What is prayer, and why pray?
The simple answer is that: Prayer is talking with God
1 Peter 3 vv 8-22 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Important point: God wants to listen to you
So our Lord God, who has done so much for us through His son Jesus, is on call 24/7 waiting to hear us talk to Him. What an open invitation and a privilege. So why don’t we use it more?
Perhaps we find it difficult to pray?
The disciples found it difficult to pray, so we are not the first!
Luke 11:1 “Lord, teach us to pray”
If God knows all and has a plan what difference will our prayers make?
Read: Genesis 18:20-33 (about Sodom and Gomorrah) shows that God is prepared to listen to Abraham’s request to save the righteous people from the ill-fated cities. God’s mind has been changed by the prayers of the righteous. Whether we believe in predetermination or not, God has to hear those prayers before doing something about them.
1 Kings 18:24-29: (about the prayer contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal) shows that God will answer big prayers. He had the faith, his life depended on it !
Should we have a special posture or attitude to prayer?
As in Worship generally there are many postures we can adopt. (bowing, kneeling, hands uplifted, standing etc)
Hands together and eyes closed? May not always be helpful if we are tired. We might not be the first person to fall asleep or nod a bit in a prayer meeting!
Our posture is not particularly important to God , however if we are especially fervent in a request in prayer, we may want to show our humility by kneeling, or if we are in adoration and praise then perhaps standing with hands raised. We can pray wherever we are, and about anything we want to.
I once met a man who came along to our fellowship and had a border dispute with his neighbour which was worrying him. I asked him if he had prayed about it. His reply was that he felt that he could not ask God to solve his problems, he felt he should be praying for famine in Africa, for peace in the middle east etc. I was at first surprised by this, but later I realised that prayer for himself, a direct specific request to God about a thing that could be solved God’s way required greater faith than praying for general world matters. The reasoning is that we know in our personal lives whether a prayer has been answered and we can “tick the box” in our prayer diary.
If we pray in public do we use different words than we do when talking to God in private?
Personally when I pray in our local fellowship I DO speak differently, because I want our prayers to reflect the desires of all of our group in unity, and not just for myself.
Do we have to use special words in prayer, like thee, thou, wherefore goest etc?
God knows all languages. It is what is going on in our hearts that matters to God.
Different types of prayer:
- PRAISE GOD
- CONFESS TO GOD OUR SINFULNESS
- ASK GOD and try to be specific, as the answers are more recognisable.
- THANK GOD for working in us, for answered prayers.
What subjects for prayer? – anything and everything, both inside your circle of family and friends and situations and outside into politics, Countries leaders, World peace, famines, other ministries, Christian Broadcasting.
What about praying in tongues or in the spirit?
- Ephesians 5 v 20 “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Colossians 4 v 2 “devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
- Hebrews 4 v 16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
- Matthew 6 vv 5-8 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Jesus used everyday ordinary modern language in prayer. We should try to do the same.
Some people keep a notebook of prayer requests and questions and note the answers and occurrences received. If you want to you could do the same.
Be prepared for God to answer prayer – AND be prepared for the answer to come in a way you did not think of or expect
Praying out loud or “think praying” in your mind?
Think prayer is actually quite a modern concept. It may be next to useless in a prayer meeting, as usually the whole point is to pray in a group and let other people and the Lord hear what is on our hearts. Sometimes in a prayer meeting we are too busy thinking of what we are going to pray next that we don’t actually pray with the others when they are speaking.
John 14: 13-14 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
John 16 vv 23(b) – 24 “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
If God seems a long way off?
God is always faithful and promises to be there for us when we pray. He loves to hear His children talking to Him.
God may seem afar if we are selfish:
James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”
God may seem afar when we are sinful
Psalms 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listen…”
Or when we are stupid!
We need to be thankful to God when He does not give us all that we ask for. We think we know best, but in truth and reality only God knows best. He protects us from ourselves, and He tells us that the prayers He always answers are those which will bring glory to the Father.
God has given us a good model for prayer from Jesus’ own words (Matthew 6 vv 9-15)
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
For some people to pray this can be a difficult start. Some people may never have known their father, or been abused by their father. However the relationship we can have with God is to call him our Heavenly Father, a Good Father who only treats us well, giving us good things and withholding what is not good for us.
Hallowed be thy name:
The Lord’s name is to be hallowed, that is made holy and honoured.
Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven:
Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand; the Kingdom of God is already here. But this prayer is for the return of Christ in Glory and for Christ to rule in all His Majesty.
Give us today our daily bread:
This is a prayer for constant and continuous feeding from the Lord. This can be taken as looking to the Lord for our physical well-being, but a wider understanding is that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”, so we rely on him for our spiritual feeding too.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive others:
Or forgive us our trespasses or sins, these two are connected because the Bible tells us that unless we forgive others, we cannot be forgiven. It is most important that we do not allow the poison of unforgiveness to fester in our hearts.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one:
This is quite difficult for some, as it suggests that God tempts us, where God in fact NEVER tempts us. However this prayer is a request that if we are tempted that God will lead us away from it and protect us from the Devil who DOES tempt us at any opportunity. It is a prayer that we do not be drawn into sin.
We need to be encouraged that through prayer God answers us, this gives us faith to pray more boldly the next time. God is always faithful and we need to keep talking to our Heavenly Father who wants to bless us with the things that are good for us.
I am going to be asking myself this week, do I give enough time to the One who holds my future in His hands? Please ask yourselves the same question.