A Better Way to Pray
by Jack Klumpenhower
Are you like me? When I have a problem, I know I should pray. But one of two things usually happens:
1. I don’t pray at all. Call that unbelief.
2. I try to pray just right so God will solve my problem. Call that religion.
Neither seems right, does it? There must be another approach, better than unbelief and bigger than mere religion.
I can learn from a problem Moses once had. The Israelites were attacked and fought back. Moses and two helpers climbed a hill overlooking the battlefield, and Moses raised his staff in prayer.
As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. (Exodus 17:11,12, NLT)
Unbelief reads this story and says, “That’s silly! Battles aren’t won because some guy holds up a stick.” Unbelief ignores the invisible power of God. It only trusts what it can see or do for itself.
When I don’t think to pray because I’m working on my own solution to my problems, that’s unbelief. When I think my problems are too big for anyone to fix, that’s unbelief too.
Religion reads the story and says, “Aha! Moses found the right formula to get God’s attention. If only I could too!” Religion believes God helps those who figure out the right way to please him.
When I try to pray longer or better or with the perfect partners, secretly hoping one of these factors will be the hook that gets God on my side, that’s religion. Religion looks more godly than unbelief, but it’s really still about how I can control my own life.
The better approach
I find it hard to avoid unbelief and empty religion. But I think Moses did find a better approach. By raising his staff, he and the guys on that hill declared their trust in the invisible God, and were desperate to keep doing so, even if it meant looking silly. That’s the heart of godly prayer. It’s both gutsy and trusting, and never self-conscious.
Such guile-free prayer is possible only because Jesus, like Moses, climbed a hill and stretched out his hands and stood between God and his people. His sacrifice purifies my prayers and yours. Even tainted with unbelief or selfishness, our prayers rise sweetly to God through the blood of Jesus.
That’s the Jesus approach—prayer that shamelessly claims the Father’s attention, loves to trust his goodness, and owes it all to the up-reaching arms of our Savior.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.