The Personal Nature of Prayer

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.’”

1 Kings 18:36

When we speak about prayer, we need to keep in mind the personal nature of prayer.  To say that prayer is personal is different from saying that it only belongs to our personal lives.  We are speaking about the kind of personal relationship we have with God.  Most people will acknowledge that there must be a divine being who exists as an impersonal power out there in the universe.  But the Lord God has revealed himself as a person in the scriptures.  Even though God is great and mighty, awesome in glory and power, yet he is also personal.  That means that it is possible for human beings to have a relationship with God.  God can speak to us about the things that are on his heart and we can speak to God about the things on our heart.  Therefore, when we speak about prayer as personal in nature we mean that through prayer we enter into a personal relationship with God.

For the people of Israel, God was never an abstract figure.  They knew God as the one who revealed himself from heaven.  God came down to Abraham and entered into a personal relationship with him.  God made a covenant with Abraham and said, “I will be your God and you will be my own possession, you and your descendants after you.”  God also came to Israel at Mt. Sinai and said, “I am the Lord your God who delivered you out of Egypt, I will be your God and you will be my people.”  And then God sent his own Son into this world, and Jesus Christ revealed to us the Father in heaven.  He revealed the Father’s love and care for us so that we may be sure that we are his children and he is our Father.

There is a personal bond between us and God, and we maintain that personal bond through prayer. Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue.  Prayer always involves two parties.  The prayer of Elijah at Mt. Carmel stands in contrast to the prayer of the priests of Baal.  The priests of Baal called on the name of their god all day and when he did not answer they shouted even louder.  It was very much a monologue as the priests shouted empty words into the air.

Then Elijah in verse 36 quietly addresses his words to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and says, “Let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.”  Notice the very personal nature of this prayer.  Elijah is not just shouting out words that he hopes some God might hear, but he addresses the Lord God of Israel.  He says to the Lord, “I am your servant and I have done all these things at your command.”  Elijah speaks with God about his relationship with Him and his obedience to the commands God has given to him personally.  The Lord has already spoken to Elijah and he just reminds the Lord about what he told him to do.

In prayer, there are always two parties speaking to each other.  When you read many of the prayers in the scriptures, you will notice that there is always a feeling that the individual praying is debating and wrestling with God as one would with a person. God is not like an impersonal computer in which you input your commands in order to get the results you want.  God is personal, and therefore in your prayer you must also speak to God in a very personal way.

Rev. Matthew VanLuik

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