The Lord doesn’t say ‘if you pray’, for we all do, don’t we, at some point, in some circumstance, even if it’s not a daily ‘thing’? Did you do so today, in some long past crisis, perhaps just yesterday or maybe you will some day? The content of the prayer is less important than the fact that you want, or have had, a conversation with God. Susanna Wesley had 19 children, nine of them dying as infants – her life was hard and she had little time to herself. Famously, she would withdraw for prayer every day by sitting in her favourite chair and pulling up the kitchen apron over her head so the large family knew she wasn’t to be disturbed! Do you have a time and place for prayer or is it any time any place? Jesus liked to go to the Mount of Olives, the privacy and quietness of olive groves and gardens.
Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be a wrong time or place for sincere prayers to God our Father for he always wants to hear from his children. Prayer can be silent or spoken, alone or with others, and although no prior appointment is required, there is a need for a genuine heart.
- ‘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 others. Truly I tell you, 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’ – Matthew 6:5-8
- ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people’ – Ephesians 6:18
- ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ – Philippians 4:6-7
Whether the prayer is for others or for yourself, we can bring our prayers to God and find peace beyond our own understanding of life’s present circumstances. Nehemiah sometimes made very brief situational ‘arrow’ prayers whereas Paul saw life as continual prayer. As Jesus reminds us, the Lord knows what our needs are before we ask.
You can trawl through hundreds of quotes and read respected authors on prayer but be struck by relatively few! Here are a few:
- ‘In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart’ – John Bunyan
- ‘Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God’ – Billy Graham
- ‘Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart’ – John McDowell
- ‘To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing’ – Martin Luther
- ‘Most of the great books on prayer are written by experts – monks, missionaries, mystics, saints. I’ve read scores of them and mainly they make me feel guilty’ – Philip Yancey
- ‘About four days a week, I do pretty good at having a morning prayer time. But even at that, it's a rambling sort of thing. What I have learned to do better is to try to keep my mind turned toward God and ear inclined toward God throughout the day, and I think I'm doing better at that, but I've got a long way to go’ – Max Lucado
Whilst prayer should not be seen as a duty, it is something we often neglect as we try to ‘do life’ in our own strength rather than turning to God.Rather than wallowing in guilt, get into conversation with the One Who cares for you.
- ‘Begin each day with private reading of the Word and prayer’ – Jim Elliot
- ‘Prayer should be the lock of the day and the key of the night’ – George Herbert
- ‘Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the private place of prayer’ – William Wilberforce
- ‘Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God. Prayer means that the total you is praying. Your whole being reaches out to God and God reaches down to you’ – E Stanley Jones
- ‘If God can bring blessing from the broken body of Jesus and glory from something that's obscene as the cross, He can bring blessing from my problems and my pain and my unanswered prayer’ – Anne Graham Lotz
- ‘Spending time with God through prayer and His Word is a prerequisite for having a great life and fulfilling your purpose’ – Joyce Meyer
The disciples learnt about the ‘when’ of prayer but they wanted to know about the ‘how’ as they asked ‘Lord teach us to pray’. In the wonderful model of prayer Jesus gave them five core ingredients:
DIRECTION - To God our Father
WORSHIP AND HUMILITY – your Will be done
PROVISION – give us today
FORGIVENESS – our way of life
HELP – lead and deliver us
The last part we often pray known as the ‘Doxology’ was added to the Lord’s Prayer by King Henry VIII! Whilst not theologically incorrect it seems to have been taken from a prayer of King David: ‘Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all’ – 1 Chronicles 29:11. Whether or not you say it is less important that the tremendous assurance that God is on the throne and always will be – where else and to whom else would you pray?
Knowing that each of the Holy Trinity is involved in our prayers is deep encouragement for us: the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we struggle to pray, Jesus speaks on our behalf and God the Father receives these prayers as precious incense (Romans 8, Revelation 8).
The life of Jesus displayed intimacy with God modelling both prayer and action. The mission of Jesus Christ was to bring you into that same intimacy as can be seen from his very last prayer for you before his arrest:
‘Righteous Father ... I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them’ – John 17:26
‘Amen’ is a declaration of affirmation used in the Bible meaning ‘it is so’ or ‘so it be‘. ‘Let the people say Amen!’ – Psalm 106:48
TAGS – agreement, prayer life, relationship, intercession, petition, thanksgiving