We all pray, but how do we practice a prayer life. Without discernment we may fall into ambivalence or worse, unbelief. A child could ask to play with knives, play in the street, start fires, throw rocks at windows, eat only candy, etc., but the conscientious parent says, “No”, each time. The child might say, “You want let me do anything.” This is an exaggeration, but in prayer we need to exercise faith, leading of the Spirit and discernment. Yes, we are told to persist and not give up in our prayer, but this is not a license for repetition. (Luke 18:1-6; Matt. 6:6-7) We are to be earnest in seeking God. Earnest means being serious with gravity, solemn, no-nonsense. A related meaning is “earnest money”, which is placing funds as a pledge of one’s intent. However, aside from these basic elements how do we move on to maturity?
Jonah was right about God’s character, but knew nothing of His heart. We often see things in the natural and draw conclusions from our perspective. The highest prayer is Spirit conceived and led, because He transcends our limitations. (Romans 8:26) This is where the gift of discernment is useful, distinguished between good and evil and between soul and Spirit. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) How often did Yeshua, (Jesus’ Hebrew name) speak of Spiritual reality which people failed to comprehend. When He forgave sins or spoke of being “born again” or said He was “Lord of the Sabbath” or spoke of giving “His blood and flesh as food,” the audience objected because they did not have the Spirit to give understanding. In prayer, we must recognize the Spirit’s voice and distinguishing between spirits. (1 Corinthians 12:10) This is accomplished by faith which is integral with prayer.
God did not want Israel to have a human king like the other nations, but He acquiesced and the people suffered as a consequence. In prayer our wants and desires should be subordinate to God’s will and purposes. This does not mean that we pray everything with an “if”, on the contrary, how could any “If” based prayer be earnest? Maturity allows us to accept that which we do not fully comprehend, by surrendering our intents, conclusions, and desires. The remnants of Israel during Jeremiah’s time could not accept subservience to Babylonian rule as God’s will for them. The Jewish leadership during the time of Yeshua could not accept a Messiah, who would not maintain the corruption inherent in their practices, customs and traditions. When God’s heart and will are preeminent our prayer will become Spiritually empowered.