Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matthew 7:7-11 (KJV)
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him
Drawing Near to God
Prayer is a fundamental part of following Christ. Private prayer is a time of personal communion with God. It’s a time when we can share with God our deepest longings and desires, our hurts and our griefs, the challenges we are facing in life, we can ask our big questions, confess our sin, ask for forgiveness, and so much more. Prayer is how we talk to God. It is a special privilege each of us have.
Its hard to have a relationship with someone if they never speak to you. Relationships begin with an introduction, and the are maintained through regular communication. Without an introduction, and without regular communication, there is no relationship.
Prayer is a critical tool for drawing close to Christ and developing a relationship with him. Prayer is how we speak to God. There is a direct link between the strength of our prayer life and our relationship with him. If you want to get closer to God, spending more time talking to him is an important place to start.
How Do We Pray?
Anytime you talk to God, you are praying. Prayer is not limited to certain structures, formats, or formulas. It is not even limited to words. We can pray by speaking aloud, or we can pray silently from our heart. God hears all.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We can pray anywhere, anytime. Paul said to pray without ceasing. Speaking to the Lord can be something we do on a continual basis. As we drive down the road, as we go about our daily jobs, as we spend time with our friends and loved ones, as we lay on our beds at night, the ability to speak to God is always there. (1 Thes 5:16)
The bible gives us hundreds of examples of prayers. Most of the psalms of the Old Testaments are prayers. The bible records the prayers of Job, Jeramiah, David, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Isaiah, and so many more. In studying their prayers, we find prayer can take many different forms.
Perhaps the most well-known prayer of the bible is the one Jesus taught his disciples while preaching the Sermon on the Mount. Many people call it the Lord’s Prayer, or the model prayer.
Worship Through Prayer
In the prayer, Jesus addresses the Father with his requests, and begins with worship of his greatness. God desires our praises. We should always seek to spend some of our time in prayer praising God, worshipping Him, and thanking Him, just like Jesus demonatrated to us.
Sometimes our prayerful worship can take the form of songs. In both the Old and New Testament, we find examples of joyful prayers being sung to God. (Luke 1:46-55, Psalms 84) A song of worship on our lips or in our hearts can breathe life in our prayers.
Desire God’s Will
…Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.Matthew 6:10
The second thing Jesus asks in his model prayer is for God’s will to be done in all things. Scripture teaches us to seek God’s will, rather than our own will. When our will aligns with God’s will, that is when we will see God answer our prayers. (1 John 5:14, Matthew 8:2, John 15:7)
Jesus demonstrated seeking the Father’s will as he prayed in Gethsemane. He asked to avoid the torment he was about to face, yet he surrendered his will saying “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” (Mark 14:26) Jesus’s powerful example shows us that we can present any petition to God, but that we should always be willing to submit our desires to God’s will.
God sees and knows far beyond what we can see and know in the here and now. At times, what we desire may not actually be in our best interest. We tend to look at things in light of our present circumstances, whereas God looks at things in light of eternity. Sometimes we have to just trust that God knows better than we do, and that we understand it better by and by.
Making Our Needs Known
God desires us to ask him to meet our needs. Of course, he already knows what we have need of before we seek him. (Matthew 6:8) But there is something beneficial for us in the very act of seeking God. It requires us to acknowledge we have a need, and to acknowledge God is one who can meet our need.
Presenting our needs to God should cause us to humble ourselves before Him. God desires that we truly acknowledge our reliance on Christ from our hearts. Seeking through prayer is a way God molds true humility in our hearts. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 1:6)
Whatever you desire or need from God, ask him in prayer. When you ask for good things, he will surely give them to you. When his word is abiding in you, he promised that you will receive what you ask for. (Matthew 7:7)
Forgiving and Forgiveness
Our times of prayer should also be used to forgive people for their wrongs against us. When we are mistreated or face persecution, we renounce revenge, and we can release our bitterness and anger when we place the situation in God’s hands. He is just and fair, and he knows the hearts of our enemies, as well as our own.
Forgiveness can also be found for ourselves. When we sin and come short of the life of Christ, we can seek forgiveness and restoration through prayer. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and fair and will forgive us. (1 John 1:9)
Not only will God forgive us our sins, but he will also intervene on our behalf to deliver us from temptations. Each follower of Chri st seeks to grow in self-control and be delivered from temptations which seek to lead us away from Christ and his word. Our desire is to be pure and remain pure, as Christ our perfect example is pure. (1 John 3:3)
Overcoming our weaknesses and growing beyond our shortcomings is what Jesus wants to do in each our lives. The Holy Spirit in our life works to transform us and make us more like Jesus. Christ is conquering and defeating sin in the world, and we have a part to play by seeking to conquer the sin in our own lives. To do that, we must reach out through prayer, asking for God to do that work in our life, day by day. When we pray, we should ask him to deliver us from temptations, to strengthen our resolve to serve him, and to perform a supernatural work in us by renewing our hearts and minds. (Philippians 2:13)
God Answers Prayers
Scriptures tells us over and over again that there power in prayer. Scripture also tells us that persistence, faith, seeking the will of God, and seeking from a pure heart are all important elements of prayer.
James said that we must come to Christ in faith when we pray, which means believing he hears our prayers and has power to answer them. James also said that fervent prayers, which are prayers prayed from a genuine heart, are effective. (James 1:5, 5:16)
Jesus encouraged us to keep praying and asking for what we have need of, even if we do not receive our request at the first, and in every request to always seek the will of God. (Luke 18:1, Matthew 6:10)
Jesus also instructed us to pray in his name, saying that whatever we ask in his name, we will receive it. (John 16:23-24) Praying in Jesus name is witnessed throughout the New Testament. And it is more than just a phrase to end a pray, but when we pray in Jesus name we are calling upon Christ’s authority and power to make divine intervention on our behalf. And when we ask God to move on our behalf for Christ’s sake, we are asking him to hear and honor our prayer, not because of our own merits, but because of the merits of our savior, Jesus Christ.
God Hears Us, But Do We Hear Him?
Talking with God through prayer, praise, and worship, is one important part of our relationship with God. It is how we communicate to him. But what about him communicating back with us? Our relationship with Christ is not one sided, where we do all the talking, and he does the all listening. God has things he wants to speak us, and we need to also take time to listen and learn of him.
God can speak to us in many different ways. In scripture and in our own experiences, we see that God can speak through dreams, visions, and words of wisdom or knowledge from others. He can speak to you through the words of a minister’s sermon. He can also speak to our hearts in that still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
But the primary way God tends to speak with us is through scripture. As a young boy, I remember a preacher saying that many people came to him and they were sad. They told told the preacher “God never speaks to me.” Though they prayed and fasted, they never heard the voice of God come to them. The preacher smiled and said, “Read your bible.”
If you want to hear God speak to you, open your bible and read. His words are wrote there. When you take time to open the book and read it, he will speak to you. Understanding will come to your heart and your mind as the Holy Spirit works in you to help you understand the truth of scripture. (John 16:13)
So if you are someone who wants to hear God speak to you, try reading your bible.
By making time to study scripture, you are making time to hear from God. And the knowledge of God which we have access to in the scripture contains everything we need for life. (2 Peter 1:3) As we study the scripture, we can find the answers we are looking for. As his word comes to abide in us, we will find ourselves recalling it to memory when we are faced with challenges. And when you recall a scripture in your mind, that is one way the word of the Lord comes to you.
In the days of Jesus ministry, we read that many times he stepped away from the crowd and made time for private prayer and devotions. Jesus’s example was given so that we could follow it. It is important for us to also make time in our lives to talk to the Lord and to hear from him.
Part of the way we do that is through attending services at our church. There we can take time to pray, worship, hear the reading of the scriptures, and be encouraged in our walk with Christ.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation…Matthew 6:10
Making time for private prayer and study is also important to developing our individual relationship with Christ. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was saddened when his friend could not pray with him for just one hour. When is the last time you found an hour to spend with the Lord? (Matthew 26:40)
There is no set formula or method to follow for spending time with the Lord. What matters is that our heart desires to commune with him, and that we spend time doing it. Some find it helpful to read a chapter of scripture every day. Others like to use guided devotional books. Some people write down the prayer requests from Sunday service and take time to pray for each request during the week. Whether you find time on your lunch break, or in the morning when you wake up, or in the evening before bed, wherever you can find time to set aside for prayer, you will find spending time with the Lord to be rewarding.
Victory: A Prayer of the Puritans
O Divine Redeemer,
Great was thy goodness
in undertaking my redemption,
in consenting to be made sin for me,
in conquering all my foes;
Great was thy strength
in enduring the extremities of divine wrath,
in taking away the load of my iniquities;
Great was thy love
in manifesting thyself alive
in showing thy sacred wounds,
that every fear might vanish
and every doubt be removed.
Great was thy mercy
in ascending to heaven,
in be enthroned,
there to intercede for me,
there to succor me in temptation,
there to open the eternal book,
there to receive me finally to thyself;
Great was thy wisdom
in devising this means of salvation;
Bathe my soul in rich consolations
of thy resurrection life;
Great was thy grace
in commanding me to come hand in hand,
with thee to the Father,
to be knit to him eternally,
to discover in him my rest,
to find in him my peace,
to behold his glory,
to honour him who is alone worthy;
in giving me the Spirit as teacher, guide, and power
that I may live repenting of sin,
finding victory in life.
When thou art absent all sorrows are here,
When thou are present all blessings are mine
Thank you Christ Jesus
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
- What are some of the things you have found beneficial about private prayer and study?
- Can you think of times you have prayed and God answered your prayers?
- Can you think of times when you prayed and God did not give you what you asked for?
- What should we do when our prayer is not answered when first we prayed?
- If God does not answer our prayer immediately, does that mean we lack faith or lack his will? How could we know the difference?