People will fall for most anything that they think will help them in the moment. The selling of snake oil in days gone by, the current weight-loss pills, the almost daily introduction of a new pain reliever, or depression destroyer, etc.--virtually anything promising to move me away from pain and toward pleasure.
These are the two motivations upon which all persuasion is built.
Christians and pre-Christians are no less gullible.
"Prayer Changes Things."
"God Answers Knee-mail."
"Seven Days Without Prayer Makes One Weak."
For the most part, we have developed an "emergency kit" mentality toward prayer. It is something we do as a last resort when things are going badly. As long as we can fix it ourselves, then why pray?
That is the way I was originally taught as a Catholic--"Don't bother God with the little stuff. Go to the saints." (I believe that attitude has since changed.)
Jesus taught differently both by precept and example. He gave a parable saying that, "...men ought always to pray and not to faint." (Luke 18:1) That is, pray always.
The Gospels record times when Jesus got up "A great while before day" to go somewhere to pray. He began His day with prayer.
The Bible teaches elsewhere that we are to "Pray without ceasing." (1Thess. 5:17)
At what point can we stop praying yet continue without ceasing?
The psalmist says in Ps. 55:17 "Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice." That speaks to me of persistence.
Jacob, when wrestling with the angel, said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." (Gen 32:26b) Persistence.
We have gotten to the place where prayer is mostly petitionary. The only thing we hear in public prayer are "requests." In fact, we can hardly go to a meeting without someone making a "prayer request."
Of course, this is testimony to the Christian's belief in the power of prayer. There is power in prayer. Do not think that I am saying there isn't.
I also am aware that familiarity breeds contempt.
A standard evangelical Sunday worship service will have opening prayer, prayer for the offering, prayer requests, prayer before the preaching, invitational prayer, and closing prayer. They usually differ only in who offers them and the specific request/event of the moment.
I must confess a certain contempt for this procedure.
(Maybe I'm like a friend who asks the blessing on his groceries as he brings them into his house. Then he's done--food is blessed.)
Keith Green put a handle on a true prayer life when he penned this song:
Make My Life a Prayer to You
"Pray" is one of those words. Shakespeare uses the word 92 times in the form of "please" while addressing another character (other than God.) It was a common form of speech when the KJV was written. (The more archaic form of "prithee" is used 228 times by Shakespeare.)
We no longer "pray" one another. We pray to God.
The English language once again limits our understanding.
The Greek words for "prayer" bear out this distinction.
There are only two of any significance, the third being used only twice.
One is δέησις (deesis), and the other is προσευχή (proseuche).
The first is used only 19 times, and is always used for imploring aid from God. In classical Greek, it is also used when making request of a human individual.
The second is used 37 times (almost twice the number). It is used in reference as "devotion to God," and never in reference to another human being.
Yes. God answers prayer.
But, we will have more effectual prayer if we spend twice as much time in devotion as we do in making petition.
Prayer is not something we pull out of our emergency kit when something needs to be fixed. Prayer is something that we should be about all the time, in everything we do. It should be the methodology, the modus operandi, of our walk with God.
Comments, questions, and/or criticisms are welcome here.