Have you ever prayed? If so, when did you pray? Was it this morning? Last week? Or that brief moment when you thought your time had come and you instinctively prayed in the hope that if there was some greater power working with this world you would be saved.
You may wonder what is the point of praying? Or maybe, what should I be praying for?
The Bible states that we should: “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) And we are told in James’ epistle that: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
Why does the Bible emphasise that prayer is of so much benefit? We cannot enter into an understanding with God unless we communicate with Him. Communication is a two-way process; it requires a person to both listen (i.e. by reading God’s word the Bible) and also to communicate (with God in prayer). Jesus states:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”(Matthew 7:7-8)
Do you ever wonder, what should I be praying for? The Bible indicates in many passages that there is not one specific way to pray; prayer cannot be confined to one set ‘formula’. Prayer is not restricted by place: “everywhere” , it is not limited by time: “always” , the subjects of prayer are not restricted: “everything” , “all things”, “whatsoever”.
In fact, the only statement that limits how we should approach prayer is “according to his will” (1 John 5:14).
Prayer is not always natural or easy for us. Jesus’ disciples asked him: “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus responded with what we know of today as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13).
The prayer begins respectfully ~ prayer is obviously not something to be entered into lightly: “Our father in heaven”, and then continues with praise and worship: “hallowed (or holy) be Your name”.
Jesus then asks for God’s will to be fulfilled:
“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
We should not be simply considering the things of this life ~ there is a better life to come when God sets up His kingdom on earth. This world will then be made perfect.It is important to realise that this life is only short, fleeting and temporary. There is a greater purpose planned for this world.
Jesus continues to instruct his disciples to give thanks for blessings given. Even in the smallest of things ~ our daily food ~ God is providing for us: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Bible shows us that we are entirely dependent upon God:
“…God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those that walk upon it.” (Isaiah 42:5)
We are also required to ask for forgiveness. It is vital when praying to realise that we are imperfect before God, and that when we go against God’s will we must acknowledge this. David is a wonderful example. In many of his Psalms he recognises his imperfections and prays to God to show him mercy and forgive him:
“I said; ‘Lord be merciful to me; heal my soul for I have sinned against you.”(Psalm 41:4)
We too should ask God earnestly to forgive our sins. The attitude with which we approach God is vital; we need to recognise our imperfections in comparison with God’s greatness. The parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 demonstrates this:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you that I am not as other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. ‘I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat on his breast saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ “I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Humility towards God also affects the way in which we act towards other people. If we are constantly trying to be better than others, then we may also be prone to judge them and to adopt the wrong attitude towards them.
The Lord continues: “…as we forgive those that trespass against us.”
We must not be judgemental with regards to other people. If we acknowledge God’s love and mercy in forgiving us our sins, we too should humble ourselves and forgive others. 1 John 4:11 reasons: “… if God so loved us we ought to love one another.”
Jesus goes on to instruct us that we should ask, “not to be led into temptation.” Emphasis is once again being placed upon the fact that we should be serving God rather than ourselves.
The Lord’s prayer concludes with the statement, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever, Amen.”
The prayer ends with similar sentiments to which it began; the ultimate aim of glory and praise being given to God for all that He has done. We should approach God in humility, but we should also be joyful and praise Him for His blessings. The Psalms are an excellent example of this, and joy and rejoicing for God are often expressed:
“I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to you among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.” (Psalm 57: 9-11)
Of course Jesus and David were not the only characters in the Bible who spoke of prayer and whose prayers are recorded. Prayers of people from all walks of life are found within its pages. Nehemiah prayed in a brief moment while standing before the King (Nehemiah 2:4). Hannah knelt in the temple and “poured out [her] soul before the Lord,” and then later (in 1 Samuel 2) uttered a prayer of rejoicing for the son that God had given her.
You may find these references useful when considering what the Bible states we should be praying for:
The best way to learn more about prayer is to read the Bible. We have a free course which we can send to you either by e-mail or through the post, which we hope will help to do this.
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