PRACTICE OF PRAYER
What does the Bible teach about prayer? There can be no progress in any part of the Christian life without prayer. It is therefore important for the young believer to know what the Bible teaches about this subject. The following outline is intended to answer some basic questions:
A. Why pray?
Because the Bible commands us to do so. I Timothy 2:8. The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer. If He felt the need of it, how much more should we! I Thessalonians 5:17-18; Ephesians 6:18.
B. How often?
We should pray at set times each day, and then, in between those times. It is a good plan to pray upon arising in the morning and upon retiring at night. Then during the day, we should look to the Lord when problems arise, when help or wisdom is needed or when we want to thank Him for something. Nehemiah often sent up to heaven “sentence prayers” as he was in the battle of building the walls. Certainly every Christian should bow his head and give thanks before eating his meals, whether in public or at home.
C. In what position?
Daniel kneeled when he prayed. Daniel 6:10. So did the Lord Jesus. Luke 22:41. Nehemiah, on the other hand, prayed while he was standing before the king. Nehemiah 2:4. In general, Christians kneel when at home, but it is still their privilege to speak to God while walking along the street or engaging in their daily activities.
D. For what?
Among the Scriptures which answer this question are Philippians 4:6; I Timothy 2:1-3; and Matthew 9:38. There is nothing too small and nothing too great for prayer. Many believers find it helpful to keep a prayer list on which they record such items as: (1) names of unsaved relatives and friends. (2) names of those who are sick or in need. (3) names of those who are serving the Lord, such as missionaries, evangelists, and teachers.
Don’t forget to also include praise to the Lord in your prayers and make sure our focus is for “God’s Glory.” Where your requests are specific, you will see specific answers; whereas, if you pray for people in general, without naming them, you will have no way of knowing whether your prayers are answered.
E. Conditions for answered prayer.
John 15:7 lets us know that if we abide in Christ, our requests will be answered. Abiding in Christ means fellowshipping with Him in His Word, depending on Him to live through us and keeping His commandments. Another condition for receiving answers to our prayers is praying according to His Will. (1) Our prayers should be according to His will. (I John 5:14.) Since the general outline of God’s will is found in the Bible, our requests should be Scriptural. Therefore, pray according to the precepts of Scripture. (2) Our requests should be offered in the Name of Christ. (John 14:13; 16:23) When we truly ask in His Name, it is the same as if He were making the request of God. (3) Our motives must be pure. (James 4:3) If our motives are selfish and sinful, we cannot expect an answer, but if our motives are to glorify God and accomplish His will, then He is pleased to answer our prayers.
F. Language of prayer?
We should address God reverently. Christians commonly use the words “Thou” and “Thee” instead of the more familiar “You” in speaking to their Father.
G. Dangers of prayer.
(1) Don’t pray to be seen. Matthew 6:5-6.
(2) Don’t ask God to do something you can do yourself. No sane Christian would step into the path of an oncoming auto and then ask God to take him back to the sidewalk. God gave him legs to take himself back.
(3) Don’t ask for something that you know you shouldn’t have! God sometimes grants such requests but sends leanness to the soul. Psalm 106:15 reminds us that this is what He did with the Israelites in the wilderness when they weren’t satisfied with what God gave them to eat and they asked for what they had when they were in bondage in Egypt.
(4) Avoid meaningless repetitions. Matthew 6:7; Ecclesiastes 5:2.
H. Other suggestions.
(1) If you find that your mind wanders when you are on your knees, try praying out loud. This will greatly help you to concentrate.
(2) Don’t be discouraged if your answer does not come immediately. God’s answers are never too early lest we miss the blessedness of waiting upon Him, and never too late lest we think that we have trusted Him in vain.
(3) If God’s answer is not exactly what you asked for, remember this: God reserves the right to give us something better than we ask for. We do not know what is best for us, but He does, and so He gives us more than we could ever ask or think. II Corinthians 12:8-9.