Do You Live To Pray? Or Pray To Live? 

“Prayer is often represented as the great means of the Christian life. But it is no mere means, it is the great end of that life. It is, of course, not untrue to call it a means. It is so, especially at first. But at last it is truer to say that we live the Christian life in order to pray than that we pray in order to live the Christian life.” 

~ P.T. Forsyth (The Soul of Prayer) ~ 

How does prayer impact your life? Or, rather, how does your life impact how you pray? Do you treat prayer as just a means to an end? Or is there more to it?  

In reflecting on this, I think it boils down to two key questions: 

  1. What is prayer? 
  1. What are we created for? 

In response to the first question, “What is prayer?”, J. Gary Millar (Principal of Queensland Theological College) writes, “Prayer is the act of asking God to do what he has already promised to do. We do this through the power of the Spirit as adopted children through the Messiah Jesus. We see this kind of interaction with God evidenced throughout the Bible as his people continue to ask him to follow through on his promises and bring about his kingdom and rule. We can be confident that God will answer our prayer for his purposes because he has explicitly promised to bring his purposes to pass. These include for God to glorify himself, for forgiveness, for our own knowledge of God, for godly wisdom, for the strength to obey, and for the gospel to spread.”  

The New City Catechism defines prayer as “pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.” 

As for the second question – “What are we created for?” – the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” 

If the focus of our lives is supposed to be God, then how better to do that than through prayer? 

How do you know if you enjoy someone’s company? By spending time with them! 

How do you know what brings joy and happiness to someone? By spending time with them! 

If our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, then we need to spend time with him! That’s what prayer is! 

Matt Slick from CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) defines prayer as “the practice of the presence of God”. He says, “…in prayer, you are in the presence of God as you lay before him your complete self in confession and dependence. There is nothing to hide when in quiet supplication we are reaching in to the deepest part of ourselves and admitting our needs and failures. In so doing, our hearts are quieted and pride is stripped away and we enjoy the presence of God.” 

Yes, prayer helps us to live Christian lives. However, if the Christian life is all about glorifying and enjoying God, then that means that we ought to live to pray.  

Take a moment to reflect on your approach to prayer. 

Do you pray to live? Or live to pray? Do you use God as a means to enjoy life and gain personal glory? Or do you use your life as a means to enjoy and glorify God?  

What would it look like for you to realign how you view prayer?  

What would it look like for you to realign the priority of prayer in your life? 

What is holding you back from living to pray rather than praying to live? 

May God empower and equip us by his Holy Spirit to live our lives so that we might pray, thus glorifying God and enjoying him forever.  

In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Keep trusting Jesus,