Whenever I hear people praying, it is usually to tell God what they want from him or to tell him to help them when life is hard. With this said, so many people have a variety of views on how to pray, what to pray, and when to pray. Even for the person who believes in God, prayer can be a confusing topic. Here in this article, I want to point out what prayer is and how it should be done according to the Bible.
JESUS MAKES PRAYER POSSIBLE
To begin to understand prayer we must first be clear about who we are praying to. The God of the Bible is presented as the Creator of the universe who is holy, perfect, righteous, and the very essence of what is good. Now if we as people were to take a quick assessment of ourselves and the countless evil around the world I think we can at least say the God of the Bible is not like us. What the Bible does say about us is that this world has sin that separates us from this holy God which makes communicating with him a problem
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” – Isaiah 59:2
So the Gospel of Jesus Christ is essential to prayer because it is humans only hope of relating to God. Through Jesus becoming a man, living a sinless life, dying on a cross, and resurrecting from the dead, we can put our faith in Him and His work and relationship with the Father in order for us to have access to God. Scripture makes it clear that without a mediator between man and God prayer would be an impossibility.
Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and acces with confidence through our faith in him” -Ephesians 3:11b-12
GOD SAYS PRAY ALWAYS
If you knew a person who was trustworthy and faithful you would call them when you were in a tough situation, right?. What if you knew the richest person in the world? You might want to call them if you ever wanted anything, right? Sadly these two relationship dynamics are exactly the way many view when they should pray to God. Unlike people, God’s faithfulness and being trustworthy never changes. Even on the “good” days that people usually see no need for Him; He still is the same. God is eternal and in control of all things everyday, so praying continually puts us in a position to recognize and honor that. While a friend being faithful might be on their good day, God being faithful is who He is everyday. God commands we should always pray in light of His character and not based on our bad situations and selfish wants
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”- Colossians 4:2
This is one of many times Scripture encourages praying often and shows that when we pray should never be limited to our circumstances. God is not a genie to fulfill our desires and our prayers life is essential to us viewing Him as Lord of our lives. Prayer to the Christian life is like breathing to the natural life; a lack of both threatens our survival.
PRAYER IS FOR OUR BENEFIT
O Lord, you have searched me and know me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalms 139:1-4
Passages like this in Scripture can sometimes make the topic of prayer more confusing since the logical reasoning that follows God being all knowing and sovereign is the question: why pray? Throughout scripture, people are constantly communicating with God telling Him information, that according to the Bible, He already knew. First, we must see that God has always been relational and invited His people to communicate with Him. God establishes what we know as prayer by first reaching out to people in His sovereignty and the people responding. When we ask of God, we show are dependency on Him as we recognize that without seeking communication with Him we ignore the one with all control and act as if we are supreme. God being God in His all knowing wisdom and power makes prayer valuable because a God without these attributes isn’t worth praying to. Since God has never lacked information, prayer must be for our benefit and not praying is depriving ourselves.
HOW TO PRAY
Now we must let all these indicatives of what prayer is like inform how we pray. First of all, praying involves committing to God’s instruction for prayer and recognizing that He provides the “how to” on prayer. Here I will use Matthew 6:9-13 to show how God says we should pray and why.
9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”
We must recognize God being who He is (“our Father in heaven”) in prayer because it humbles us to the reality of who we are before Him. “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth” Ecclesiastes 5:2 We pray primarily that God’s name be hallowed and revered in whatever we may be praying for. His glory is always the end goal.
10”Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
We pray for the Lord’s reign to continually be established here on earth and pray hoping in His promised coming. His will is above our wills and we commit our prayers to Him knowing that He answers according to His will and not ours. What God has declared from the heavens we pray for the same to take place here on earth.
11”Give us this day our daily bread”
Now our prayer begins to acknowledge the tangible needs of our daily lives. The bread is used to emphasize that this is asking God about needs and not babbling about what we want. This does not mean we are not to pray about everything but this is to make us reverence God by recognizing what’s of primary importance
12”and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
As sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, repentance in prayer is essential. There is never a day we are without some transgression but we pray for forgiveness and don’t allow ourselves to persist in our failures. God forgiving us is directly related to us being able to forgive others.
13”And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
We pray that the Lord guides us from whatever may tempt us and ask Him for a way to escape any evils that come against us. We live in a fallen world in need of a Savior and against this world’s evil and sin its either resist it or it will kill us. So we pray.
This is the way Jesus instructed His disciples to pray and we are to pray in like manner. We are not commanded to use these exact words every time we pray, but we are to look to this prayer as the way we should come before God. We acknowledge who He is, His character, and His sovereignty and in light of this we pray to Him for and about things, pleading for forgiveness and His protection from evil. We must pray biblically.