Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why and How Should We Pray?

Photo by Steve Evans 2009

As born-again Christians, we believe that God is in control, that He knows all, and that His will is done. Why, then should we pray? Because His Word commands us to (Psalm 62:8; Luke 11:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:17); because it is as an act of worship pleasing to Him (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4); and because it changes us. God promises to answer our prayers if we believe He will (Matthew 9:28-29; 21:22).

Most parents, even atheists, love their children and want to give them good things, as do Christian parents even though we are still sinners. God is the ideal Parent Who loves us infinitely (John 15:13), Who is perfectly good and has complete power to answer our prayers, so why would He not give good gifts to His children who ask Him? (Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 7: 7-11) If anyone asks Him in prayer to be born again (John 3:3-8) by placing their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), His Holy Spirit enters that person (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13).

Once we are saved, God hears our prayers and gives us what we need, even though it may not be what we think we want (Matthew 6:8,32; Luke 12:30). The whole Trinity is involved, because we pray to God the Father in the Name of Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit within us helps us to pray even when we’re not sure what to pray for or how to pray (Romans 8:26). Even if we just pray “Help me,” the Spirit will transform our prayers and carry them to the throne room of Heaven.

I have heard the example of a young child wanting to give her Daddy a bouquet of flowers, so she goes outside and picks whatever she can find. Before she presents it to him, her mother lovingly removes the weeds and thorns, so that the bouquet is beautiful and fragrant, yet still a gift from the child’s heart. In much the same way, the Holy Spirit rearranges our prayers to be a more meaningful and pleasing tribute to God the Father.

Our prayers should not be directed toward changing God’s mind, since we know God does not change (Hebrews 13:8), but to align our mind and heart with the indwelling mind of Christ. Through prayer, we grow closer to Christ and become more like Him (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).  All the wisdom, power, love and light of the Holy Spirit is in us from the moment of salvation onward, if we yield to Him.

What an amazing privilege, that we can pray to God on His throne 24/7, without an intermediary, having to make an appointment, or being put on hold. Jesus is our great High Priest Who knows exactly what we’re going through because He went through it too! He came to earth in human flesh and experienced pain, suffering, betrayal, fatigue, hunger, thirst. We should come boldly, not afraid to share our innermost thoughts and desires with Him, to receive His mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Public prayer has its place, as in church to lead others to pray, but it is even more important to get alone with God in private rather than making a show of prayer (Matthew 6:5-6). We should think about the words we are praying and feel their meaning in our heart, not just repeat a prayer we have learned like a chant or a religious duty (v. 7). Praise God that He understands us better than we ourselves do, and that He knows what we need before we even ask Him (v. 8).

How should we pray? The letters P.R.A.Y. help us to remember to Praise God; Repent of our sins; Ask Him our specific requests; and Yield to His perfect will rather than demanding to have our own way.  The “model prayer,” (v. 9-13; Luke 11:1-4) often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, was Jesus’ example for His disciples. Even though we don’t have to repeat these exact words when we pray, it is useful to memorize this and other Scripture so that we can use it, not only in prayer, but to encourage ourselves and others and to avoid sin (Psalm 119:11).

Matthew 6: 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The prayer begins with “Our Father” (v. 9). Only believers can say this, for we are all children of the devil until we are saved (1 John 3:10). The word for Father is “Abba,” like “Daddy,” a term of love, trust, and respect. Our Father is on His throne in Heaven, and yet our prayers reach Him there like sweet-smelling incense (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). As Lester Roloff said, “Prayer is instant contact with Heaven.”

We praise God by saying Hallowed be Thy Name. The Name of Jesus is the only Name by which we can be saved (Acts 2:21; 4:12; Romans 10:13) and it is special, holy, and worthy of praise. We praise and thank God for Who He is and for what He has done and has promised to do, and we thank Him in all circumstances, realizing that it is His will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Thy kingdom come” means that we look forward to Christ setting up His earthly kingdom (Matthew 6:10), and to the Rapture and Second Coming before that. Because of this, we want to live lives that are holy, set apart from the world (2 Peter 3:10-15), and in His service (1 Corinthians 15:57-58). To do that, we yield to His perfect will, realizing that His will being done is the best possible outcome. Even Jesus, Who asked for the suffering of the cross to pass from Him if that were possible, yielded to His Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

The model prayer continues, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11), as we ask Him to satisfy our physical as well as our spiritual needs (Matthew 4:4). We should ask Him every day, not just once a week in church, and He will provide for us every day, just as He gave the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4). We pray for “us,” not for “me,” as we should pray for others as well as for ourselves, and prayer has more power when we pray together about the same burden (Matthew 18:19-20).

The model prayer asks for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12). We should confess and repent of our sins, and He has promised to forgive us (1 John 1:9). He forgave us even though He had to die for our sins (Luke 23:34), so we need to forgive others and not hold a grudge or bitterness in our heart (Matthew 18: 21-22).

We should pray to flee temptation, while asking Him to deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). Many have experienced the temptation we face at any given moment, and even He Himself was tempted when He walked the earth, yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). Thankfully, He has promised an escape from every temptation we encounter, if we choose to take it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The prayer closes by acknowledging that Jesus Christ is our Lord and King, and that He alone has all power, glory and majesty. He has the absolute power to answer our prayers, no matter how small or great the need (Jeremiah 32: 17). He is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), present from the beginning of time and throughout all eternity  (Revelation 1:8).

Amen means “so be it.” The Hebrew word, amen, means “surely, indeed, truly.” When we say Amen after a prayer, it means we agree with the prayer and are also praying it.

May our daily prayers to Our Father praise the Holy Name of Jesus, ask His forgiveness, boldly bring to Him our requests great and small, and submit to His perfect will in all things. In so doing, may we please God and become more like Him!  

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I am still on a blogger break but enjoying getting on with the gardening, sorting out my old bits of writings that I really need to organize and, best of all, going out with my friend evangelizing. I thought it was about time I came over to have a look at your blog. I absolutely agree with you regarding prayer. I always loved praying together with my friend when I lived in the previous town where she still lives, and I love 'going into the closet' and praying on my own too.
I find that if I do not know what exactly to pray for I pray in tongues, as it says that when we pray in the Spirit we are speaking mysteries to God. Like you say I don't always have my prayers answered the way my natural mind would want it to, but it is always better for our times to be in God's hands eh?
I hope you and your family are well and may the Lord continue to bless you.

Sherri said...

Thank you I needed a refresher course today!

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Thank you for expounding the Lord's Prayer, as I find this very useful in what to pray. However, in our church it is agreed that prayer is hard work, particularly during midweek prayer meetings. This followed discouragement when the whole fellowship gathered to pray for a dear brother to be healed of his leukaemia, even using church funds to fly him with one of the elders to Prayer Mountain in South Korea. A short while after their return to the UK, the sick man died of the disease. Mid week prayer meetings had suffered lack of attendance since then. Why this dramatic failure is a mystery to me, but at least we still believe that prayer is equivalent to spiritual breathing, vital for our walk with God.
Again, thanks for your contribution, and I apologise if my story had failed to encourage you or your readers. But to tell you the truth: Prayer remains one of the most difficult areas of my life, even more difficult than Bible study. But when God does put something into my heart, then praying becomes a lot more natural.
May God bless you richly.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
So nice of you to stop by! I'm glad to hear your break is going well and am praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you in evangelizing.
Prayer is a blessing and privilege He has so graciously granted us, whether we pray alone to Him or with other believers.
We are doing well, praise God, and may He also bless you and yours very richly!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Sherri, for your sweet comment! Glad you enjoyed the post!
Many blessings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I'm blessed to hear that you found this post useful. You're right, prayer is hard work in the sense that James spoke of "effectual, fervent prayer." Pouring our heart out to Him in fervent, prolonged prayer is quite different from the rote blessing we sometimes rush through before meals. I appreciate hearing about your experience with the illness of your brother in Christ. At the church we attended previously, there was a tremendous season of revival and fervency in prayer when our dear Pastor fell ill with metastatic lung cancer at age 40. We prayed for and sincerely believed he would experience natural healing in the here and now, but instead God saw fit to bring him home for perfect healing. So our prayers were answered perfectly, yet not in the way we had hoped. Yet our church was able to go forth, still "choosing faith," which was the Pastor's exhortation before he went home.
God bless you both,

Donald Fishgrab said...

So many times people forget that John 5:14 says if we ask according to his will. we need to recognize God;s love and his greater knowledge of what we need in our prayers. It is like asking a parent for something, They are not obligated to give the child things that will prevent their plans being fulfilled, and God's plan still takes preeminence over our desires.

HisFireFly said...

to pray as He taught us
His Kingdom come
His will be done

great post, thank you!

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! Even Jesus yielded to His Father's will, and had He not, we would not be forgiven, saved and secure. If our child asked us for broken glass or a gun as a plaything, we would say "No," out of love and based on our greater knowledge than that of the child. But so many get angry at God when He does the same with us.
God bless,

Gospel Gurl said...

What a blessing to read this post. Thanks for this reminder of the importance of prayer and how to pray. I don't know what I would do without the imtimacy of prayer with God. I am stopping by from the Unite Link Up. Many blessing on you as you spread His Truth!

Katherines Corner said...

Amen, Another wonderful post my friend. Hugs!

Ceil said...

Hi Laurie! I really like your P.R.A.Y. pneumonic. It's so key to remember that what God wants for me and what I want for me can be so different. I think I'm being ignored...but I am being loved. Tough concept sometimes!
Nice to see you again :)

Rebecca Hastings said...

I loved your illustration with the flowers. It created such a freeing, heartfelt image for me of going to my Father. Your neighbor today at Coffee for your Heart!

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, HisFireFly! May His will be done! Thanks for your sweet comment.
Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Cathy, for your uplifting comment! Praise God that He not only allows but desires intimacy with His children. What a wonderful blessing and privilege it is to go to Him in prayer.
May God bless you and your ministry,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Katherine! May you have a blessed week in Him!

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Ceil,
So true that God's "tough love" can be difficult for us to comprehend, just as it may be for our children when we need to practice it on them. But while we are imperfect due to our sin nature, praise God that He is perfect, operating from the vantage point of complete knowledge, wisdom, power, and love. Glad you liked the P.R.A.Y. idea, & thanks as always for the comment!
Many blessings,

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Becky, for your visit and sweet comment! Praise God that He cherishes every prayer, just as earthly parents cherish the heartfelt gifts of their children.
Love in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie, My pastor taught us the P.R.A.Y way to pray years ago. I've always been blessed by the Y-yield part of the prayer. The time when I sit and surrender every need to the loving wisdom of my Heavenly Father. Blessings to you! Thanks for sharing this at CMB.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Deb! May we be still and know that He is God, and yield to His will. Thanks for your lovely comment & for hosting, & God bless!

a joyful noise said...

Thank you Laurie for your awesome thoughts on Prayer and your examples are a lesson to accent your teaching. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

Pat Baer said...

Ditto that, Sherri, and thank you Laurie!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Pat, I appreciate it, and you are most welcome!
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Hazel, for your sweet comment5t & for hosting! I appreciate all you do to share God's Word!
Love in Christ,