By Dr. Donald E. Phillips
Do you have reason to live? A purpose which gives motivation to be and do something? As a hospice chaplain I encourage dying patients that every day of life, even dying days, last words, and final breaths, have purpose.
My mother’s final four words were, “You came back again,” indicating, though dying of a brain tumor and with eyes closed, she knew I had been with her.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, . . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
My youngest daughter, a very successful aerospace industry manager, finds purpose in living out the motivating principle: “Work like everything depends on you; pray like everything depends on God.”
Frederick Buechner said, “Go where your best prayers take you.” Through Christ, as sons and daughters in God’s family, instruments of his will, we will find that higher way when we pray with purpose.
Praying with Purpose Calls on God Urgently
David prayed urgently, “I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you” (Psalm 141:1). Whatever happened, David knew God was with him, was for him, and was hearing him.
Yet urgent prayers don’t have to only accompany emergencies. David’s urgent prayer didn’t stop with a request; it became worship. He continued, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (v. 2).
Whether calling out in crisis or for guidance or in praise of his grace, we can call on God with fervor.
Praying with Purpose Means Worshipping in Spirit and Truth
Christ worshipped God in various environments, public and private. Worship settings differ, but God still seeks worshippers everywhere.
In Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well he said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24).
Praying with purpose must lead to and from worship, with outflowing love in spirit and truth for God and others.
Praying with Purpose Links Us to God
We live in a universe with many forms of communication, connecting family, friends, and strangers, using magazines, books, cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, videos, radio, TV, digital music, satellite navigation systems, and so on. God built communicative power into us to create and send messages. We have increased that power in developing worldwide communication channels.
The God of all creation and source of all communication, the great Logos, the word made flesh, dwelt and dwells among us (John 1:1, 2). He welcomes us and responds when we call upon him.
Praying with Purpose Links Us to God’s Creation
Praying joins a great anthem and proclamation of God’s creative glory. What do we hear and see about God when we are open to it? To the animal world, seas, skies, rivers, sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, infinite distances of our universe and beyond? David wrote (Psalm 19:1-4):
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words:
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Praying with Purpose Calls Us to Seek and Believe
Tommy, a friend from a Christian family, doubted God’s existence. Discontented, he went to a wooded area and earnestly prayed, “God, IF you’re there, if you’re alive, show me, tell me.” He heard and saw nothing. Such an approach may not connect us with God as desired. Hebrews 11:3 states, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
Jesus responded to “doubting Thomas,” a disciple wanting to depend on physical above spiritual evidence. Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later Thomas saw Christ, who told him to put his hand in his side and “stop doubting and believe” (John 20:25-27).
God’s guideline is that we must come to him in faith.
Praying with Purpose Partners with Others
No one can work so hard and self-motivate so thoroughly that they don’t sometimes feel fatigue, disappointment, confusion, depression, or become overwhelmed by crises of health, finances, and relationships. Prayer partnerships help through intercession, encouragement, counseling, confession, and sharing.
Jesus said, “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:19, 20).
One of my most direct answers to prayer was when I was at home from university, needing a summer job badly. As I drove to a very dedicated prayer group meeting, I prayed alone in my car, telling God my need. Arriving at the prayer meeting, I knelt to pray.
A wonderful Christian prayer warrior who only slightly knew me, came over and said, “God is aware of your financial need about which you have spoken to him this evening.” She had no way to know what I prayed privately. I believe God spoke through her to reassure me. Soon I found a job that met my need.
Praying with Purpose Is Modeled by Jesus
When Jesus prayed what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” he gave us guidelines for transformative faith that changes our lives:
Our Father in Heaven—Get to know God by acknowledging him as our Father in Heaven. Jesus prayed to “our Father,” even as he was Lord of Heaven and earth.
Hallowed be your name—Honor his name. God is holy, so respect his name and call upon him with reverence and respect. Come into his holy presence.
Your kingdom come—God’s Word promises Jesus will come again. Jesus prayed for the coming kingdom. We should do likewise.
Your will be done—on earth as it is in Heaven. Whatever God wills, that is what we should seek.
Give us today our daily bread—God provides. We should not only go to him when we are in desperate need but every day of our lives.
Forgive us our debts—as we forgive our debtors. Forgiveness is imperative for all Christians.
Lead us not into temptation—but deliver us from the evil one. Active evil is a real struggle for believers. We wrestle against our human nature. We wrestle against spiritual forces. Praying for Christ’s deliverance is appropriate.
Praying with Purpose Is Possible Through Jesus
Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Jesus interceded for others while he was on earth and continues to do so in Heaven, at the right hand of God the Father. Praying with purpose brings us into spiritual unity with Jesus, our intercessor and complete Savior.
Dr. Donald E. Phillips is a freelance writer in Lawrence, Kansas.
Prayers of Confession
It’s easy to breeze through the confession of sin. We briefly tell God that, yes, we know we’re sinners. We thank him for his grace, tell him we want to do better, and then move on. But deep confession is a longer process, and it works powerfully to enrich our relationship with God.
Go through these steps one at a time. Invest deeply in each part, and allow the process to take the hours, days, weeks, or years it needs.
1. Pray that God reveals your sins to you—sins you are aware of and sins you may be ignoring.
2. Confess each sin to God and repent. Agree with God’s view of who you are—a person created in his image and loved by him—and then commit to turning from sin by God’s grace.
3. Believe that you have received God’s forgiveness. Identify the lies that keep you from believing, and target each lie through prayer.
4. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill the empty spaces left by sin. His power will protect and heal.
5. Depend on the Holy Spirit’s power as you move forward in obedience to God. Remember obedience is more an act of grace than an act of will.