Devotional writer Oswald Chambers once said, “We are as close to God as we choose to be.” Most of us would probably agree with that statement, but it is the follow-up question that is perplexing. If we so choose, how do we get close to God?
Ask a hundred people that question, and you’d get a hundred answers. But is there a definitive answer? What does the Bible say?
I make no claims to being an expert on being close to God, but it is something that’s on my mind. While you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that I think true worship is part of the answer, the thing that is really important is prayer. In fact, the depth of our worship is a reflection of our closeness to God, which is shaped by the depth of our prayers.
Prayer is unique in the life of a Christ-follower. Most of us know about it, hear about it, read about it, and say it is a priority, but would also say that we don’t do it enough. And, if we were honest, we would admit that we have a hard time even doing it consistently at times. This is unfortunate because the Bible paints a very clear picture that prayer is vital to an effective and victorious Christian life.
Why is prayer so important? The best way to know, develop, and have a heart of God is to actually connect with the heart of God. It is possible to do this because of Christ and through Christ with confidence (Eph 3:12, Heb 4:16). Prayer isn’t about demanding that God do what we want Him to do, but connecting with God, expressing our hopes and fears to Him, confessing our ongoing struggles with sin, and conforming more to His purposes and will for our life (1 John 5:14-15).
Christian songwriter Steve Siler has said “There’s no greater act of worship than to open our hearts and invite the Lord to be present with us in our deepest pain, the most vulnerable parts of who we are.” Through prayer, this happens. Our lives become open and connected with God in a way that is unmatched. We see the examples of Jesus, of Peter and Paul, and of the early church in seeking God the Father and connecting with Him through prayer.
Prayer isn’t a magic formula or complex. Its worth isn’t determined by whether or not we use the “right” words. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does need to happen in our lives. It can take many forms, but it should happen in our lives in two main ways. We need to spend time daily praying personally to regularly connect with God and be open to His working in our lives. We also need to engage in times of prayer with others for encouragements and power. There is a strength and effectiveness in prayer that is multiplied as we pray together. And sometimes we are in times of such need that we just need someone to come alongside of us and pray for us.
Because prayer is important to the life and vitality of a church, that is why I try to incorporate prayer as part of each worship service I lead in many different ways. Perhaps your church offers a weekly prayer guide to assist you in praying. Or you could be a part of a prayer chain/network, or attend special prayer gatherings. They aren’t meant to be boring. If you’re a part of a small group, maybe you could lead your group in growing in this area.
I encourage you, as part of your journey with Christ, to take advantage of prayer opportunities. Prayer is not always an easy thing, but it is the most important thing. It allows us to draw close to God, to hear His voice, and to be continually transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (which sounds a bit like worship to me). It is a vital part of each person’s spiritual journey, and it is a key component to developing closeness with God.
How do you incorporate prayer into your journey?
For more on the connection between prayer and worship, check out Robert Webber’s article on “Worship as Prayer” at WorshipLeader.com