Prayer. Opinions on the right way to pray vary about as much as how much one should pray. The bible is pretty clear on the answer to both questions.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
That is actually one of my favorite verses when it comes to how and what to pray. It also reminds me that I should always pray and (hard part) give thanks in all circumstances. Yes, even the bad stuff that happens to us. And it’s as hard for me as it is you. We don’t think to give thanks during the bad…and not sure we always think to pray during the good. But how should we pray, and what should we pray for. I’ll share my thoughts on the subject, then dive into the final part of what has been an amazing chapter. Let’s first look at the biblical definition of prayer, from the Easton Bible Dictionary. Actually, more of a mini topical study, but well worth the read:
is converse with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a “beseeching the Lord” (Ex. 32:11); “pouring out the soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15); “praying and crying to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20); “seeking unto God and making supplication” (Job 8:5); “drawing near to God” (Ps. 73:28); “bowing the knees” (Eph. 3:14).
Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to hold intercourse with us, his personal control of all things and of all his creatures and all their actions.
Acceptable prayer must be sincere (Heb. 10:22), offered with reverence and godly fear, with a humble sense of our own insignificance as creatures and of our own unworthiness as sinners, with earnest importunity, and with unhesitating submission to the divine will. Prayer must also be offered in the faith that God is, and is the hearer and answerer of prayer, and that he will fulfil his word, “Ask, and ye shall receive” (Matt. 7:7, 8; 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13, 14), and in the name of Christ (16:23, 24; 15:16; Eph. 2:18; 5:20; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:5).
Prayer is of different kinds, secret (Matt. 6:6); social, as family prayers, and in social worship; and public, in the service of the sanctuary.
Intercessory prayer is enjoined (Num. 6:23; Job 42:8; Isa. 62:6; Ps. 122:6; 1 Tim. 2:1; James 5:14), and there are many instances on record of answers having been given to such prayers, e.g., of Abraham (Gen. 17:18, 20; 18:23-32; 20:7, 17, 18), of Moses for Pharaoh (Ex. 8:12, 13, 30, 31; Ex. 9:33), for the Israelites (Ex. 17:11, 13; 32:11-14, 31-34; Num. 21:7, 8; Deut. 9:18, 19, 25), for Miriam (Num. 12:13), for Aaron (Deut. 9:20), of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:5-12), of Solomon (1 Kings 8; 2 Chr. 6), Elijah (1 Kings 17:20-23), Elisha (2 Kings 4:33-36), Isaiah (2 Kings 19), Jeremiah (42:2-10), Peter (Acts 9:40), the church (12:5-12), Paul (28:8).
No rules are anywhere in Scripture laid down for the manner of prayer or the attitude to be assumed by the suppliant. There is mention made of kneeling in prayer (1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chr. 6:13; Ps. 95:6;Isa. 45:23; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; Eph. 3:14, etc.); of bowing and falling prostrate (Gen. 24:26,52; Ex. 4:31; 12:27; Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35, etc.); of spreading out the hands (1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54;Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 88:9; 1 Tim. 2:8, etc.); and of standing (1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings 8:14, 55; 2 Chr. 20:9;Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13).
If we except the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13), which is, however, rather a model or pattern of prayer than a set prayer to be offered up, we have no special form of prayer for general use given us in Scripture.
Prayer is frequently enjoined in Scripture (Ex. 22:23, 27; 1 Kings 3:5; 2 Chr. 7:14; Ps. 37:4; Isa. 55:6;Joel 2:32; Ezek. 36:37, etc.), and we have very many testimonies that it has been answered (Ps. 3:4;4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34:4; 118:5; James 5:16-18, etc.).
What a definition, but such a wealth of biblical information on what prayer is…and isn’t. I am one who has struggled in my prayer life, but God made it clear not to long ago that I needed to communicate with Him more, and I was going to do that through prayer. Growing up, I would pray before meals (and sadly have lost that habit), and pray before bedtime (sadly, I often fall asleep before my prayers are completed). God is simply looking for conversation between me and Him…and that is prayer. Let’s look at what this part of the chapter says on prayer.
The focus here is on John 17. Jesus prays for three things in this chapter; Himself to be Glorified, His Disciples, and for all believers. First, Jesus prays for Himself…yes, Himself! I think this is maybe the hardest thing to do…pray for yourself, but as Jesus shows us, it’s ok, and something we should do. Praying for oneself can be something as simple as just calling out for Jesus. Just calling out His name, because as soon as we do, Jesus floods us with His peace and comfort.
Jesus also prays “for those whom You have given to Me because they are Yours.” (John 17:9b) He prays for His Disciples. How precious is that. Jesus prayed for those that He sent into the world to tell others about Him, but never took credit for them…they belonged to the Father, and it was the Father that gave them to Jesus to watch over and teach while He was here on earth. Jesus prayed for others that He loved, and who loved Him.
Finally, this chapter ends with Jesus praying for all believers…present and future. That includes you and me! Jesus prayed for us and that we would come to know Him through those that already knew Him. I’m not sure I’ve really ever thought of it like that before, but Jesus humbled Himself so much that he prayed for the sinner. Amazing isn’t it?
Jesus Came So That I would have have eternal life with Him. He even prayed for it.