Article From the Magazine:

An Invitation to Prayer

By David Jeremiah

Thousands of people all over the world rushed to their mailboxes during the week of February 21, 2011. Many were no doubt praying, crossing their fingers, squinting their eyes, hoping, and making promises to God—whatever they thought might help them find what they were looking for in the mail.

What were they hoping to receive that week? A thick, white stationary envelope, slightly larger than six-by-eight inches in size, bearing a large, gold insignia on the front: EIIR. E is for Elizabeth, II is for Elizabeth the Second, and R is for Regina, Latin for “queen.” That’s right—something in the mail from Queen Elizabeth II personally for them!

Or not. Since only 1,900 of these beautiful envelopes and their contents entered the mail, far more people didn’t receive one than did. If you were one of the lucky individuals or families to receive this letter from the Queen, you knew exactly what it contained: an invitation to the wedding of the Queen’s grandson, His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, K.G., and his betrothed, Miss Catherine Middleton. The wedding being on April 29, you had a little more than two months to recover from your pre-invitation stress and begin making plans to attend the royal event of the decade.

But wait—when you took your envelope from the mailbox did it feel unusually thick, like it contained more than a wedding invitation? If so, your envelope might also have contained a card inviting you to be one of 600 persons to attend a post-ceremony luncheon hosted by the Queen herself. And if you found yet one more card in your envelope, it would have been an invitation for you and 299 others to dance the night away with William and Kate at a party at Buckingham Palace.

So, 1,900 invitations to the wedding, 600 invitations to the wedding and luncheon, and, for a lucky 300, invitations to all three events: the wedding, the luncheon, and the private party with the Royal Family. Royal weddings don’t happen often, and when they do the lucky people who receive an invitation are bowled over by the rarified privilege.

But as rare as such an invitation is, it can’t compare to the invitation you have received as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. You have been invited to enter the very presence of God through prayer. But that invitation is not just for a select few. The invitation to pray is issued the same way as the invitation to salvation: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Anyone who responds by faith to that invitation has also received an invitation to pray: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

You and I may never receive an invitation to enter the presence of an earthly king or queen. But you have a standing invitation to enter the presence of the King of the universe, at any time, through prayer.


The Privilege of Prayer

From the beginning (Genesis 4:26) to the end (Revelation 22:20b), prayer is a central theme of Scripture. Prayer is so pervasive that it is like breathing—a natural part of the spiritual life without which we could not survive.

Our typical thought about prayer is that it is an obligation—something we should do as Christians. (And we should—for many reasons.) What we don’t often think about is the fact that God wants us to pray; He invites us into His holy presence. Prayer is not just an obligation; it is a privilege as well.

Perhaps the best example of being invited by God into His presence is found in Matthew 11:28. There Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” No, His words are not about prayer; they are about fellowship and relationship, the foundation of which is communication, just as in earthly relationships. When we respond to Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, we enter into a relationship with Him. And that relationship is based on prayer, mediated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).

Let me suggest a parallel invitation that was given in the Old Testament. I even wonder if Jesus had this event in mind when He spoke His own words. It was an invitation issued by King David, an Old Testament type of Christ, the Son of David.

When King Saul (David’s predecessor as king) and Saul’s son, Jonathan, were killed, Jonathan left behind a son named Mephibosheth. This son was crippled in both feet and became an outcast after the death of Saul and Jonathan. Mephibosheth feared David might kill him to prevent any relative of Saul from challenging David’s kingship. Instead, because of David and Jonathan’s covenant relationship, David sought out Mephibosheth to bless him.        

Mephibosheth was a crippled outcast, living in LoDebar (Hebrew for “no thing, no place”), fearing for his life. And the king of Israel seated the young man at his table and restored to him the lands that had belonged to King Saul (2 Samuel 9).

When Mephibosheth received King David’s invitation and responded, he was shocked at David’s words: “‘As for Mephibosheth,’ said the king, ‘he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.’” Can you imagine that they sat in silence at that table? No! For the rest of their lives, David and Mephibosheth enjoyed fellowship and communion—the equivalent of prayer.

Jesus’ invitation to us carries even greater importance than David’s invitation to Mephibosheth. Lost and without hope in the world, we were invited into the very presence of God to dine at His table, to fellowship with Him, forever. While we are on this earth, the foundation of that fellowship is prayer.


The Priority of Prayer

But why prayer? Why is something so mysterious such a priority? Even as we pray, we wonder why God invites us to enter dialogue with Him about His will and about our lives. While we may not have every answer to the mystery, one thing is clear: Once the invitation has been issued, we are to respond by praying. There is a biblical mandate to pray as part of our response to the privilege of being invited into His presence.

Do we want God to meet our needs? Then we must remember: “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2b).

Do answers to prayer not come immediately? We must be persistent (Luke 11:5-10).

Are we confused about the answers to prayer we receive? We can trust in God’s fatherly wisdom to give us what we need (Luke 11:11-13).

Are we embarrassed or ashamed to ask God for what we need? We must be bold in prayer (Luke 11:5-8; Hebrews 4:16).

Do we feel overwhelmed by life? He wants us to cast our burdens on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

Are we unsure of when, or how often, to pray? We are to pray continually with praise, intercession, petition, and confession—involving God in every part of our life (1 Thessalonians 5:17).         

Do we find ourselves at a loss for words in prayer? Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you as you pray (Romans 8:26-27).

Does guilt over sin keep us from praying? We can confess our sins and receive forgiveness, resulting in a renewed conscience (1 John 1:9).


The Protocol of Prayer

R.S.V.P.—répondez s’il vous plaît—French for, “Respond, if you please.” Receiving an invitation is one thing; responding is another.

What if 1,900 people had not responded to Queen Elizabeth II’s invitation? What if Mephibosheth had not responded to King David’s invitation to him? What if we don’t respond to King Jesus’ invitation to come and enjoy His presence?

We have been invited to bring our prayers into the throne room of Almighty God. Our access is because of Jesus Christ; we come before God in His name (John 14:13). To help you grow in the privilege and priority of prayer in your life, please take advantage of our 30 Days of Prayer resource on pages 24-25. And tune in to our radio broadcast this month, Prayer—the Great Adventure.

We have been invited to pray. Let us R.S.V.P.—royal supplication via prayer—with gratitude to our King!

This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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