourselves, we would stay in God’s presence longer.
If we thought about God as often as He has cared for us, our thoughts would never be on anything else. We talk about worldly, secular things because they interest us. We talk to our friends because we love them and we have shared experiences with them. However, we have a significantly greater reason to love God than to love our friends here on earth. It should be natural to us to place God first in our lives and in our thoughts, and to tell others about His amazing power and love for us. The blessings He has given to us should not blind us to the Gift-giver. Instead, they should consistently remind us of Him. We live our lives in the present, and while this is good, too often we miss the big picture of what God is doing for us. Instead, we should first look up and see what God is doing for us, place our focus on Him, and live our lives in His glory and in His presence. Jesus “is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25).
“Let them praise the Lord for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done for them.” (Psalm 107:8). When we pray and worship God, asking and receiving must not be the only focus. Instead of always thinking about our wants and needs, we must also remember and praise God for the blessings that we have already received. We cannot be praying too much when we are praying with a heart of gratefulness. Too often though, God sends us countless blessings, and we never thank Him for the gifts He has sent.
In ancient Israel, when they met together, God told them to “feast in the presence of the Lord your God, and you will rejoice in all you have accomplished because the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7). When we serve God, we should serve Him and others with happiness and a bright attitude, with praise and thankfulness, and not with a poor, depressed, or pessimistic attitude.
Our Father in heaven is tender, compassionate, and loving. Working alongside Him should never be viewed as stressful, dull, tedious, or boring, but instead should be satisfying for us. Having received the gift of salvation and the sacrifice that it cost God, we should never view God as a harsh or cruel dictator. Instead, God loves us and He wants to become our best friend. When we are with Him, we cannot help but worship Him. When we are in His presence, He loves to bless and comfort us, and He enjoys filling our lives and hearts with His love and joy. God wants us to see working alongside Him as a pleasure and an opportunity and not as a obligation or debt. He wants those of us who come and worship Him to be uplifted from His love, so they may be happy and fulfilled in all the other areas of their lives, and so they can go about their daily activities with God-given humility, honesty, and integrity.
We must focus on the cross. Focus on Christ and His sacrifice and think about, share, and celebrate what the event means to us. We must also keep all the gifts and blessings that God has given us, and remember the Gift-giver, and the great love that He has for us—love that took Him to the cross for us.
Our lives and hearts cannot come closer to heaven than using the wings of praise and gratitude. Worshipping God with songs and music, and giving thanks to Him is the worship that the angels give. “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me.” (Psalm 50:23). As we grow closer to Jesus, we remember and focus on the cross of Jesus, on the gifts that He has blessed us with, our Creator and Gift-giver, and on what an awesome and amazing opportunity God has given us with the blessing and privilege of prayer.
Next week, we will begin looking at doubt and doubt can slowly rob our faith in our second to last discussion in this big series called What to Do With Doubt.
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!