One of my favorite authors, Ellen G. White, wrote a single sentence that encapsulates most everything there is to know about the act of praying to the God of heaven. She wrote:
“Prayer is the secret of spiritual power.”
She also wrote in Steps to Christ, a 126 page book that ranks in the top twenty best-selling books of all time, the following paragraph that describes the type of relationship that God desires to have with each one of us:
“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.’ James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for him to bear, for He holds up the worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity to difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.”
Joseph Scriven wrote a poem in 1855 that would become one of the best known hymns of all time. The timeless poem tells us of the wonderful friendship that we may find in Jesus Christ: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. ”
The longest book in the Old and New Testament is the book of Psalms which is a book of prayer and praise to the God of the Universe. The middle chapter of the Bible, also the shortest chapter in Holy Scripture, is Psalms 117—that serves as a reminder that prayer should always be the center of our relationship to God.
Jesus said many things about prayer during his earthly ministry. One of the first things that He taught about praying was that God is aware of our needs and is willing to provide good things for those who ask Him (Matthew 6:32; 7:7-11). He also tells us of our need for prayer as protection against evil (Matthew 17:21).
The only time in scripture it is recorded that Jesus ever got violent is when He threw over the tables and chairs of the merchants selling doves in the Temple of God while he screamed, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). This is a warning to all who see church as a place of business instead of a place where even the poorest may feel welcome to worship God.
Jesus also gave an example of how we should pray. By following the example of the Lord’s prayer we ought to pray that God’s will be done in our lives, that He will provide for our daily needs, that He will forgive us our sins, and that He will deliver us from evil.
Jesus taught that God already knows what we need and there is no mystical value in chanting the same prayer numerous times to win favor with the Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:7-8). However, He was adamant that we should continue praying even during times when it seems like God isn’t going to provide us what we are asking. There may be many reasons that God might delay an answer to a specific request. Our prayers may be what God needs to make us ready to receive a special blessing: “And he spake unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not faint” (Luke 18:1).
Jesus himself spent entire nights in prayer to the Heavenly Father (Luke 6:12), and if He needed prayer to maintain His spiritual strength then how much more prayer do we need to maintain our spiritual life?
It is important to remember that God hears our prayers because of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. When we pray “in Jesus name” it is a reminder that God sent His beloved Son to die for our sins and to restore the fellowship that was lost because of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Jesus commanded his disciples to pray in His name so they might receive the full blessings of prayer: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive that your joy may be full” ~John 16:24