We need more people of prayer.

I read an old essay, written in the late 1800s, probably adapted from a then-recent sermon, entitled “Men of Prayer Needed.” Which is true; men of prayer are needed. Women of prayer too. Hence my title isn’t gender-specific. We need Christians to pray, period.

The point of the essay is God uses people who pray. He doesn’t so much need our skillsets, because God can either develop our skillsets for his purposes, or perform mighty acts of power despite our skillsets. (Never underestimate God’s skillset!) He doesn’t so much need our deep and through bible study, our intellect, our education, our knowledge, our wisdom; not that we shouldn’t pursue wisdom and get knowledge, but God’s knowledge and wisdom is far greater, and he can achieve way more through what he alone knows. He doesn’t need our ability to preach: We could present an extremely simple, even pathetic sort of sermon, and because the Holy Spirit’s already been working on our audience, thousands can come forward to embrace Christ Jesus despite our inability.

We’re not gonna grow God’s kingdom through what our abilities can do anyway. God’s gonna grow his own kingdom. We just need to pray.

What the essayist didn’t get into is why all this stuff is gonna happen because we pray. Maybe it’s because he assumed we’d already know. But when you look at all the Christians who consume prayer books, yet talk so much rubbish about the power we receive through prayer, what they’re sure it does, but what their lives don’t demonstrate at all… I don’t think it’s all that self-evident.

Too many of these petitioners give us the idea that if we pray, and persist in prayer, God’s gonna reward all the Brownie points we’ve been racking up on our knees, on our faces, with our hands lifted high… and give us what he owes us based on how much and how fervently we’ve been begging him for stuff. In so doing, they’re teaching karma. It’s not mere works righteousness; it’s more like prayer-righteousness.

Even this essay gives us the idea talking at God, just because we talk at God, is gonna make us holy. It’s gonna transform us. Make us more saintly. Develop our character. The more time we spend pouring out our hearts to God, the mightier we’re gonna grow.

Okay, true: This sort of growth might happen. And it might not.

Because when we pray, we have to understand what’s going on. We’re not just unidirectionally talking at God. We’re not just telling him what we want him to do, begging for stuff, and spending so much time focusing on our needs and lack and wants, we recognize how pathetic and sad we are, and how great he is. Prayer isn’t an exercise in debasement, crawling and scraping before a God who doesn’t care to answer us, whose answers are shrouded in mystery.

Prayer is talking with God. We ask questions. He gives answers. We act on his answers: We take leaps of faith, accept the Holy Spirit’s encouragement or correction, submit to his wisdom, repent where necessary, and obey our LORD. That’s where the growth comes from.

If we didn’t get any answers, either ’cause we’re not listening, or we don’t know how to listen, or we presume these can’t be God’s answers because we hate those answers: Such prayers are exactly what the antichrists claim prayer is: We’re talking to no one, and psyching ourselves into thinking it’s good for us. We’re not gonna develop wisdom or faith; we’re not gonna practice the humility mandatory of anyone who truly follows Jesus; we’re not gonna grow. At all.

The church needs its Christians to pray. The world needs its Christians to pray. Because when we’re truly talking with God, we’re gonna follow God.

And as things currently stand, we don’t pray. Or we pray, like pagans, to nothing, expecting no answers, and “follow God” without having actually heard from God… and imagine all sorts of things which we expect God wants, but they’re really what we want, and we’ve projected our desires upon him. When Christians don’t pray, Christendom looks like what we’ve currently got. It looks like the world… with a shiny shellac of Christianity coating it, but you don’t have to stand too closely to make out all the termite holes in the wood.

Yep, we definitely need more people of prayer.

It’s gotta be interactive prayer.

God wants a relationship with his kids. The type of relationship he wants isn’t a passive one, where he determines how everything’s gonna go, and we just passively sit there and let stuff happen. Nor one where we beg him for stuff in our prayers, but God ignores us and follows his master plan regardless. He wants give-and-take, same as we see when Abraham bargained with him, when Moses and Ezekiel and Amos talked him out of stuff, when Gideon made odd requests, when Habakkuk asked him questions.

He wants an interactive relationship. So that means we oughta have interactive prayer. Not a prayer life which consists of talking at him, but not listening. Of going through our wishlists, but not paying any attention to his wishlist. Of asking God to do stuff, and ignoring when he asks us to do stuff. Of expecting God to do all the work, and flaking on all the good works he created us to walk in. Ep 2.10

When we see Christians who pray—who really pray, who won’t settle for shallow prayers and shallow relationships with God—then we’re gonna see all those transformations the essayist wrote of. We’re gonna see Christians who develop God’s character, meaning good fruit. We’re gonna see Christians step up and personally answer all those prayer requests to fix our society, help the needy, and love their neighbors.

And all the people whom political Christians are so agitated about? Praying Christians are gonna show them patience and grace—and turn ’em around in ways the political Christians can’t imagine. (And won’t always like. But that’s because they need to pray too.)

When Christians truly pray, truly get our marching orders from God, and act on what we hear instead of presuming, “Well God doesn’t want me to do that; it’s crazy/embarrassing/outrageous/strange/goes against my views/goes against my friends’ views”—when we start following God instead of the world, it’s gonna actually change the world.

So like I said, we need more people of prayer. Start praying.

Prayer.