Fundamentals of Prayer (Christian)
Prayer is that which is placed within man by God Himself that causes all to reach out beyond themselves to that which is greater than themselves. Prayer indeed is mans longing to reach out to his Creator, to the supreme being that guides us on our journey. This is the acknowledgment of mankind that there exists something in the universe greater than himself. Prayer is by no means the exclusive realm of Christianity. All faiths throughout the world believe in the power of prayer.
There is a correct and incorrect way to pray. Many pray, but ineffectively because they pray out of the wrong motives or pray in a manner that will never reach God. Christ gave the proper manner in the Lords Prayer to be used as a model but also warned us not to pray in a manner He referred to as vain repetitions to be heard of and admired by men. He also gave the example of the Pharisee and the Publican. He asked the question as to which came from the temple justified. The clear answer was the publican who prayed out of humility and need for restoration as opposed to the Pharisee who prayed in a prideful self righteous manner.
Prayer is the way we come into fellowship with our Heavenly Father. It is our avenue of approach to a Holy God. It is the way we acknowledge our need and dependence upon God. Our prayers may be corporate as well as private. Prayer should always be a significant part of our corporate worship. But prayer should not stop at the church doors. We each one should spend time alone, in our prayer “closet”, as Jesus Himself gave the example when He went off by Himself to be alone and commune with the Father.
There are many different elements of prayer. There is praise, intercessory, asking for forgiveness, thanksgiving, supplications, and just coming into His presence. There are many reasons for praying. Praying for God to do a miracle when all other hope has failed. Jesus told the disciples that some prayers need to be accompanied with fasting in order for God to heed our call. Occasions of celebrations because God answered our prayers, often greater even than our own expectations.
Christ commanded us to pray as illustrated by Him in the sermon on the mount.
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. “Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Jesus asks us to pray and ask, seek, knock. These three pretty much cover our needs. Our prayers then are asking and receiving from God the answers to those requests. Notice that when we ask, we are to ask according to Gods will. Notice that John, the Apostle tells us in 1st John 5:14,15:
“And this is the confidence that we have in Him , that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
This covers our needs, whether physical or spiritual, we can receive when we ask. In the book of James, he deals with another problem we Christians have from time to time, and that is that we fail to go to the one who has the power to give what we need.
...You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect to receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
There arises times in the life of every believer when the answers to our prayers are guised. We do not know how to pray in Gods will regarding a need in our lives. It is at these times that we need to persevere until we do receive the way to pray. We can pray for the unrevealed will of God.
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all of your heart.’
If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
When we know the clear teaching of scripture revealing Gods will for us and we pray for something that the answer is long in coming, then we don’t just assume the answer is no. We are taught to keep on praying and knocking until the answer becomes clear and the doors begin to open. This is the tenacious prayer that makes the impossible things possible. This is when miracles occur for us . These are the precious times when our praise for our God is just bursting forth from our bosoms.
The Red Sea parts, the River Jordan backs up, the Sun retreats, the cancer disappears, the wayward child repents and comes to the Lord.
And when they came to the multitude, a man came up to Him, falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. “And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you , if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you. “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. “And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ “And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out.’ “ And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
Christ taught that we should pray always and consistently and is the prescribed method for us to receive from God what it is we desire. Oft times God is in the process of answering our prayers even before we pray our concerns to Him. Should we not follow the example of Jesus who prayed both publicly and in private? He showed the way. We are but to follow.
Prayer is how to reap of our desires. Js.4:2 says, “we have not, because we ask not.” Sinners are saved through prayer as described in Rom. 10:9-13. Prayer is how we can receive an outpouring of wisdom from God as in Js.1:5. Prayer , when answered by God, delivers us from our troubles as in the psalms. Ref. Ps. 34:6 and numerous others as King David pours out his heart to God. We can receive power to accomplish tasks and feats when we pray for God to empower us in His will as shown in Jer.33:3. We can express our joy and receive even more joy through our prayers.
Is there a right and a wrong way to pray. Most definitely. We have a model to use as our guide to lead us to pray with the correct elements of our prayers. It not meant to be a repeated prayer over and over. Jesus warned against that. “And when you pray, do not pray as the Gentiles do in vain repetitions, to be heard of men for their many words.” (Mt.6:7)
This then is the manner in which Jesus taught the people to pray: (Mt.6:9-15)
We are to pray to the Father, for the Father is the only one who can answer those prayers.
We are to pray for His will to be done and not our own, this is for our will to come into alignment with His will.
We are to pray for The Kingdom.
We are to pray for our daily needs.
We are to pray for forgivness and the ability to forgive others. This is imperative to a right relationship with Christ. As our sins were freely forgiven, the same is required of us.
We are to pray for Gods guidance in our life.
We are to pray in faith with expectations of the Lords deliverance.
Is there a right time and a right place for prayer? Yes. All the time, and any place. Paul taught to pray without ceasing. Peter prayed while in prison as did Paul and Silas. Jesus and the Apostles prayed in the upper room. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemeny. The disciples prayed in the homes of the people as they were sent out. Pray whenever you feel the need, and pray often, even when there is no apparent need.
Will God always answer our prayers? Most assuradly. In 1Jn.5:14,15, John tells us ; And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. Remember though that there are times in our lives that we hinder our prayers. According to 1 Peter 3:7, our prayers will be hindered if our relationship with our wives are is unharmonious. Js. 4:3 says that our prayers should not be selfish. A prime example of this was a song lyric from a young woman of the 60’s
that went something like this; “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benze, my friends all drive Porsches, and I must make amends.” This is not only the wrong motives, but is mokery of God! This is not the prayer of one in a right relationship with God.
Our relationship with others may hinder our prayers. If we have an unforgiving spirit, not forgiving and being forgiven, we place ourselves in a situation unpleasing to God and we become prideful, which God will resist.
Mt. 5:22-24; “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the alter, and go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Unbelief is a prayer killer. The prayer offered without faith that God will answer that prayer is a sure fire way to be certain that He won’t act upon it. James 1:6,7 tells us to have faith when we ask, that we will have that which we ask for. And in Heb. 11:6 we find that “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Is. 59:1,2 says “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. 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.” And Ps. 66:18 also says that “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear,.” So then the lifestyle we lead is all important to a right relationship with God and affects our prayer life.
So then, when we pray, ask God to reveal all wickness and sin in our life to us. Then confess that sin, (agree with God) and ask for forgivness. Then ask for the power to resist any further sinning. And then, most of all forsake that sin, do it no longer and your prayers will be heard and answered.
We are commanded to pray and God has promised to answer those prayers. Jesus said to us that we are to abide in Him and to continue in Him in Jn. 15:7. The clear teaching here is that we are to make this a vital part of our lives. We are told to be guided by, filled by, and lead by His word. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Jn.15:10,11. These are requirements for our prayers to be heard.
I once had an elderly friend who told me that whenever he was confronted with the difficulties of life that he would write them out on a sheet of paper. Then he would deliver them up to God in prayer. Then he would take the papers and place them away in a drawer and forget about them. Every so often, he would retrieve them from the drawer, thank God for handling them and disgard them entirely. What trust! Just pray about your problems and forget about them!
Sometimes God answers our prayers immediatly. When Peter began to sink into the Sea of Galilee, he shouted “Lord save me.” Jesus responded at once. At other times, the answer is delayed according to the purposes of God as in the resurrection of Lazarus. He had been very ill and his sisters prayed for Jesus to come and heal him. However, Jesus delayed His coming until Lazarus had died and was buried for four days in order for the resurrection by way of Jesus command would be shown as the power He possessed even over death. The answer was not denied, but only delayed in order for the Father to glorify the Son. The answer is sometimes no, according to Gods will. The prime example of this is when Paul prayed for removal of the thorn in his flesh. Note that in this account that God provided Paul with a peace about His refusal. Often is the case where God will answer our in a totally unexpected manner. Perhaps so that we learn from a situation we are undergoing. Perhaps for us to learn perseverance. At all times our prayers are answered according to Gods will and not necessarily according to our wishes.
Yes, I realize this is kind of "text bookish" by it was meant to give direction to new believers! Our prayer life will mature as we do so in Him! Relational prayer is where it's at! It's not the wish list! Praise and thanks and listening are a great deal of prayer. Comfort and solace. Peace like a gentle stream.