Stop Praying for Stuff (and Start Praying for God)

David Platt:

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–13Luke 11:2–4), Jesus teaches his disciples about the priorities that should shape the prayer life of every believer. This model prayer is full of requests—for daily bread, forgiveness, leadership, and deliverance. But it also shows that our greatest need is not just to get stuff from God. Our greatest need is to know God himself.

Our Misguided Prayers for Stuff

We’ve all prayed for important things in the past and found our prayers weren’t answered; God didn’t do what we thought he should. When we view prayer as nothing more than a request and don’t receive what we ask for, we often start to doubt. We wonder why we should even bother praying in the first place.

Even though the questions are honest, this kind of thinking misses the whole point of prayer. The point of prayer is not just getting God to do stuff. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 6:7–8: “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases . . . for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

If God already knows what you need before you even ask, what’s the point? He already knows, so why are you asking? You might think that God is up in heaven taking notes, as if our prayers are informing him of things he doesn’t already know about. No, he already knows what you need—and that’s why the primary point of prayer is not actually to get something, but to know Someone.

Heart of Prayer: Knowing God

That realization will change your prayer life: the primary point of prayer is not to get something—it’s to know Someone. When you go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, there is a reward awaiting you: intimacy with your heavenly Father through prayer. The heart of prayer is what happens when you’re alone with the Father.

Please hear this: the most important thing in your life is not your family, your spouse, your kids, your job, your finances, or your health. The most important thing in your life is your personal intimacy with God, because that affects everything else.

Your family life is dependent on personal intimacy with God in your heart. Your kids need this from you more than they even need you to put food on the table—this reality will change the way you parent. Your marriage, your job, your finances, and the people around you need this from you. Everything flows from this.

Planning God-Centered Prayers

That’s why Jesus says, “Go in your room and close the door.” Set aside a time. Find a place. Get alone with God. That one practice will revolutionize your life. So, where’s your place? When’s your time? If you don’t have an immediate answer to those questions, then find an answer immediately.

Jesus promises that there is a reward awaiting you in time spent alone with the Father in heaven. Here’s the map: set aside a time, go to a specific place, and just be alone with God. In his teaching about prayer, Jesus was saying, “The Father has so much for you! If you want to experience all he has for you, then this is how you pray.”

The God of the universe is inviting you into a relationship with him that is marked by intimacy. This is what happens behind closed doors between you and God—it’s not just you and some random person; it’s you and the Creator of the universe! I long for you to experience this kind of intimacy with God. If that seems so far off, then I want to help you take a step forward in the practice of prayer.

It simply starts with setting aside a time, going to a place, and getting alone with him.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.