How do I pray?

Lewis DoylePosted on Monday, February 1st, 2016 by Lewis Doyle

Introduction

We live in a day of communication and we have so many options to communicate with people. Maybe we can think of a few and perhaps how they represent our communication.

Types of communication today:

  • Telephone – when we can’t be with someone but want to have a personal chat.
  • Email – quite impersonal. My email inbox is typically full of instructions or information. Usually about a product or service.
  • Text Message – like an email but when an urgent response is wanted.
  • Social Media – when we want everyone to know our message.
  • Letter – when we can’t be with someone but want an intimate medium to express our thoughts.
  • Face to Face – the best way.

I find sometimes when I pray, my prayers can be similar to some of those above:

  • The Prayer – email – or ‘premail’ – : a short instruction to God – “please let there be a parking space, thanks”.
  • The social media “I just thought I&rsquo’d let the whole group know I’ve been diligently praying for XYZ”.

Do we reserve the telephone and letter for when we want something from God, or are all of our prayers personal and emotionally invested?

We’re shortly approaching valentines day (at the time of writing). For us men that like to consider ourselves romantic, we might send flowers or a card to our beautiful valentines. I’m not sure Romeo would be considered the model of romance if his expression of love was limited to a text message…. How do we express our gratitude and thankfulness to God in prayer?

Today we’re digging deeper into the subject, “How do I pray?”

It’s a great question and one that Jesus’ disciples asked him.

Luke give us the account of the Lord’s prayer and he sets the scene,

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples”

Why was that? What was going on with Jesus that was so different to prayer as they knew it? Remember Judaism was a major way of life in New Testament Palestine. The Pharisees were regularly seen praying. Why did Jesus’ disciples then ask for instruction for prayer and not just replicate what they knew?

In the gospels there are 17 references to Jesus at prayer; all the critical events in his life are recorded with him praying:

  • Baptism
  • The choice of this Apostles
  • Jesus confessing to be the Messiah (Luke 9:18)
  • His Transfiguration
  • Before the cross in Gethsemane
  • On the Cross

and at other times

  • He prayed regularly throughout his ministry
  • Prayer was always present at his miracles
  • He always prayed for others – even those who nailed him to a cross (Luke 23:34)

The writer of Hebrews described Jesus’ prayer life like this;

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears” and goes to say that “…he was heard because of his reverent submissions…”
Hebrews 5:7.

How does our prayer life compare?

In Luke’s account of the Lord’s prayer, we’re given the wonderful illustration of answer to prayer.

A friend asks another friend at midnight for some bread. The second friend essentially says “go away I’m asleep” but eventually gives in due to the persistence of the first.

It’’s natural to assume the purpose of this illustration is that we will receive if we ask enough. But what if this was a lesson on the frequency of prayer? A lesson on the attitude and heart of the one praying?
Interesting that the Lord’s prayer contains “give us each day our daily bread” and this very illustration follows. If it’s daily bread, then it’s sustaining bread; not a one off, miraculous bread. (Luke 11:5-13)

“The aim of prayer is not to make God change his will but to enable disciples of Jesus to change their minds and dispositions as they are molded by his Spirit”>br />Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2011, p1166

Some Points on Prayer:
  1. We’re invited to pray:
    • Boldly approach God’s throne
      • God isn’t calling us home just yet (!) so we’re approaching the throne in our spirit, through our prayer
      • The Writer of Hebrews says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (boldly), so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. Hebrews 4:16 – NIV Study Bible note says we do this in worship, communion and prayer.
  2. It’s between us and God
    • Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 prior to the Lord’s Prayer that we are to pray in private and address God – it’s worthless if its showmanship
    • The Lord’s Prayer in modern versions in Matthew, is 13 verses, 1-10 focus on God, 11-13 focus on us.
      • Put another way: 76% of Jesus’ blueprint for prayer is focused on God!
    • Chapter 17 of John is an entire chapter of Jesus praying; it’s 26 verses and Jesus prayer for:
      • God to be glorified (17:1-3)
      • God’s will being completed (17:4)
      • Protection for Jesus’ disciples while they carry on His will (17:6-23)
      • A request 24-26 + v1
      • 15% of this prayer was a request!
  3. Prayer is a form of worship
    • Luke says that Anna worshipped God in the temple night and day through prayer and fasting. – Luke 2:37
    • Prayer:
      • Glorifies God – Romans 15:6
      • Praises God Ephesians 1:6
      • Gives thanks to God 1 Corinthians 14:16
      • Petitions God for personal things – Romans 1:10. I Corinthians 14:13
  4. Prayer brings God’s peace
    • Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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”.
  5. Prayer Strengthens Us
    • In Ephesians 6 – the famous passage on the Armour of God, Paul concludes with the importance of prayer “…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 the Lord’s people. Pray also for me…” Ephesians 6 18-19
  6. James’ view of Prayer in the Christian Life
    • I preached here once on a passage in James and he reminds us to prayer in a variety of situations:
      • Trouble
      • Happy
      • Sick
  7. Prayer isn’t a formula for getting what we want. Sometimes God doesn’t give us the answer we want
    • This was the case in Moses’ request for the Israelites to be forgiven – Exodus 32:30-35

“Prayer is simply sitting before God and allowing him, through Jesus, to shape who we are.”
Archbishop Justin Welby

Thoughts from Facebook.com

I asked people on Facebook; Christians, atheists, agnostics, those of other faith to tell me if and why they’ve prayed in the past. These are some of the responses:

  • Agnostic here. Prayed when I was around 20 ish, to help my Grandfather through his illness. I felt helpless and hopeless and just wanted to somehow help him. I guess it was also my own way of saying “if you’re there, now’s the time to show me”.
    I do often look skywards and mouth “thanks” when I’ve been lucky or fortuitous.
  • [Christian] I pray every day (in my head, not out loud) and always try to remember to say thank you to God for all the good things I have, and I ask him to look after my loved ones.
  • [Christian] My Son prayed tonight to find his phone (he was stressing)
    I found it under the cushion on the sofa after much looking he said, &;dquo;Mum I’m not kidding, literally as you said you found it, just prayed please God help me find my phone I know you can do it!”
  • [Spiritualist] I often pray to the divine
  • (I believe this person is agnostic) (I) prayed for strength and to ease the pain of my dear brother through his illness….he was a child loaned that God had other purposes for or had he served that? Either way he’s in God’s house until we meet again one day
  • [Spiritualist] I pray every night to the Angels, asking them to look after our little family and to keep them safe – it’s something my mum used to do when I was little and have always just carried it on – I dont do it out loud, it’s the last thing I ask before I go to sleep xx
  • [Christian] I write my prayers in a journal each night (or every other night depending on how quickly I fall asleep!), thanking God for family and friends, and also asking for clarity for things, like which school to apply to teach in. I find this helps when looking back to see how he has answered prayers.
  • [Christian] – I pray every day. It’s a two way conversation, so I’m still learning.
  • [Christian] – I pray every morning for family, friends and work and have an alarm set on my phone for 12.00 to say the Lord’s Pray(er) and for the area in Maidstone where I live. This was a request from one day of pray organisation who have thousands of people throughout the uk saying the Lords Pray(er) at 12 for their community. It has been great that many people who I have been with when my alarm goes off have prayed the Lords Pray(er) with me.
  • [Christian] Before I was a Christian, I had general thoughts about God but hadn’t committed to any religion. I was in hospital in 2002 with kidney failure and immune disorder, very close to death. A Christian friend came to visit, and asked if he could pray for me. I said yes (anything to help) and he held my Hand and prayed out loud in front of all the ward. I was surprised by this as I expected him to pray privately or quietly. I admired his courage and faith. This was the first time I can remember anyone praying aloud with me. .. Later that night I prayed alone. … I had a sudden recovery that the doctors put down to the strong chemo drug I was given. I will never forget that prayer and how wonderfully it was answered.
Author’s Comment

Though doing this study I’ve realized my prayer life is very infrequent. When we see how important prayer was to Jesus; do we pray anywhere near enough? Reading the Bible certainly helps my understanding of God, but I’m excited at how praying can deepen my relationship with Him.

In Psalm 63, we are presented with David, in the wilderness, calling on God. This for me is very much a prayer. A prayer of a man scared and in need. David turns to his God. This is a powerful prayer. Not a ‘pre-mail’. This for me, provides an insight into the passion in prayer. It’s a honour to pray to God.

This is a great example, of a prayer.

  • In verse 1 David expresses his desire for God. Another translation says ‘early will I seek you’ – i.e. perhaps the first thing he does is to seek God.
  • David thirsts for God, his whole being longs for God.
  • David says he is in a land with no water and cries for that sustenance.
Conclusion

Prayer shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be our lifeblood. Prayer can offer us so much. It’s not a formality. It’s our right. It’s our way of communicating with the Divine, with the Creator, with God himself.

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