When we want to get to know someone better we often say that we want to get closer to that person. Getting closer to God, for instance, means we want a better relationship with God. Using the word “closer” does not refer to physical distance. We want the relational “distance” to be less. We want to know God better, deeper, more intimately. One way we move closer to God is through prayer. Prayer presupposes relationship. By definition the very nature of prayer relates those who pray to the one to whom the prayer is offered, and vice versa (if that one in fact exists and is listening).
In a relationship communication is vital. We can’t move in closer or even maintain a relationship without it. Prayer is all about relationship. God so wants us to pray. Prayer is not only participating in relationship to God. It is also recognizing who God is. He is the one willing to help those who humbly approach him, acknowledging that he above all others is able to save.
According to Isaiah chapter 65 God even invited a rebellious people to seek and to find him:
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation that did not call on my name.”
Relationships are risky, full of potential pain. Making himself vulnerable, God took a risk. He wanted to be closer to this people so he sought those who would not even pray. He would, however, be disappointed because their plans did not include a personal relationship with him:
“I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices…”
I believe that even God feels pain when people reject him, when they refuse to pray and acknowledge who he is. Their sacrifices and incense were like irritating smoke in the nostrils of God. (Isa. 65:5)
So, as we pray we must not produce irritating smoke in God’s nostrils. Our prayer must be sincere, from a humble pure heart, with faith that recognizes his ability to be God for us. Waffling, wish-washy prayer that is full of doubt does not enhance our relationship with God. God wants us to know and believe that he is God and that he is ready and willing to be God for us because we are in relationship.
We ought not pray insincere prayers that are focused horizontally at those with whom we are praying. Those who hear us pray are not present to hear a sermon-in-prayer form. They are there to agree with and participate in our vertical words to God, an expression of unity in relationship with the God who answers prayer. Preaching to those present while feigning prayer to God harms one’s relationship with God. Such prayer in an irritating smoke to God, full of insincerity. Not only does God reject it, but it may also bring some sort of judgment.
I think when we all get on the same page and direct our prayers toward God alone (worship, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, petition, supplication, confession, etc.) it might just be that he will be unable to resist our pounding on the doors of heaven and send a revival.